Long before she secured her place in the finals of ABC’s reality television competition The Taste, Khristianne Uy had built her reputation pleasing the fashionable pallets of L.A.’s finest.
As a personal chef to the stars, the culinary master better known as Chef K boasts an impressive list of clients, including Charlie Sheen, James Cameron, and American Idol creator Simon Fuller.
With the final episode of The Taste airing tonight at 9 p.m. PST, Chef K took a moment to speak with The Advocate about overcoming adversity in the kitchen, why being a member of the LGBT community gives her the competitive edge, and looking for love on Millionaire Matchmaker.
The Advocate: What initially drew you to the culinary arts?
Khristianne Uy/Chef K: Even as a kid, I loved watching chefs like Julia Child prepare something on TV. I was always drawn to that, but, for me personally, I think it’s the feeling of warmth that a cook adds to the kitchen. I remember when I was growing up, no matter how bad our problems were, everything went away when we sat down at the dinner table and there was always that common bond we had around food. Plus, knowing my mom had been working all day cooking that one meal, especially around the holidays, always made it more enjoyable. Being a private chef, I try to create that feeling for my clients. I try to be really specific, add a little something to the home, and bring the family a little closer. That’s what draws me to cooking
When did you realize that you wanted to be a chef?
Well it wasn’t so easy. I am Filipino and my dad is a police captain in the Philippines. You see, there aren’t any chefs in the Philippines. So when I told my dad I was going to be a chef, he was like, “What do you mean? You’re going to be stuck in front of a stove?” So when I was progressing toward that, it was really hard because it didn’t seem like there were a lot of options for me.
Do you think being a member of the LGBT community crated more obstacles for you along your career path?
Of course. I mean, being a female chef, you get bullied regardless. But being a female gay chef? Back in the year 2000, I remember people would often whisper underneath their breath and find a reason to bitch or complain about my food. Especially straight men. If I shucked the oyster better or grilled the steak better, they didn’t like it. They didn’t like to see a gay female chef excel in the kitchen. It’s much better now, but back then it was hard.
Is that part of what drove you to launch your own catering company?
Definitely. It just made me harder, stronger, and pushed me to get better. I really started to become more confident in my abilities when I began having clients of my own. I’ve worked for people like James Cameron and Simon Fuller and I look pretty hardcore. I’m not like eye candy and they have children, so when you walk in you get looks like you’re an alien from these kids at first. But it’s really through food, through the passion and what I add to their home that they open up to me and that makes it all worth it. That’s when I began to realize, regardless what people think, it’s a constant struggle, but we always just have to fight for it. Always believe and stick to what we believe in and everything else follows.
You’ve worked as a personal chef for many Hollywood celebrities, but you’ve seen your own star begin to rise even higher over the past year. In fact, in addition to competing on The Taste, you'll also be on an upcoming episode of Millionaire Matchmaker. What prompted you to appear on the show?
Denise Richards had a talk with me one time and said, “Have you ever thought about settling down or maybe involving yourself with someone? I have this perfect friend who can help, Patti Stanger?” I was scared at first, but then I said, “Why not? Let’s give it a shot.” So I did an episode of Millionaire Matchmaker with her and you know, I was just convinced, she really is the millionaire matchmaker.
What was it like being on a show where you were the star?
I freaked out a little bit. I mean, I do work with celebrities, but I’m not in the limelight. I’m always in the background. I’m always cooking for them. So for the first initial shot I just froze for a little bit, but after a while you get used to it.
You’ve also been a fierce competitor on The Taste. Do you think the adversity you’ve had to overcome in your career and life as a member of the LGBT community has given you a competitive edge over the competition?
It has given me a competitive edge because I’ve always had the attitude that I’m only as good as my last meal. I’ve always had to do my best. It doesn’t matter if I’ve cooked perfect dinners for two years, I can’t fuck up once. I can’t.
So what’s next for Chef K both personally and professionally?
Well, Patti did an amazing job, that’s all I have to say. After all, I don’t have a Christmas, Thanksgiving, or Valentines because I sacrifice those to be there for my clients. For many lesbians that can be hard to understand. You know, we’re clingy. [Laughs] But thank God my girlfriend now is supportive and understanding. As for the rest, it’s like my mom used to say, always give to the world because it’s going to return. It’s been 31 years of waiting, but its returning and I see it. It’s such a nice feeling to have gotten this far and now we just have to continue moving forward.