ABC, I’m coming for you.

I began writing this post a week before Anderson Cooper came out publicly. I’d be remiss to neglect the importance of his declaration, and I’m not being glib. Our greatest strength on the path to equality is visibility. I applaud and encourage everyone who comes out, celebrity or neighbor. My thoughts on gender identity in media below…


The short story:
I made this audition video three weeks ago, just before I jaunted off to Alabama for the summer. The last one (for Food Network Star) was a hoot to shoot so I figured it was only logical to try my hand again. This time I’m auditioning for ABC’s latest cooking show. I don’t know whether they’re looking for personalities, chefs or some hedonistic combination of the two, but I wanted to throw my hat in with this snappy video recipe for Berry Clafoutis.

The long story:
As I am wont to do with most things I produce, I showed it to my mother. When it was finished playing she let out a withering, “Do you want me to tell you what I think?”

I boned up and told her, yes, I’d like to hear her opinion, though in truth, by the time anyone finishes asking that question you already have a good idea of what might come next. She told me she didn’t recognize the man on screen. She thought I came off affected, and, meaning no offense, quite gay. She expressed her confusion, was this how I wanted to portray myself? Something I was trying? An on-camera experiment? It was so very different from what she was used to, from the on-camera son she knew.

In the moment, I told her it was something I had wanted to try for a while. Yes, an experiment, but also something I dashed to get recorded before I had to board a plane to Birmingham. We sloughed it off and got back to the business of packing (I was helping my moms move out of their apartment). I had a feeling this was meant to be a larger conversation, but at the time didn’t want to initiate a capital Family Discussion.

I knew it would surprise my mom to find me acting stereotypically flamboyant on camera in great part because I had always played it rather straight at home. But my “straight-acting” self wasn’t a conscious decision, it wasn’t born out of self-hatred; I wasn’t trying to sublimate my sequined heart. My parents are the epitome of support and neither my gender and sexual identities nor my choice of a career in the arts have ever been contentious. My personality at home is a fairly neutral, relaxed version of myself; an outcome of having such a loving and uplifting family.

And part of having such a strong support system is the responsibility to see things from my parents’ perspective. As a parent, I imagine one believes she knows the very core of her child, and that of all the endless possibilities, the version she knows is the most true, the most authentic, the most real. But, in reality, the “me” my mother knows is, indeed, just one variation, one point on spectrums of both character and gender.

It must be startling then, to look at a perfect representation of your child and see him performing and entirely different role, a variation on gender which, up until now, you had known only in the abstract. Is it a character? Is he pretending to be this way?

You see, my mother knows I’m gay. We talk about dates with men, she has seen photos of my glittery nights and she knows I identify with the queer community. But at the same time, she has never actually met anyone I’ve dated (having never had a boyfriend), she’s never been out dancing with me (bringing her to CHERYL is questionable at best), and she has never seen me in the company of my chosen community. As such, my gay life is almost entirely theoretical to my family, while to my friends, the makeup-wearing, lovingly affected dandy I portray is part and parcel of who I am.

How difficult it must be to see someone you know so well acting in a way that stands in such stark contrast to your understanding of their spirit. Knowing that my mom was seeing a side of me she had never witnessed made me wonder what parts of her I haven’t yet met. How does my grandfather see her? What version of my mom does my sister know? Will I ever know those variations on mom? Can I know them? Should I know them?

Watching the video through mom’s eyes I also see the fear that might creep into her heart upon seeing her son act in a manner that might pigeon-hole him in his chosen career. Let’s be honest, I am better served to let a casting office believe I am straight (without lying) than I am to walk into an audition with an outsized personality that distracts them from my work. Much like Anderson Cooper says in his letter, I am a storyteller and blending in can be as important as standing out.

Having had these conversations with my mom, I’m fairly positive she watched the video and thought, “Is this castable? Does he want the networks to see him in this way?” And she’d be right to ask those questions. Despite the growing acceptance of the LGBTQ community, it’s still risky to be an out-and-loud personality in mainstream media. Ideally we’d live in a world that could judge talent and ability equally with or without foreknowledge of sexual orientation. But we don’t live in that society, and consequently, I’d be foolish to pretend we do.

Gender is performative and I am an actor; I was, quite literally, born to play this role. Knowing when and where to employ my various social costumes is essential to pushing boundaries, both my own and the lines drawn in our grand cultural sandbox. I’ve got a gaggle of personae in the clown-car of my body and each of them deserves a turn at the wheel.

This video, something that was hastily shot and edited, launched me into a 7-car pileup of gender and identity questions. Many thanks to those of you who made it through this post. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Isn’t it electrifying to imagine just how little we know of each other?

Maybe my mom will introduce me to another side of her. (Love you Mom!)






24 Responses to “ABC, I’m coming for you.”

  1. emily | nomnivorousJuly 3, 2012 at 2:06 pm Edit #

    Dan, I have to tell you that I laughed heartily at the video and think you’d be a great on-camera food person. The last lines “All I want to do is talk about food. Feed you. Feed the people you love.” All that? I love it. It’s what I want to do with my life too.

