Queers in the Kitchen

From the looks of Bravo and the Food Network, gay and lesbian chefs are ubiquitous. But big-name LGBT cooks say they’re still the minority — underpaid and underrepresented.

BY Sunnivie Brydum

October 09 2012 3:00 AM ET

Elizabeth Falkner

 

“Whether you’re gay or straight, whether you’re a Muslim, Christian, or Buddhist, people love food,” says Pura. “I’ve found that [food is] actually a really homogenizing point. People love dessert, and it’s a great way to break the ice.”

That’s precisely the premise of queer comedian Margaret Cho’s forthcoming reality show on the Food Network, Blind Dinner Party. The program, which does not yet have an airdate, puts Cho and seven strangers around a dinner table, documenting all the conflict and hopeful eventual reunification of opposing ideas.

“There has always been a great presence of queers in the food world,” says Cho. “When something is delicious, there’s no homophobia or hatred. It’s just good, no matter what.”

Executives at Bravo and Food Network agree that culinary talent trumps all other characteristics.

“We look for chefs of a certain caliber,” says Dave Serwatka, vice president of current and cross-platform production at Bravo. “Chefs who are up-and-coming in the culinary world, and chefs that our audience will respond to. We want a diverse cast that reflects that. If they’re gay, they’re gay, but they are also great at what they do.”

But these great chefs who happen to be gay and lesbian aren’t just resting on their laurels. Many are not seeking fame solely for its own sake, but leveraging their celebrity for charitable causes. Smith founded Common Threads, which seeks to teach low-income children how to cook healthy, affordable meals. Smith also partners with Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation and British rugby player Ben Cohen’s antibullying campaign.

Season 4 of Top Chef: Masters featured a married gay couple competing against each other, both for Maine charities that promote LGBT equality. Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier have been married for 27 years but went head-to-head that season, earning money for Equality Maine Foundation and Outright Lewiston/Auburn, respectively.

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