Distinc.tt(ly) Delicious: When Technology Tastes Good
The publicity for the Gay Food Panel Discussion at the OUT NYC on Jan. 16 described gay food as "food that prefers the company of other food from the same food group." The fact is, there is no such thing as "gay food," and most of those metro guys are straight! At least those were the opinions expressed by the panel described as "leaders and heavy hitters from TV, the New York restaurant scene and culinary industry stars."
So, instead of harping on all the things wrong with the evening's premise, I'd like to get something straight. (OK- forgive that.) The entire food event was staged to promote a new social app called Distinc.tt. It is a social/lifestyle network for the LGBT community designed to help members connect and explore relevant places, events, activities and travel packages. It is billed as a "good taste" app (hence the food event) which is why I was on a panel of mostly gay chefs talking about gay food for its debut.
The premise of the chef's panel discussion was ably presented by moderator Bret Thorn, the award-winning columnist and senior food editor of Nation's Restaurant News. He said "People identifying as gay are a sought-after demographic because they represent $790 billion in disposable annual income." Then he asked each of us what is it like to be gay in the kitchen, and what influence do we think gays have on the food industry?
Zac Young and Pichet Ong, both gay pastry chefs, described how tough it was to be gay in the kitchen in the beginning of their careers. (Chef Zac Young is Executive Pastry Chef at David Burke Kitchen and Top Chef Just Desserts Alum, and Chef Pichet Ong is an award winning pastry chef and author of "The Sweet Spot. ") Both agreed that any perceived weakness in a line chef got him sent to the pastry division because of the stereotype that all male pastry chefs are gay and all female pastry chefs are lesbians.
Young said he could "curse and throw things with the best of them" (not that he would.) But he felt that in the end, he "had more compassion for and had a higher retention of employees than a typical straight chef."
John Fanning, General Manager of SD26 on Madison Square Park, said "food can't be gay, but chefs can."
Other panelists were Kian Lam-Kho, chef, food writer, teacher and food consultant specializing in Chinese cuisine; Eric Perlmutter, co-owner of Hill and Bay and E&E Grill House; Mitchell Davis , cookbook author and food journalist as well as Executive Vice President of the James Beard Foundation; and myself, culinary writer and head baker at Hudson Valley Dessert Company.
Is "Gay" Trending in the Kitchen?
These food industry luminaries generally agreed that in the microcosm of the kitchen, the universal gay struggle for recognition and acceptance plays out as in every walk of life. As there is no gay food, there is no sexual orientation in the kitchen. Chefs are sexy, chefs are fun and chefs party hard - as hard as they work. However they express their sexual orientation in their lives, in the kitchen they are chefs first.
Panelist Dale Schnell, Executive Chef and two-year veteran of KTCHN, created two gay desserts to celebrate the launch of Distinc.tt’s "Gayest Dessert" contest. Setting the bar pretty high, Chef Schnell created a rainbow layer cake whose individual servings were encased in a shell that dissolved when warm fruit juice was poured over it - a true "coming out" dessert, and a meringue-spiked ball with spun sugar ornaments that hid a serving of spice cake. Both were as delicious as they were beautiful.
Distinc.tt’s "Gayest Dessert" contest is open to all cooks who want to compete for the title of "Gayest Dessert Chef." For full details see contest rules on Distinc.tt’s website.
Founder and CEO of Distinc.tt, Michael Belkin, said, "Distinc.tt is an app to help locate people by their interests, not their sexual predilections." It is also the first gay app to be rated as age-appropriate for 12 and up, meaning if your mother looks over your shoulder - either figuratively or actually - you’ll have nothing to be ashamed about. Distinc.tt is an iPhone app currently in beta testing for Android.
Using Distinc.tt is a great way to find suitable companions for sharing wholesome good times. And if a romance develops, at least you’ll have something in common... and that’s pretty sweet.