Tuesday, July 7, 2009

'Dyke Food Mafia'

Recently, I was talking to some sapphists unfamiliar with Tiffani Faison, one of the handful of out queers on Top Chef. I was trying to explain who she was: You know, the exacting redhead finalist from the first season. My friends had no clue, but they were curious and asked if she was attractive. My reply was simply this: Anyone doing something they are very good at is sexy. So, yes, by that definition, Tiffani is hot. Plus, who doesn’t love a big girl?

The Sapphist Gazetteer recently had the opportunity to observe Tiffani in person, in her dashing chef’s jacket, at O Ya, one of the best new restaurants in the world, according to Food & Wine magazine. Frank Bruni of The New York Times also declared it the best new restaurant in the country. Indeed, O Ya is an unlikely gem set in a grimy side street in Boston's Leather District. I was sitting at the sushi bar in my Doc Martens and vintage seersucker—enjoying the most exquisite food I've ever consumed, no exaggeration—and caught glimpses of Tiffani in the back kitchen. She is the sous chef—not the soup chef (no, I apparently cannot resist the L Word joke)— at O Ya, and looks exactly like she did on Top Chef: serious, intense, linebackeresque. But, contrary to her unfair reputation of coldness on the show, she seemed quite friendly with her colleagues.

I’m happy to report that Tiffani is one of a growing number of queer celebrity chefs who are out. A post on chow.com calls them the "Dyke Food Mafia," and suggests there are many more out lesbians than gay men in the culinary world. I believe Tiffani identifies as bisexual (okay, whatever), and she certainly seems out. Last year the Miami Herald reported that she appeared at an event for the Aqua Foundation for Women, which promotes equality and visibility for South Florida lesbians. On Tiffani’s FaceBook page (not that the Sapphist Gazetteer does FaceBook—no, no) she links to The National Center for Lesbian Rights and to musician Chris Pureka, a wonderful lesbian singer/songwriter.

Some other, but by no means all, celebrity lesbian chefs who are out include:

Elizabeth Falkner, a pastry chef from San Francisco who runs Citizen Cake, looks a little like Billy Idol, and who can be seen about every 20 minutes on the Food Network. Despite possible overexposure, we give a pass to anyone who works an Orson Welles reference into a business enterprise. (Her restaurant is also called Orson.)
Cat Cora, the only female Iron Chef!
Jamie Lauren, our favorite from last season’s Top Chef, despite all the scallops. She is also based in San Francisco, where she is executive chef at Absinthe (why oh why didn't they call it "The Green Fairy"?) Jamie is a tattooed cutie originally from New York. Without having ever actually tasted the food on Top Chef, it looked to me that Jamie was the contestant most devoted to true California cuisine, a la Alice Waters. Makes sense, since she graduated with honors from the Culinary Institute of America, which is located in Napa Valley (one of my most favorite places on earth.) In a 2007 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, she said she hangs out at the Lexington Club, which she said is "one of the only lesbian bars in the city. I have fallen in love with the monthly bingo night. Not only do I get to ham it up with a bunch of lovely ladies, but I get to win at bingo."
Susan Feniger, of L.A., voted “finest lesbian chef in the world” by Out Traveler.

Well, the readers of Out Traveler clearly have not eaten at my house, where the actual Finest Lesbian Chef in the World creates our magnificent meals, with occasional help from me, the soup chef.

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