    The post also got my brain spinning. You’ve been able to articulate the thing I couldn’t. I always felt like there were Emilys that my family never knew, and would have never been able to really “get”. And as soon as I moved to NY, it got worse. There’s so much of me that my family doesn’t see, so they completely don’t get. And it’s made me distance myself from them. I feel bad doing it, but you’ve spelled it out in a way that I “get” better.

    Also, a friend is telling me I should try out for this thing. Yep, my brain is a swimmin’ with a million thoughts. And I have quite the essay going!


    • Dan KohlerJuly 3, 2012 at 3:24 pm Edit #

      Emily! Thanks for the kind words. I sent this to my mom before posting and it sparked an interesting dialogue. She said she didn’t think that she had other versions of herself, that while she may present herself differently in a business situation than a familial one, that those were both basically the same mom I already know.

      It made me wonder, is the feeling of having so many faces an experience that one passes through in one’s twenties? Will I reach my mom’s age and find I’m presenting one version of “me” to the world? Or is this something that is new with our generation? Is this an experience brought on by the sharp uptick in technology in our lives? Do I have “multiple personalities” because I’m a member of so many divergent communities, some that are entirely digital?

      Clearly my mind is still jumbly on this.

      And yes, you MUST audition for the show! If not now, when?


  2. TonopahJuly 3, 2012 at 4:45 pm Edit #

    There is only one you. It would be logically inconsistent to say there are lots of you. Perhaps you emphasize different parts of yourself at different times. But those are the faces you always make, the way you have always had of making someone laugh, of inviting them into your kitchen, of making the craft of cooking seem simultaneously simple and elegant, of being genuine, of being interesting to watch, of telling stories, of being Dan. There is only one Dan, and he is effing awesome in all his presentations.

    Gender and sexuality get a lot trickier. They seems to deserve a constant and vigilant conversation. Perhaps not about what they are, but what they are not. Gender nor sexuality shouldn’t define a person; I’m not a girl, I’m a person passionate about helping people. I don’t wear dresses because I am “supposed” to but because they are comfortable. I’m not interested in men because I chose to be, but thats not to say I have never had sexual thoughts about women. Words, cadence, “affectations” don’t define gender or sexuality, they are only a part of the person exhibiting them. However it would be simplistic not to believe that gender, sexuality, and the self have an intimate relation to one another. They are part of how we are seen, and part of how we see ourselves, but all of that is fluid. Some days I like to wear lacy underwear and high heel shoes, other days I prefer jeans and no make up; neither one is somehow more inherently true to myself or my gender. Gender and sexuality aren’t static states of being, but the space to start to get to know oneself.


  3. JosieJuly 3, 2012 at 6:52 pm Edit #

    I love love LOVE the sentence:
    I’ve got a gaggle of personae in the clown car of my body, and each of them deserves a turn at the wheel

    I definitely believe that we are different people at different times and to different people. At work, I was known as the Type-A ass-kicker who had her shit on lock and never backed down.
    My friends definitely would describe me differently. My parents would describe me still differently. I think there’s a lot to be said here, and I also think that bringing gender and sexuality into the mix bring forth even more questions and sides to the story. There are so many expectations and views, from both inside and outside the LGBTQ community, of how one “should” act once the mantle of “gay” has been put on.

    So in the end, all I guess I can say is… great post. 


    • Dan KohlerJuly 4, 2012 at 5:49 pm Edit #

      You make a great point Josie. The weight that “should” carries when applied to how we act and how we identify is extreme. I guess we all have a choice to play into or against expectations. Being aware of the game takes away some of the power, yes?


  4. Jenny McNeiceJuly 3, 2012 at 8:42 pm Edit #

    “I wasn’t trying to sublimate my sequined heart.” Your writing is a performance of wit and I love when you dive a little deeper in these posts sometimes.


    • Danielle MayockJuly 3, 2012 at 9:24 pm Edit #

      Dan, I’m glad to know you and agree with my sister entirely. The article made me tear up and the video made me spit up my tea with a snort, I hope ABC sees what I do, and if they dont, then its their loss


      • Dan KohlerJuly 4, 2012 at 5:50 pm Edit #

        Darlings, make no mistake-I carry you in that sequined heart everywhere I go.


  5. Danielle MayockJuly 3, 2012 at 9:28 pm Edit #

    Dan- I’m so glad you put this up. I heartily agree with Jenny, the post made me choke up and the video made me spit up my tea with a snort. If ABC doesn’t see this video like I do, then they are ridiculous, and are completely missing out on you.


  6. Sarah E. WelchJuly 4, 2012 at 6:10 am Edit #

    I saw drama & life here, not sexuality or gender issues.

    I think the ‘different faces’ thing depends on the person. Some people are truly, authentically one personality no matter what. Others are someone different for each person they met. Once we had caller id at home so that my Dad would know who was calling before picking up, I had my own version of caller id from across the room. I could tell who was on the other end of the line simply by his greeting.

    I still surprise my husband every now and again–after 16 years together. We’ve known each other as friends, classmates, co-workers, spouses, lovers, and more. He’s seen me in so many different settings with so many different people over teens, twenties, and now as DINKs, but he still feels like he’s getting to know me. While I think there’s something to the twenty-something thing (I’m barely into my 30s), I’m not sure that it ever goes away for most of us–maybe settles down a bit. I think that’s lovely.


