A Dallas-Based Restaurant Critic Spent The Pandemic Traveling The World In Her Kitchen

Her food blog is now nominated for a prestigious Webby Award.

By Laura RiceMay 4, 2021 11:50 am,

Leslie Brenner started her food website Cooks Without Borders in 2016. She worked for years as a restaurant critic for The Dallas Morning News but more recently turned to consulting and writing for herself.

“It focuses on food and the culture around cooking,” Brenner said. “For instance, a recipe for moussaka, like, do you know where it comes from? It comes from Greece. When was that recipe invented? You might be surprised to learn that it was actually a 20th century creation. So we take those kind of deep dives into food history, food culture, geography, and the people behind the foods that we love to cook at home.”

Leslie Brenner

"Moussaka for the Ages."

Like many, Brenner has been doing more cooking at home during the pandemic.

“I just sort of embraced the moment,” Brenner said.

Since she couldn’t do the actual travel she and her husband had planned, she made it a point to explore the world through food.

“So during the pandemic, I went to Vietnam, I went to Palestine, I went to Thailand, finally, I went to parts of Mexico that I had never visited. I went to Brazil,” Brenner said. “And what’s fabulous is that this is something that everybody can do with very little money and really exploring the world through its cuisines.”

Andrea Nguyen’s Ginger Halibut Parcels / Photo by Leslie Brenner

Brenner brought many along with her on her travels. Just as she revamped and refocused on her website at the start of 2020, traffic to it grew by more than 1,000%. And she received a Webby Award nomination.

“Obviously the timing was not on purpose, but for me to suddenly be stuck inside cooking, as you know, as everybody in the world kind of was, was really pretty amazing,” Brenner said.

Brenner says she’s read studies that suggest people who spent more time in the kitchen during the pandemic will continue some of those habits as restrictions for eating out and traveling continue to lift. She hopes her website will continue to serve as a resource for people looking for inspiration and to connect to different cultures and cuisines — such as bayo beans beloved in parts of Central Mexico.

“I just love exploring other cultures and learning about other people and the way they think and the way they live. And, of course, the way they eat,” Brenner said.

If you found the reporting above valuable, please consider making a donation to support it here. Your gift helps pay for everything you find on texasstandard.org and KUT.org. Thanks for donating today.