LeeAnn Zubay’s love of hard-to-find, gourmet ingredients inspired the well-known Rochester foodie to launch “virtual playground” as a shop and as a place to share delicious stories about food and the people who create it.

Zubay, a familiar face in Rochester’s restaurant scene, has been involved with many local projects on her own or with husband Jerry Zubay. Past projects have included Zzest, Lettuce Unite and the Culinary Market.

She recently launched The Food Union as an online marketplace and culinary resource.

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Her passion has always been connecting people with specialty cheeses and other ingredients that they might not otherwise have known about. She started with a spot in the Rochester Produce grocery, which led to her opening the Culinary Market shop in downtown Rochester.

Zubay followed that with Zzest, which started out as a market with a small lunch counter before it involved into a restaurant. In the wake of Zzest becoming Hot Chip, she added a small food market to Lettuce Unite in the downtown skyway food court.

When Lettuce Unite closed, “I started thinking how much I wanted this stuff back. Then I wondered if others wanted it back, too,” Zubay said.

She now is spotlighting and selling products like specialty truffle oils, hot sauces, chocolate and more.

Zubay’s site also sells Cheese Union subscriptions for cheese baskets every other month. The cheese and other products are available for local pickup from Zubay or at local partners like Tessa’s Office and Jack’s Bottle Shop.

She is also once again partnering with local photographer Mary Da Ros. The pair previous created “Empty the Jar,” a food publication that was available at Zzest. Now they are spotlighting products and telling the stories of people who had worked with the Zubays and went on to launch their food businesses.

Eventually, she would like to add pieces about Rochester’s restaurants of the past, with recipes of local favorite dishes.that live on in customer's memories.