    • Dan KohlerJuly 4, 2012 at 5:53 pm Edit #

      That’s what I thought I might hear from my mom (and was consequently surprised to hear that she feels somewhat opposite). I hope I keep changing, I hope that the things in my life continue to affect me in deep ways and that I respond with new flair each time. I love to hear that even after being together for 16 years you and your husband are still learning more about each other. Cheers!


  7. Annie vanDykeJuly 4, 2012 at 4:48 pm Edit #

    You are amazing, funny, fabulous, deep, entertaining, instructive and a buncha other identifiers for all those peeps in the clown car! And, can you believe? he can cook…a total package,a dream! You are, without a doubt, much more interesting and real than Mr. Cooper. LOVE YOU! And that crazy clafoutis!


    • Dan KohlerJuly 4, 2012 at 5:54 pm Edit #

      Annie! Honey, go make that crazy clafoutis, you won’t regret it! Thanks for your words, Happy Fourth!


  8. Andrew HydeJuly 4, 2012 at 5:57 pm Edit #

    Fantastic as always Dan.


  9. Sarah Colley JonesJuly 6, 2012 at 4:07 pm Edit #


    It was entertaining, educational, inspiring, and — of supreme importance – fun!!

    I loved it, and look forward to watching your new show, wherever it lands (Food Network? Cooking Channel? Style???)

    Thanks also, for making the clafouti Gluten-Free! I shall replicate tonight, with local blackberries, and a white peach, or two! {to be washed down with chilled Bailey’s — happy Friday to me!}


    • Dan KohlerJuly 11, 2012 at 8:43 pm Edit #

      Happy Friday indeed! How did the clafoutis come out? Local black berries and white peaches sound perfect, I’ll have to try your combo. Cheers!


  10. GailJuly 11, 2012 at 11:24 pm Edit #

    I think this is terrific! You’re so animated, so entertaining and obviously, so knowledgable about food! Much more so than so many other so-called foodie celebrities.

    Clafoutis for all, and all for clafoutis!


    • Dan KohlerJuly 12, 2012 at 5:51 pm Edit #

      I think that may be my epitaph. Clafoutis for all indeed! Thanks Gail!


  11. Kristen TaylorJuly 24, 2012 at 10:04 am Edit #

    I’m late to this, but in time to say – I hope the whole world gets to know this part of Dan Kohler too. As Wilde points out, there are two kinds of people: charming and tedious. You are always charming.


  12. Sarah E. WelchAugust 5, 2012 at 7:06 pm Edit #

    So, I thought I’d also comment on the actual recipe  I made this last night! I used local plums, coconut flour, and almond milk. It was *fantastic*! This is going to be a go-to desert for me. I’m going to pick up some coconut milk ice cream to keep in the freezer. I think it would be a delicious accompaniment!


    • Dan KohlerAugust 7, 2012 at 1:13 pm Edit #

      Oh Sarah! You’ve just made my morning! I really do love this recipe for the summer, glad to know it kicks ass with coconut flour and almond milk (a luscious combination if I do say so myself). I’m off to the market now, if I find some plums I might just make your permutation tonight!


  13. JayAugust 12, 2012 at 11:24 pm Edit #

    I just want to say that I find your two paragraphs below wonderfully insightful. They made me wonder how much I have repressed parts of myself. I do remember going through a flamboyant stage around 5 or 6 and then policing myself to uber butch straightness. Wonder if the real me is different?

    “I knew it would surprise my mom to find me acting stereotypically flamboyant on camera in great part because I had always played it rather straight at home. But my “straight-acting” self wasn’t a conscious decision, it wasn’t born out of self-hatred; I wasn’t trying to sublimate my sequined heart. My parents are the epitome of support and neither my gender and sexual identities nor my choice of a career in the arts have ever been contentious. My personality at home is a fairly neutral, relaxed version of myself; an outcome of having such a loving and uplifting family.”

    “And part of having such a strong support system is the responsibility to see things from my parents’ perspective. As a parent, I imagine one believes she knows the very core of her child, and that of all the endless possibilities, the version she knows is the most true, the most authentic, the most real. But, in reality, the “me” my mother knows is, indeed, just one variation, one point on spectrums of both character and gender.”


    • Dan KohlerAugust 13, 2012 at 4:02 pm Edit #

      Thanks Jay, writing this post really made me reflect on my behavior inside and outside the house. I think we all police ourselves for different character traits, it’s a biological and social need to fit in, right? I’m trying to be more aware of my many different personalities and not be so hard on myself for performing gender roles (be they stereotypical or antithetical). I love the conversation happening around these thoughts here, I really appreciate your contribution.



Kids in the Kitchen 2012

My third year attending the annual International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) conference has confirmed what the first two years had me suspecting. While the panels are informative and the socializing is good for business, it’s the active, hands-on activities that really charge me as an attendee. With IACP that means the annual event sponsored by The Culinary Trust (their philanthropic wing) and the Kids in the Kitchen committee.

