Bio – Chef Leslie McKenna

​Chef Leslie McKenna always naturally took to cooking even as a child when her family went to food festivals; she found herself helping the women prepare all the food while all the other kids were running around and playing.  Her first food memories are helping her great grandmother and next door neighbor can fruits and vegetables from their huge gardens, and that art has remained a passion with her ever since.  Chef McKenna professional career began after graduating from Johnson and Wales University in 1985 where she received her degree in Culinary Arts.  She moved to Manhattan to work for Mark Peel and Nancy Silverton at Maxwell’s Plum (sister restaurant to Tavern on the Green).  McKenna then cooked at a high end steakhouse on the Upper East Side, Jake’s, as Sous Chef.  She then moved to Los Angeles and started working for Piero Salvaggio at Primi Restaurant for a year and a half, then was promoted to Executive Pastry Chef at Valentino’s, ranked as one of the top ten restaurants in the United States.  While there she was published in Wine Spectator and Bon Appétit, where the restaurant was acclaimed for “the pastas and glorious desserts of Pastry Chef Leslie [McKenna].”  Chef McKenna sees dessert “as the last memory people have of their meal, so it better be spectacular.” Valentino’s desserts were legendary among food critics.  At Valentino’s, Chef McKenna’s biscotti became famous and she naturally started the company Leslie’s Famous Biscotti.  Today, Chef McKenna’s biscotti ships all over the world to private and corporate clients such as Chris Baker Staffing Company and Comcast, including the popular Biscotti of the Month Club.

In September of 1992, Chef McKenna was offered a job to work as a private chef for Bob Hope and she worked for the Hopes for four and half years.  While at the Hope’s, Chef McKenna cooked elaborate dinner parties for guests up to 200 people, including such luminaries as President Ford, Nancy and President Regan, President George H.W. Bush,  Ambassador Walter Annenberg, Leonard Firestone, Jack Hennessey, and a constant array of celebrities including Jimmy Stewart, Phyllis Diller, Sophia Loren, Rosemary Clooney, Roddy McDowell and many, many more.   Known for being generous entertainers with a frequent houseguest, the Hope’s often had as many as five lavish dinner parties a week.  It was there that she gave Mr. Hope her recipe which was published in magazines as Bob Hope’s Famous Lemon Meringue Pie, a frequent request among guests.   

After the Hope’s, Chef McKenna worked for Aaron Spelling as a private chef.  Along with her private chef work, Chef McKenna continued to expand her private catering business and continues today to have many high-end catering clients such as Tim Allen, Amy Adams, Fox News Christine Devine, Paramount top executive, Randy Spendlove and Hollywood producer, David Nutter.  Chef McKenna has catered small dinner parties with 10 people all the way up to movie premieres with over 2000 people.  In 2004 Chef McKenna opened Chefs, Inc. which was one of the premier cooking schools in Los Angeles.  Chefs, Inc. was a state of the art culinary studio with eight fully equipped workstations.  At the school, McKenna serves as a mentor to many home cooks and aspiring professional chefs who take her classes.  TV shows such as “Cup Cake Wars”, “My Fair Wedding with David Tutera”, “The Biggest Loser” and “Millionaire Matchmaker” has filmed at Chefs, Inc. and many companies such as Nestle, Fox Studios, Neutrogena, Sony, Google, Disney, and Dell have hosted corporate events at the school.  Chef McKenna and Chefs, Inc. have been featured in Los Angeles Home & Décor Magazine, Angelino Magazine, and Bon Appétit. 

She also designed the menu and created all of the recipes for a new salad restaurant in Los Angeles. She was their Chef Expert and Consultant for the chain of Simply Salad Restaurants, currently in 7 locations.
Chef McKenna is currently hosting “Pop UP Dinners” at a secret location in Cambria, CA, conducting cooking classes and offering catering services.

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