Let me introduce you to Connor.
On an overcast April afternoon in New York City, I walked into a boisterous classroom filled with foodies, professors and classmates. Next to me sat a polite and well dressed male student with an eye for fashion, a love of food, and a curly mustache. We immediately connected through our outfits and obvious queerness, both wearing blue blazers and oxfords.
Growing up in upstate New York, Connor completed his Bachelor's Degree at The Culinary Institute of America. Instead of playing football or watching ESPN as a kid, he found himself spending his time in the kitchen baking M&M cookies with his mother and grandmother or binge watching Food Network. As the youngest in a large family, he sought comfort through food.
But by far, one of the most interesting facet of Connor's life, is his aspiration to challenge the male-dominated professional realm of cooking. As a constant source of inspiration and perseverance, Connor's below responses reinforce the need for discussion around the political climate of sexuality in food in the queer community.
Because I knew he was up for a challenge, I posed two tough question to Connor: As an out, gay male, how does sexuality play a role in the kitchen?
"I think food itself has been largely impacted by gay men, especially throughout recent history. A good example of this can be seen by a guy named John Birdsall. In an article I recently read titled “America, Your Food Is So Gay” it reviews the influence of gay men historically and his impact on American food. He then introduces major gay personalities in food, such as James Beard, Craig Claiborne, Richard Olney, and Jeremiah Tower. The collective works of these men created an environment around food that made food and cooking particularly accepting, especially of the queer community.
However, the professional environment is outdated in its treatment of queer workers. As a member of the queer community myself, working in professional kitchens has conjured up certain tensions that I felt myself being weighed down by."
And more specifically, what challenges do you face as a queer professional chef?
"In my personal experience as professional line cook, I found myself often suppressing or hiding my identity as a gay man when performing in the professional sphere. Both in my networking experiences, as well as in professional kitchens, I felt that I could be more successful in my career if I performed to the masculinity so ubiquitous to the restaurant industry."
"As a comfortable and openly gay man in my personal life, I struggled being comfortable with that identity as a professional culinarian (most specifically as a professional line cook). By analyzing a focus group of male queer culinary professionals, I plan to explore the greater intersectionality of male queerness and its positioning within the culture of the New York’s professional kitchens."
Connor is an NYU Masters student in Food Studies with a concentration in Global Studies. His current research is focusing on treatment of labor of openly queer male chefs in New York City.
Follow him at @white_connor & https://www.anotherhelpingkitchen.com/