Every year an event is planned in the conference’s home city to teach kids some valuable and basic cooking skills. For the last two years we’ve had the opportunity to work with the kids only once, during the conference. This year was different. The Culinary Trust planned the event to run for three weeks. We worked with the Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger teaching weekly cooking classes to a fantastic group of kids, ages 8-18.


I know everyone who works with kids says this, but I have to write it anyway: The kids are fucking fantastic. They showed up week after week, ready to cook, ready to eat, and ready to play. We all had a great time. Who knew making smoothies could be so exciting? Seriously. Kids love a Vitamix.

The Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger is an organization that feeds 11,000 hungry people in Brooklyn every month.
Now read this:
You’re only allowed to shop at the pantry once a month.

So, where are families in need getting food the rest of the month? The neighborhood needs more support.

The Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger has been farming backyard plots for three years to supplement the food in their pantry. They teach cooking classes, pair kids with elderly community members to learn gardening and farming techniques, and provide clothes to those in need. This organization fights hard for their community.

And now it’s my turn to help out. There is a giant empty plot of land next to their headquarters. It’s been empty for 9 years. Dr. Samuels (the executive director of the Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger) has tried everything she can think of to get that land for more urban farming. I called the city council member representing that district to inquire about the land. Will you join me in putting some pressure on the local government to help out? The community needs food. Farming engages everyone, from elementary school students to retirees. This is a win-win situation for the whole neighborhood.

Please call Darlene Mealy at 718-953-3097 or email her at Ask her what the plan is for that land. It’s been sitting unused for 9 years. Let’s change that, let’s help the Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger feed more people. Leave a comment and let me know when you call!


Keep kicking ass,


IACP 2012 Launch Party

Last week the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) put on a mini-skirt and some glitter and hit the streets. Yes, the venerable organization is shaking things up on the road to their next national conference and I’m all for it. The first conference I attended was in Portland two years ago. It had a spectacular taste, deeply woven into the city and amped with great chefs and funky events. And still, in between the parties and panels, I yearned for the board to adopt more technology into their planning. I was among the youngest attendees, a glaring hole in their facade.  Plancast, Twitter, Foursquare- if IACP wanted to attract more people my age, I suggested they jump into the deep end.So my hopes were high for the next conference in Austin.

And I was let down. The week felt sleepy, it lacked the urgency and spunk of Portland. Sure, I made some great contacts in the food world (that is, after all, the main focus of attending these things), but I didn’t leave feeling terribly energized. Knowing the next conference would be in NYC I decided that would be the make or break conference for me.

If NYC improves upon the Portland formula, then I’ll continue my IACP membership. If, on the other hand, it follows in the footsteps of Austin, then this will be my last year in the organization.

Bringing the event to NYC is important for so many obvious reasons. And for the less obvious? NYC is the place to weave IACP into a younger food culture. Time to pick up more digital entrepreneurs, time to change the game.

For too long IACP has been focused on presenting “the book deal” as the pinnacle of our work as food professionals. Yes, I love cookbooks. They are beautiful transcriptions of life lived around the world. And I almost never use them. I’d rather have my iPad in the kitchen with me, looking through my collection of recipes or searching for things online.

It seems to me that most attendees have websites and twitter handles at the urging of publishers and agents. IACP members are told, repeatedly, that having an online presence is key to building the audience necessary for that elusive book deal. But what about looking at digital projects as more than means to various ends?

Why don’t we examine the value of digital food interaction as an end in and of itself?

Now back to the glitter and heels:
IACP launched with a party at Santos Party House last week. I didn’t know what to expect, would it be Austin all over again or Portland-inflected?

I was not let down. It seems everyone is rallying around this conference, within and without. The planning committee has lined up some big-ticket speakers and peeled back the curtain around some of NYC’s most coveted food businesses. And to top it off, this year our awards show (usually a despairing evening) will be hosted by Mo Rocca. Watch the video above to hear more from the team in charge. I’m excited.

Will you be there?


Get Out for Immigration

Hey Friends-

I’ve been doing some video work for a wonderful organization called Get Equal. They’re fighting for equality for LGBT citizens and doing a damn good job of it. Last week Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a speech to the U.N. on LGBT rights across the world. It was a magnificent speech calling all nations to step up and recognize their people as full citizens. I’d love to say that our country is leading the way in LGBT civil rights, but we aren’t. Check out the video above to hear the story of one couple struggling to find a way to live in the states.


Rock on,



I am an Infomercial!

Here’s the best part about filming a cheese-ball infomercial: the woman who runs my laundromat recognized me! I walked in the other day and she said, “Dan, are you a chef?” Confused, I answered hesitantly, “Yes.” “I knew it! I saw you on TV and I screamed and my son came running and he said ‘Mommy are you OK?,’ and I said ‘I’m fine. I know him.’”

Over the summer I shot an informercial for something called the Chef Basket. Maybe you’ve seen it? It’s a wire mesh basket. It’s ridiculous. And they didn’t even give me one when I left! Clearly I am outraged. Bonus side to this? More people have called me to tell me they saw this infomercial than have seen my Law and Order episode. So I guess that teaches us something about the reach of absurd kitchen gadgets. Also apparently my friends watch a ton of daytime crap TV. Not judging. (Maybe a little).

