Leanah Nau is #MadeForKnoxville.

Coming from a long line of strawberry farmers, Leanah’s childhood was spent surrounded by fresh food. Now, she is continuing her family’s food traditions in an unconventional way. 

Growing up, Leanah was deeply involved in the kitchen and food customs of her family. So much so, she started working as a toddler at her family’s market stand, selling fresh produce. When she reached young adulthood, Leanah chose to pursue a different career path, departing from four generations of strawberry farming. She began bartending at 21 and attended culinary school to sharpen her natural cooking skills. In the midst of the pandemic, she left her childhood home in California and started her own business as a caterer. Leanah’s foods reflect her roots: full of fresh produce, succulent meats and seafood, and spices! Incorporating the rich and varied food customs of her multiethnic background, she has found her own way to carry on the food traditions that mean the most to her. 

“COVID was the pivotal moment in my life when I realized I would no longer be an employee.”

In Their Own Words…

I am a local caterer specializing in international street/comfort foods.

Growing up it was my familial duty to help prepare the food for holiday family dinners. We had a huge family and typically prepping would take several days, and I hated it! Now as a mother, I’ve come to appreciate the beauty of passing down history and culture through recipes and food customs. What better way to reminisce on the past than through food?!

What led to entrepreneurship:

COVID was the pivotal moment in my life when I realized I would no longer be an employee. I am the 4th generation of strawberry farmers, and one of few who walked away from the family business. I began working at the farmers market in Santa Barbara, CA at my mother’s stand as a toddler, selling various veggies and strawberries from my grandfather’s farm. After leaving the family farming saga behind, I began bartending as soon as I turned 21, which led to practicing mixology at a members only club in Malibu. 

The Malibu gig was my last experience being an employee–from one day to the next, we were forced to shut down due to COVID mandates. In the first few months of COVID, we were barely able to leave our house. To maintain my sanity, I experimented with different recipes everyday. Coincidentally, I began receiving ads for online culinary school on every social media platform, and I took the bait!

One thing led to another, now here I am.

Lessons learned:

I’ve come to learn that everything you do in life doesn’t have to be so black and white. If you truly believe in yourself and your concept, you will find a way to succeed. Sometimes it takes a little (or a lot) of experimenting to find your groove, but if you keep at it, it’ll all work out! 

In the words of my daughter, “slay queen!”.


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