In a post that launched some interesting discussion on Serious Eats, Adam Roberts of Amateur Gourmet asks, “Does Cooking Make You Gay?”
The basis for this question is Roberts’s observation that Easy-Bake Ovens weren’t marketed to boys when he was growing up (though now it’s a different story, as one commenter points out). “A little boy watching a commercial for an Easy-Bake Oven should roll his eyes or make a fart noise with his mouth to assert his masculinity,” Roberts muses. He describes how it wasn’t until he came out of the closet in college that he felt able to express his “newfound enthusiasm for artisanal cheese, cold-pressed olive oil, and Niçoise olives,” but accurately notes that the testosterone-driven world of professional chefs is a different story. The distinction, he says, is between men who cook at home and those who wield their knives in restaurant kitchens.
But many male commenters take issue with this breakdown, and some of their responses are ultimately more thoughtful than Roberts’s original post. As one asks,
Why do you relate ‘gay’ with being effeminate? Your headline should read ‘Does Cooking Make Men Feminine?’ That’s the real subject here…. What is wrong with being feminine? Historically, we as society treat women as inferior to men. Sexism. It exists in the kitchen because it exists in society. Even with all the celebrity female chefs (who are oftentimes exploited for their ‘sex appeal’), there exists a ‘stainless steel’ ceiling for women in the restaurant world. That would be a more apropos topic.
Roberts does raise the good point that there is probably only one openly gay man among the legions of Food Network and Bravo chefs (Ted Allen). And in other media outlets, gay male chefs like Pichet Ong of NYC’s Spice Market have discussed the prejudice that still exists in the kitchen. But another commenter points out that there are many more “out” lesbian chefs than gay men in the food world—or, in the joking parlance of some foodophiles, the “Dyke Food Mafia” (whose members include big-name chefs Cat Cora, Traci Des Jardins, Elizabeth Falkner, and Gabrielle Hamilton).
I haven’t read any profiles or reports of openly lesbian chefs discussing how their sexuality has changed their experience in the restaurant world—though many say that their sex (female) certainly is a rarity among chefs. What role do you think gender and sexual orientation plays in kitchens, both at home and in restaurants?