Watch it!


Food Network Star Audition

Well, after much debating I submitted an audition tape for Food Network Star. As for the debate, here’s the redux:

Me: I’m scared to click this “agree to our terms” box.
D (also me): G’scuse me, do you want a shot at this opportunity or not?
Me: It basically requires me to sign away my URL, trademark and ideas for ever and ever amen.
D: Oh really?
Me: Yes. Really.
D: You’re being defensive.
Me: I’m being protective.
D: Of what?
Me: My ideas.
D: They’re that good?
Me: You’re being rude.
D: You’re being impractical. You just want to keep all your ideas locked away in your brain?
Me: Well, what if I have a great one and Food Network takes it but not me along with the idea?
D: Then you’ll have another idea.
Me: I’ll just have another one?
D: Duh, that’s how it works. Pay out one, get back two.
Me: But how do I know I’ll get two good ones in return for a great idea I give out?
D: Ideas are ideas! They’re all good until they’re bad and they only turn bad if you let them sit in your head and rot. You can’t do everything on your own.
Me: …
D: You know I’m right.
Me: But it’s so risky.
D: Riddle me this…Bigger risk-sharing and losing or never having shared at all?
Me: You stole that.
D: It’s time to jump.

Me: …Game on.

And with that I filled out the 11 page application (ummm, note to Food Network, I already applied to college, thanks). I edited a video out of material from stuff I’ve aired on this site, but, after conferring with a friend and taking a view at some of the past contestants’ audition videos, decided to record something new just for this submission. Dr. Brenda held the camera and captured my inane commentary on babaganoush and I crunched the piece into the three minute time allotment.

And then?
They called me. Yes darlings, the casting office called and asked me a few more questions (I do love a good chat on the phone).

And then?
They called me again. Oooh, a second phone call. Only this one was better. They asked me to come in for an on camera interview and cooking demo. They wanted me to show a quick (3-minutes or less) technique and bring in my signature dish.

For my demo I whipped up my favorite vinaigrette with shallots and whole grain mustard. Show off some knife skills and talk talk talk while I’m cooking. Duh, I have stories about everything I eat. Signature dish? Afternoon cake. When I told Brenda about this he looked at me and said, “Excuse me? You say that like it’s something I’m supposed to know.”

Well it is dammit. Afternoon cake is just what it sounds like, cake you eat between 3pm and 4pm, when you need a little break and a snack (snack time isn’t only for those in school). You have a piece of cake, a cup of coffee/tea, say hello to a neighbor or coworker and then get back to work. Afternoon cake.
*It should be noted that afternoon cake is never frosted. Once a cake is frosted it’s ready for a night out on the town. That’s Evening Cake.

The casting agents suggested I perform a signature dance move to start things off and loosen up (they had no idea what kind of trouble they were asking for), then asked me questions both silly and serious. And then I had a 25-minute written test. I didn’t even have a number-2 with me, so I filled it out with one of my drawing pens.

And now I wait. Food Network Humor, you’ve been alerted. Know that I follow your Food Network Star barbs closer than I follow RuPaul’s Drag Race.

My head is ready to explode with ideas.


Michel Nischan

When I get the opportunity to meet an incredible person I like to share some of that with you. Michel Nischan was recently given the Humanitarian award at IACP Austin 2011 and because he couldn’t be there in person to accept, I drove out to his brilliant restaurant in Westport, CT to interview him. Now, when I say “I drove,” what I really mean is Doug Duda, VP of IACP, picked me up and took me along for the ride.


I will admit to knowing little of Michel’s work before I was contacted to do this piece. Cursory research online bounced me to the website of his foundation, Wholesome Wave, and I liked what I saw. Michel started this program to get fresh, local produce in the hands of those needing it most. Among the many wonderful programs started by Wholesome Wave is the Double Value Coupon Program. To entice those living on SNAP (formerly Food Stamps) to shop at farmer’s markets this program doubles the value of every dollar spent from SNAP on local produce.


It was an honor and a pleasure to spend the afternoon talking with Michel, he is a most gracious man. Check out the interview above and if you find yourself in Westport, CT, make sure to stop by for a meal at The Dressing Room.

Video, Recipe

The Winner!

It is one thing to consider yourself a judgemental person, it is a completely different game to be considered  a judge by others. With great honor I took the role of judge in Rudi’s Gluten Free Recipe Contest a few months ago, and I must say it was more challenging that I imagined. Rudi’s sponsored a contest to create recipes using their products and the top three contestants were flown to Boulder, CO for an Iron Chef-style battle. Each contestant had a very personal connection to Celiac Disease, whether it was their own diagnosis or the careful preparation of food for a loved one, and these stories pulled on familiar heart-strings. This disease is still not readily diagnosed and I’m shocked that most doctors don’t think of Celiac out the outset of any treatment plan. Needless to say, the work the NFCA does to raise awareness is critical.

