When Bravo premieres its appetizing new culinary competition, Around the World in 80 Plates, there will be not just two gay cheftestants but also a lesbian host. Around the World follows 12 chefs as they race across 10 countries — Argentina, Uruguay, China, France, Italy, Morocco, Spain, Thailand, the United States, and England — in just over 40 days, sampling local customs and cuisine and then re-creating local delicacies in their own team eateries.
“The show concept was dynamite,” says host (and Iron Chef winner) Cat Cora of what some are calling Bravo’s most ambitious production to date. “Also the opportunity to work with Bravo and [the Emmy-winning production company] Magical Elves was a big draw for me.”
The show premieres Wednesday at 10 p.m. Eastern/Pacific, with a pub crawl around London, and Cora is joined by cohost Curtis Stone and guest Nigella Lawson. Each week a a rotating cast of visiting celebrity chefs, such as Lawson, Wolfgang Puck, José Andrés, Narda Lepes, and Alvin Leung, will serve as “food ambassadors” to help the contestants understand local cuisine.
After 40 days you’d expect Cora, a super-busy lesbian mom and chef, to be exhausted. Not so, she says. “I was actually rejuvenated. It was the best production I've ever worked on and definitely one of the most exciting as well.”
We caught up with the two out gay chefs — Nicole Lou and Gary Walker — to get their take on Cora’s favorite part of Around the World (“The travel and people!” she says) to see what’s it’s like on the other side of the judge’s apron.
Chef Gary Walker
Gary Walker, a gay 40-year-old Detroit native, says his mother sparked the culinary passion that has led him to become a wildly successful private chef and owner of his own company, Cheflove, in Chicago. Walker took over feeding the family when he was still a tween after his mom returned to the workforce. He went from Wayne State University to New York’s Institute of Culinary Education and then headed to Chicago to open Cheflove, which allows him to travel the globe preparing multicultural meals for his clients.
The Advocate: You grew up in Detroit. Does that influence your culinary style in any way?
Walker: Being from Detroit certainly does influence who I am as a chef. We’re a hardworking and hard-playing breed of people who can take nothing and turn it into something beautiful.
You started cooking for your family as a kid. How many mouths to feed?
Including Mom, we were five — three hungry boys and a girl.
What did you learn then that helped you on Around the World?
I learned that at the dinner table personalities can sometimes be bigger than food
How do you describe your culinary style?
My culinary style is based on using the freshest, best locally sourced product available, cooking it appropriately to the season, and delivering lots of flavor with a dash of love. That’s why they call me Cheflove!
You worked for private clients as a personal chef. Is that something you want to do long-term, or do you dream of your own restaurant?
I really love working as a private chef. It was my vision from day one while in culinary school. However, the restaurant of my dreams would be to one day open a small bistro in a neighborhood in Paris.
What was the worst experience you ever had with food?
My worst experience with food: oversalting anything.
Was there any question of whether or not to be out on the show?
Simon Doonan's tongue-in-cheek book says straight food is heavy and gay food is lighter and more decorative. What do you think? Is there really gay food?
Of course there’s gay food — it’s called fruit.
Surely brunch is gay, though, right?
Brunch is super-gay
What was the hardest part of doing the show?
You had some really demanding judges; did anyone intimidate you?