Pastry Chef Makes Food Creations on Canvas

Palm Springs' Leslee Adams turns painting hobby into a second career



Palm Springs' Leslee Adams has used her expertise as a chef to help assist her food paintings.

Eric Sakas

Some of Leslee Adams’ most sought after work is of food.

Pomegranates, artichokes and kale come to life using vibrant strokes that dance with color in distinctively “fun” paintings.

A professional chef by trade, Adams began painting in 2002.

In 1990, she earned her Pastry Diploma at The Ritz Escoffier in Paris and then returned to California and worked as a pastry chef at The Ritz Huntington Hotel. She moved back to Palm Springs later that year and opened her own catering and pastry business that she continues to run today.

Adams also paints desert landscapes, still life, and florals all with a bold, dramatic style.

Palmspringslife.com recently caught up with Adams.

Did you grow up here?
“I went to Palm Springs High School. Back then it was a quiet, sleepy town with raging spring breaks. The desert was filled with beautiful wildflowers. I would see artists painting them and I would laugh. In a way I wish I would have photographed and painted our beautiful desert with miles of wildflowers then. The wildflowers went as far as you could see. Purples, oranges, yellow everywhere. It was incredible.”

How did a girl from Palm Springs end up studying in Paris?
I was living in Los Angeles doing backstage catering at the Greek and Pantages theaters. I decided I loved doing pastries and an Italian baker took me on as an apprentice. I got tired of sitting behind a desk job, and he told me that the best pastries and desserts were in France. So, I applied to the Ritz. I never had been to Europe. I had never ridden a subway, and I didn’t speak the language. I just went and completely immersed myself into the culture.

How did you make the transition from chef to artist?
I started painting initially as a form of relaxation. I was looking for a hobby, and I walked through a watercolor annual society show and it just spoke to me. The luminosity, the colors and how the paint flows on the paper. I found one of the artists at the show whose work I loved.  She taught me, and I’ve been taking lessons from her ever since. And now it’s another career, not just a hobby anymore. I first started painting food because I know the subject matter well from being a chef, and it’s kind of the same. When you’re setting up food you see it from an artist’s eye, so it’s really the same. I feel that it has all come full circle.

In a perfect world I would…
Have my own art gallery. My sole income would be derived from painting. At the gallery, I would have my studio and I would just paint.

Where do you get your inspirations for your art?
Through my travels. I get so excited on my vacations. I love to see the local landscape, stroll through the local markets because they have so many great flowers and foods. Some of my favorites are Tuscany, Cinque Terre, and of course Florence, Santorini and Mykonos.

I notice you paint many food types locally. What are some of your favorite foods, restaurants in the desert?
Actually I took pictures of the artichoke fields in Indio. The pomegranate trees that my neighbors have. The figs from my girlfriend’s tree. I love painting the local cactus. When I worked at a La Quinta hotel as a pastry chef, we would make prickly pear sorbet. Ethnic foods I love. I adore that little Italian restaurant, Tiramisu, in Palm Desert.  I love Indian Oven because I am a fan of curries and lentil. My favorite Thai is Peppers Thai Cuisine on Palm Canyon Drive.

What are the some of the challenges living in the desert?
Finding a quality single man! I like someone who is well traveled, well read, someone who can hold a conversation and is interesting. I would like to meet someone who can teach me something!

Do you have any words of advice for aspiring artists?
Believe in yourself and lots of hard work.  Follow your passion and it will happen. I paint what I love and it shows. People always come into my booth and they always say you have “Happy Art”. Never stop growing as an artist.

Leslee Adams will exhibit her latest paintings at the La Quinta Arts Festival, March 7- 11. The festival has most recently been ranked No. 1 in the nation by Art Fair Sourcebook. View her work at www.LesleeAdams.com.

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