The cook-off was held at Restaurant 4580 in Boulder and Martin Hammer, the owner, was also a judge. Martin spoke at length about training his staff to not only smile and nod at requests for gluten free meals from patrons, but to actually engage customers. His approach is one I’d like to see all restaurants take: active, positive and scrumptious.

The winner of the competition, Annalyn Varalla Wills, is my special guest on this episode of Alternative Appetites. Annalyn spent the morning cooking with me and sharing her stories. I love a guest who’s ready to laugh with me on camera and Annalyn was just ripe for the occasion. Her winning recipe is easily adaptable to any season, something that earns high marks in my book. Make a tray now and throw it in the freezer, the next time you have guests over you’ll be thrilled to have a tantalizing dessert already prepared and ready to rock.


Video, Summer

IACP 2011

IACP 2011.

I was in Austin, TX for a week at the beginning of June with a collision of foodniks. The International Association of Culinary Professionals. We talked, we ate, we drank, there were some fantastic panels and there were reasons to play hooky. IACP is at an interesting crossroads (so say I). The organization has been around for over 30 years and acts to connect food professionals from all corners of this industry-photographers, chefs, food stylists, producers, bloggers, authors, eaters, etc. But in an ever more youthful food industry it seems that IACP struggles to bring in the under 35 demographic. Indeed, I was one of a handful of attendees under the age of 30. This was my second year as an IACP member. I joined because it put me in direct contact with people who knew more than me, plain and simple. I started this website in my imagination (honestly, I told people it existed but “was down for service” for a good 6 months before I even launched). It was an idea bubbling in my head and when the bubbles started to burst I found myself with questions questions questions. I needed to meet people (face-to-face, not pixel-to pixel) who had done this before, who had started a website on a whim and turned it into something more. For me, IACP is the place to get face time with peers you’ve known online for ages. It’s a deep resource and I’m happy to have it at my fingertips.

So why is it so hard to get us young folks in the door?

Face time is a hard sell. And with a $600-800 ticket price (not including travel expenses), we have to prove a return of equal or greater value. For people starting out in the food world, be they young chefs or baby bloggers, this is a major expense. Hell, for people not starting out in the food industry this is a major expense. And when I’m about to drop serious cash I look long and hard at the product before I write that check. At the relatively minor cost of $100 I decided not to attend the regional conference in NYC this year. What kept me away? A quick demographic breakdown of the speakers instantly deterred me. I believe that we are drawn to speakers for one of two reasons: 1) They are like us 2)We want to be like them. The average panelist at the regional conference was certainly not like me, late 40′s to early 50′s, but the real struggle I felt was that I didn’t see panelists I wanted to be. Sure there were fascinating speakers, and there were even some people talking about what’s happening in the digital world. But those people were not my people. These were not speakers I’d have picked to talk about food in the digital age. Let’s get the folks behind Foodzie on a panel. I want to hear from the team. I want to meet the people my age who are game changers in the online food world. And more than that, I want action. As someone under the age of 30 (and I know many over-30 year olds who’d agree) I don’t want to sit in a room while someone talks at me for 2 hours. Even if it’s a topic I’m enthused about, I lose interest when my participation isn’t necessary.

If we want to change the demographic of our attendees at the national conference we need to change the demographic of our speakers.

If we want to prove value to a younger generation we need to build active programming.

One place IACP really does it right? The Kids in the Kitchen committee hosts an event each year that is both active and youthful. This year we went to the excellent UT Elementary school and gardened with the kids. We then drove to Whole Foods and showed these funky eaters how to cook what they grew. I left with dirty hands, as sure a sign of value as anything. The best face time at IACP is there, working with culinary peers to educate a new generation. Second best face time? Eating and drinking with new-found friends and old-school cronies while you ditch a few panels and make connections that will last a lifetime. We have to find a way to showcase this value, this nebulous, unplanned, off-campus “networking” that changes your career.

I want IACP to grow, to change, to be the best it can be. It has played a major role in my professional development and I want it to do the same for my peers. I made a video highlighting the Kids in the Kitchen event this year, it encapsulates the energy, passion and integrity that I see in IACP members.

There is great value in knowing people who know more than you. Thank you IACP for another great conference.


Dr. Lucy in the house…

Darlings-every now and again I have the pleasure of cooking with a guest in my kitchen. Recently, Lucy Gibney (of Lucy’s Cookies) stopped by to make me dinner. She is a smashing human being. Before Lucy jumped into the baking business she was an ER doctor. I’d tell you more about her career jump but I don’t want to spoil the episode. Lucy showed me how to make her tender chocolate cake and some pan fried chicken. I figured the least I could do was provide some veggies so I turned out a quick salad dressing. Get with it friendos, here’s what Lucy has to say:

This is one of my two favorite gluten free, vegan cakes. As you know, it is hard to make a cake without wheat flour, dairy butter and eggs. The trick to making this cake is carrots! Yes, carrots! Don’t tell the kids.

In gluten free, vegan baking my first real cake success was with a carrot cake. I realized that the carrots actually add structure, they don’t just make it a carrot cake. So, I decided to develop a chocolate cake recipe including carrots. I also thank the cocoa for adding structure in this recipe. It really helps too. The results are pretty amazing. Enjoy!

