Photo courtesy: Brook James
Leanne Clancey and I first met when she joined us in Byron Bay for our very first meditation retreat. That was almost five years ago and to my great pleasure, she has joined us on many other retreats since. As soon as we met, Leanne stood out as someone warm, funny, creative and completely genuine.
Leanne’s writing started as a passion – it has been inspiring to follow her journey as she has pursued her dream of being a food and travel writer. As you can see from her answers below, Leanne has a brilliant way with words.
I think you’re going to love this interview.
Can you tell us a little bit about your work?
I’m a freelance food and travel writer. I contribute features, news and reviews to some of Australia’s leading food publications including The Age Good Food (Epicure), Fairfax’s Good Guides, Gourmet Traveller Restaurant Guide, Broadsheet Media and more.
Aside from writing words for books, magazines and newspapers, I also work with a selection of passionate business people like restaurateurs, wine makers, designers and health professionals – busy people who need help with spreading their story to fans, the media and the big wide world. This includes strategic comms and social media, blog writing, events and marketing. Connecting people is something that comes quite naturally to me and I’m really into all facets of communication – print, online, radio, social media. I really enjoy helping people get the most out of this side of their business.
In 2013 I was commissioned by independent UK publisher, Herb Lester Associates to curate and write a bespoke travel guide to Melbourne, as part of their series of guides on cool cities around the world. The illustrated travel guide, An Appetite For Melbourne was released in March and is now on sale in bookshops worldwide.
With Heston Blumenthal
What do you love about your work?
Without question, it’s the interview process and the people that I meet. I routinely get to hang out with amazing, talented people who are doing what they’re passionate about.
I sit down with them, I get to know them, I ask loads of questions (questions that I genuinely want the answers to) and I listen to their stories. It really is my dream job.
I spent most of my early career working in high-end restaurants and now I have the great privilege to be invited into the kitchens and homes of people that I consider idols. I was super passionate about food and other cultures from a young age, and I still always get a massive kick out of hanging out with the people who have made Melbourne’s amazing food and dining scene what it is today.
My highlights would have to be interviewing world renowned UK Heston Blumenthal (wow),French-Australian icon Jacques Reymond, MoVida’s Frank Camorra, chef Andrew McConnell and US writer/photographer Todd Selby. Meeting UK food critic and author, AA Gill at the Sydney Writers Festival in 2011 was beyond thrilling too.
With Jacques Reymond
What achievements are you most proud of?
At this point, it would have to be seeing my travel guide, An Appetite for Melbourne published in February this year. This time last year I was thrust into the unknown when the contract for my full time day job (unrelated to writing) wasn’t renewed. At first I was really thrown and a little freaked-out about losing my ‘safety-net’ but it soon became apparent that this was a not-so-subtle signal from the universe, encouraging me to jump off the edge and have a really good crack at this writing thing. I haven’t looked back.
What’s one thing you would do differently if you had your time over?
I would have started writing seriously much earlier. I held back for a long time. I probably made it all out to be something much bigger and scarier than it actually was. I waited until the frustration was unbearable and then just went for it. The key word that got me into gear was ‘action’. Nike was totally onto something.
Who inspires you?
Professionally, it’s AA Gill. The guy is unparalleled when it comes to sardonic and sharp cultural observation. His cutting wit and expansive vocab are always impressive and like all of the most interesting people, he’s exceptionally well read and travelled. He’s also hilarious and it’s not uncommon for me snort out loud while reading his work. In person, he’s super charming and when we met, he was remarkably kind and encouraging.
Personally it’s my parents, Paddy and June. Between them they created this really unique family culture. It’s what drives much of what I do today. I’ve got a funny feeling that I connect with people through food now (through my work) to make up for the fact that I live so far away from my family and that lovely culture of food, humour and soulfulness that we all share.
I’ve also got a bunch of inspiring, entrepreneurial friends that I check in with regularly to bounce things off. We regularly unload the highs and lows of our work lives with each other and it’s an invaluable outlet when you work independently.
What has been the most effective marketing tool / strategy for you?
For me it’s definitely about meeting people in person. Leaving a genuine, friendly impression on people is always the best calling card. So much of the success of what I do in my work relies on networks and relationships, so having good communication and interpersonal skills can go a long way to making things happen.
Instagram has also been a great way for me to get myself and my work out there. I’ve met some great people through social media and I’ve always been really humbled by the support and positivity that seems to circulate through these channels when you find the right people to connect with.
What are you looking forward to?
After a bunch of time spent creating foundations last year, I’m now looking forward to seeing my career and my opportunities grow. Stretching my creative muscles a little more, maybe getting back behind the mike and doing some radio again. Being open to the grace, serendipity and unknown joys of working in the creative realm. I’m super excited about my trip to California in June. I’ll be visiting LA, San Francisco and San Diego in search of each city’s best eating. What was originally planned as a holiday to see friends in LA has now turned into me scoring my first overseas commission to write about it all for a glossy food magazine. I’ll be covering all three cities and I’m really looking forward to the doors that will open for me while I’m there off the back of that.
Photo courtesy: Peter Tarasiuk
How do you maintain a sense of balance when things get busy?
Many aspects of my workload (like restaurant review seasons) happen in cycles – at the same time every year – so it’s easy to predict when things will go nuts. This generally equates to an unhealthy trifecta of eating lots of fancy food, accompanying it with wine (yes, it’s decreed) and then spending large tracts of time sitting at my computer, belting out the words to describe it all. I was a yoga teacher for a number of years, so luckily I have a few shanti-shanti tricks up my sleeve. I have a regular mindfulness meditation practise (thanks Kate!) and I’m also really big on my fitness (running, walking, bike riding), so I just get out of the house and down to Merri Creek to balance things out. Movement is really good when I’m in crazy mode. I get regular Thai massages and my amazing TCM guru, Jan Woodcock gives me a good bossing and helps me to stay centred and grounded during these times too.
How did coaching help you?
The biggest thing that coaching helped me with was getting clear. I realise now that I was trying to tackle way too many thoughts, options, possibilities and fears on my own. Prior to biting the bullet and booking my first coaching session, I was feeling really stuck, confused, wasted and frustrated. Time spent with Kate is incredibly useful for distilling the essence of what it is that you really want and also connecting with the why you actually want it, how it aligns to your values and why that’s important to you.
What’s one piece of advice you’d offer to someone wanting to go into their own creative startup?
Get out there and talk to people. Networking is the key to so many things – and often things that you weren’t even thinking about. Use your idols as a template to get yourself started and once you find your confidence you’ll step into your own power. Remember that the world is a small place. Don’t underestimate the power of single conversations. Always follow up with people. Be polite and grateful. Never forget your manners.