Video, Summer

IACP White House Event

Did this really happen?

Just over a week ago I found an email in my inbox from the IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals) asking if I would be interested in attending an event at the White House. Michelle Obama wanted to launch the next phase of her Let’s Move campaign to end childhood obesity with a lawn packed full of chefs. I couldn’t (and still can’t) think of anything that would stop me from going, so I sent in the requested security information and hoped for the best. Would there be a selection process? Was I eligible? Could I bring my camera with me?

I bought a ticket on the excellent Bolt Bus (plugs at every seat and wifi on the bus, it’s like Virgin Airlines hijacked Greyhound) and tried to pack wisely. I knew we’d be required to wear our chef’s coats on the White House lawn, so that took care of the tricky part (I dread to think what I would have dared to wear without a requirement). And then I received another email, this one from our White House contact. We would be allowed to bring in phones, cameras, video cameras…technology! I was surprised at the time, but I shouldn’t have been: more press=more press

The morning of the event we were invited to a sponsored breakfast from Share Our Strength. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan spoke about the challenges we face when it comes to overhauling the school lunch program, but more importantly, he focused on the danger of doing nothing. He said, “What keeps me up every single night is that we have a dropout rate in this country that is staggering. We have 1.2 million students leaving our schools for the streets each year. We have to do everything we can to reduce that dropout rate and increase the graduation rate. But we can’t do it if we don’t start to address their health. We can’t do it if we don’t improve the quality of the food they’re eating.” I couldn’t agree more. Food is powerful.

I love hearing politicians discuss the connection between academic achievement and our current food culture. The processed foods that have taken over school lunches (not to mention the general American diet) don’t set students up for success. I’d love to see more relationships between local farms and schools. Is there a financially feasible way we can get fresh and local produce into cafeterias? I know a number of schools have started gardening programs, not only as a way to bring in unprocessed foods, but also as a learning tool for the students. Science classes can teach plant-life biology in the garden; English classes can discuss the various ecological influences in some of our most famous works of literature (When all at once I saw a crowd, A host of golden daffodils). This weekend in D.C. showed me how badly our food system needs overhauling, but also how much our education system stands to gain from that change.

And then we walked to the White House, where we mingled in the garden until Michelle Obama’s speech. It was hot, I was wearing a black chef’s coat (poor choice of color), and I could not have been more excited. I didn’t know what to expect (my favorite state of being). Among the guests were a number of chefs from The Food Network (Anne Burrell, Aaron McCargo Jr.) and a few past Top Chefs (Carla Hall, Ron Duprat). Everyone in the crowd (celebs and civvies alike) was simply charming on camera and I thank you all for lending me your time and voices.

As the crowd started to move from the garden, I realized it was time for the speech. We made our way to the South Lawn and sat down in sweaty anticipation. Sam Kass (assistant executive chef at the White House) opened for the First Lady and then it was showtime. Michelle Obama spoke to us about the Let’s Move campaign and our collective opportunity to change the future. I could paraphrase her, but I’d rather quote:

“We are going to need your time and talent to solve the childhood obesity epidemic and I am calling on our nation’s chefs to get involved by adopting a school and working with teachers, parents, school nutritionists and administrators to help educate kids about food and nutrition. You have tremendous power as leaders on this issue because of your deep knowledge of food and nutrition and your ability to deliver these messages in a fun and delicious way and I want to thank you for joining the Chefs Move to Schools campaign.”

Thank you, First Lady Obama, for letting me be a part of this. I’m thrilled.

Of course, I also made a video:

Dinner, Fall, Holiday, Video, Summer

Dinnergeddon 7

Dinnergeddon, I shall miss you. This was the seventh incarnation and by far our largest gathering. As usual the menu was Paleo friendly: tamarind-citrus chicken, poblano plantains and cilantro-jicama slaw. With the new TechStars teams in attendance we reached full capacity and spilled out onto the patio. Thankfully Boulder held back her Springtime tears and rained down only perfect sunshine and clear skies.

This will be my last dinnergeddon for a while; I’m moving back to New York in a few days. I want to send hearty thanks to Andrew Hyde for letting me cook and bringing me into his fold. Dinnergeddon will always be one of my favorite memories of this past year in Boulder. I am lucky to have met so many people through these parties, and I’ll miss the laughs.

Cheers to all!

Video, Dessert

Seth Ellis Chocolatier

Everyone living with nut allergies out there-
This is for you.

Seth Ellis Chocolatier is a bonafied Wonka wonderland in our very own mountain town. We first found their chocolates at the Boulder Farmer’s Market, and then proceeded to see them all over town. Whole Foods, CU, OZO Coffee, Brewing Market, Glacier Ice Cream- Everyone wants to carry this chocolate.

Let me give you a rundown on why they’re so hot-
Dedicated Nut Free and Gluten Free facilities. You’ve all seen the back of normal candy bars: “Warning-May have been processed in a facility that handles nuts.” We like our chocolate warning free thank you very much. Seth Ellis Chocolatier produces fine artisanal chocolates for those of us living with food allergies. Rock on.
Organic Ingredients. Feel good about eating these chocolates. Rick and the team at Seth Ellis Chocolatier have meticulously sorted through hundreds of varieties of organic chocolate to bring you the finest, cleanest, and best tasting chocolate.
Great People. Seth Ellis Chocolatier is great people, plain and simple. Rick started making chocolate with his kids, and that turned into a full blown chocolate shop. Want a specially labeled chocolate bar for your restaurant? Get in touch with these guys, they already specially wrap bars for CU and OZO coffee.

Here’s what you need to know:

Buy online:
It’s Only Natural Gifts

What are you waiting for?
Get gone.

Eat it.


Rudi’s GF Cook Off

Rudi’s Gluten Free Bakery of Boulder, CO held a recipe contest recently. The authors of the top three recipes were flown to Boulder to compete in an Iron Chef-style cook off. I was tickled pink to be invited as a judge, it was a pleasure to spend the day with these fine contestants. Check out the video recap of the event!


Recipe, Video

Caramelized Onions

We all have a secret weapon. Under ice in the freezer, in the back corner of the fridge, on the shelf in the pantry-a special ingredient you keep on hand at all times. Sriracha, homemade chicken stock, duck fat, preserved lemons, the weapon takes many forms but always serves the same purpose. Whether you’re pressed for time or creating an elaborate meal you pull out your weapon and attack the food. The weapon rarely takes center stage but always elevates the meal from mediocre to crave-inducing.

In that light I give you this:
Caramelized Onions

This is my all-time favorite secret weapon. Caramelizing onions can take some time, so it’s worth the wait to caramelize a metric sh@t-ton at once. I slice 3 or 4 giant yellow onions and throw them in a pot with some salt and a drizzle of olive oil. With the pan over medium-low heat I can bumble around the kitchen or take care of some writing without worrying over the onions burning. Bonus point? It makes the house smell glorious.

Why are caramelized onions my favorite secret weapon? They bring a savory sweetness to stews, blend up into a beautiful paste for dips and are a fantastic crostini spread for last minute guests. They freeze effortlessly and the onions coated in oil defrost without losing their flavor. Check out the video above, it’s a tutorial on caramelizing.

What’s your secret weapon?


Get Equal

President Obama just ordered the Justice Department to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act, a piece of legislation that has been brought to court as unconstitutional. I’m thrilled. This brings us one step closer to true marriage equality, a goal I support wholeheartedly. It’s rare that I devote an entire post to something other than food, but if you know me you know how deeply this resonates with my spirit.

I have two moms. They cannot get married. I am gay. I cannot get married.

It’s time to rip these laws out of the books and treat citizens as citizens.

I had mega help making the video above. @Kthread did the photography and Blue Kid provided the soundtrack. Both of these women are glorious and have been utterly supportive of me and my projects. Love to you both.

Civil rights are for everyone.

Video, Fall

Harvest Home Rocks

Here is what I love about living in NYC:
People do fantastic things. All the time.

Everyone you meet is up to something. This isn’t a city to sit on your heels and simmer. Rather, it’s the best place to fill your pot to the brim and make a fabulous stew of life. Take for instance, Jill Brack. Many of you know her as the founder of Glow Gluten Free Cookies. Here’s what you might not know: Jill is on the board of Harvest Home Farmer’s Market. Harvest Home places farmer’s markets in low income neighborhoods with little access to fresh produce. The markets are set up so the patrons can pay with food stamps, but what’s even more impressive is that paying with your EBT card is incentivized. For every $5 you pay with your food stamps, you receive an extra $2 to spend at the market. In a time when it is often more expensive to buy fresh produce than a Big Mac, Harvest Home goes a long way to shift the balance.

Harvest Home sponsored an event this past week with PS 72 in Harlem. 4th and 5th grade classes were asked to design a poster for the market. One poster was picked and the winning class (Ms. Callahan’s 5th grade) was brought to the market to celebrate. Jill asked if I was interested in cooking a market inspired meal for the kids as part of their prize. My answer-”LOVE IT.” Food always tasted better with company and what better company than 30 5th graders?

I had free reign of the market’s bounty to plan my menu, all of the veggies donated by the farmers. For lunch we at chili and maple roasted squash, braised collards with apples and onions, roasted chicken thighs with a citrus-tahini dressing, a big salad and rice pudding with caramelized apples. Our plates were palettes of Fall colors, filled to the brim. I loved watching the principal of PS 72 sit down with the kids to eat. This is how we can change food habits-eating together, talking about food, learning as a community.


IACP 2010 Portland, Kids in the Kitchen

Picnics are a wonderful way to uncork your mind when it feels bottled and buried in dust. Just this past Thursday I found myself called to revolt from my desk chair and join in a celebration of the last nice day of summery weather in Brooklyn. Kristen rallied the troops and planned an outdoor lunch at Fort Greene Park; those of us on the list fell into line with tasty provisions at our sides.

I needed the break. I’ve been spending obscene amounts of time in front of my computer lately, mostly in the pursuit of finely edited video files. I’ve got a new video today that has long been in the pipeline. You may have seen the Citrus, ginger, soy and some chili paste-click here for a sauce that will make a fiery marinade for chicken and a smashing simmering sauce for rice noodles.