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Jan/Feb 2005 | The World's Great Gay Chefs

Jan/Feb 2005 | The World's Great Gay Chefs

You know the old saying, "If you can't stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen." Here are 10 chefs who not only can stand it but thrive on it. You'll find them working in tiny cafés, elegant restaurants, and even on the Food Network--these queer chefs command some of the top kitchens in the world. As a group they have one thing in common--a passion for great cuisine. As individuals, each has his or her own style of culinary expression, tantalizing their patrons with a kaleidoscope of Asian, Mexican, or Mediterranean flavors. Take a delectable journey around the world; your table is ready.

Las Vegas

1 Susan Feniger, Border Grill at Mandalay Bay Hotel
Graduate of the prestigious Culinary Institute of America and gay half of the Too Hot Tamales of Food Network and cookbook fame, Susan Feniger has certainly made a name for herself. Her latest venture at Mandalay Bay mirrors the menu at the original Border Grill in Santa Monica, Calif., with dishes such as portobello mushroom mulitas and smoked pork chop in cholita glaze. She and longtime business partner Mary Sue Milliken, with whom she cohosts a Sunday morning radio show in Los Angeles, also treat palettes to the flavors of the whole Latin world at Ciudad in downtown Los Angeles.

San Francisco

2 Elizabeth Falkner, Citizen Cake
Elizabeth Falkner is the only pastry chef to make it on our top 10 list. "San Francisco is such a food town, and here we didn't have many pastry shops," says Falkner, referring to the pre-Citizen Cake years. Early in her career she was handpicked by another gay chef, Traci des Jardins, to head the pastry department of Rubicon restaurant. There, Falkner developed quite a following for her pastry prowess. She was especially sought after to create elegant commitment-ceremony cakes. She had no choice but to open her own "pastry chef's restaurant," Citizen Cake.


3 Christine Manfield, East@West
The London dining scene has taken a gigantic leap forward with the addition of Christine Manfield, noted cookbook author and owner of the highly praised restaurant Paramount in Sydney. Manfield awakens the palette with flavors inspired by Vietnam, China, and Japan. "My philosophy in life and work is based on the premise that life is too short to eat bad food," she says. With a stunning menu that is classic Manfield, featuring selections like bluefin tuna sashimi with toasted seaweed, shiso sprouts, and ginger blossoms all served in a building that was once a house of ill repute, prepare to be impressed.


4 Giuliano Brenna, Ristorante Asinocotto
Giuliano Brenna, a flamboyant, outgoing chef, has a flair for putting a twist on a classic dish. He has a "passion for handmade pasta and a tendency to invent desserts of dreams." Trained by the Michelin-starred chef who was the former personal chef to Prince Charles and Princess Diana, Brenna learned to develop rich flavors and textures in both his entrées and pastries. His traditional Ligurian pasta with ragù of duck topped with pistachio nuts and his trademark dessert of rice pudding made with candied fruit in maple syrup show off his culinary abilities.

Hobart, Australia

5 Scott Minervini, Lebrina
Scott Minervini has been cooking all his life--first at his mother's side at home and then professionally. He settled in Hobart, where the climate allows him to create the rich-bodied braised game dishes he loves in the cooler months and to utilize the seafood and abundance of local produce in the warmer months. Lebrina is a converted 1840s Victorian house and has seating for 35--perfect for this hands-on chef who has no desire to draw big crowds.

Provincetwon, Mass.

6 Donna Aliperti, Front Street
Donna Aliperti is no newcomer on the culinary scene: She began working in her parents' restaurant at age 15 and later inherited the 140-seat restaurant at age 26. Fourteen years ago she purchased Front Street and has been consistently wowing guests ever since. She offers both a traditional Italian menu with recipes she has been developing since age 15 and an impressive "Mediterranean-American fusion" menu that changes weekly. Her fusion menu, inspired by trips to southern France and Italy, features dishes like truffled veal, lobster Napoleon, and Chianti grilled duckling with escarole sauté. Did I mention she also has an award-winning wine list?


7 Christine Keff, Flying Fish
Training at the Four Seasons Restaurant in New York City under the direction of Seppi Renggli was instrumental in Christine Keff's career. "He's a man that can inspire anyone," says Keff. Now Keff is inspired by everything Seattle has to offer. The bounty of fish and shellfish and the luscious produce determine what Keff will feature on her menu, and her extensive travels through Asia flavor many of her dishes. Lobster is paired with a hoisin chili glaze. Ono is splashed with a soy ginger butter. Don't miss the "Oyster Frenzy" held every November.


8 Rudy Kerremans, Café des Artistes
Rudy Kerremans is a Belgian chef transplanted to this intimate tropical café about two years ago. His culinary training specialized in cooking with beer and wine. His menus feature tastes of his homeland like toast aux champignons, flavors of Indonesia with nasi goreng, and if you can believe this, his own handmade pasta. Expect more of his Belgian heritage (including Belgian beers) to show up on future menus as he continues to evolve his personal style.

San Diego

9 Rodney Robinson, Inn at the Park
Raised in a soul-food kitchen and trained in a Navy kitchen, Rodney Robinson learned the importance of fundamentals. "Ever since I was a kid I always helped my grandmother cook. She loved to bake and made everything from scratch," says Robinson. He applies those skills at the Inn at the Park, where his menus reflect the tastes of the clientele. "They like casual and good food, but not too stuffy," adds Robinson. He changes his menus seasonally and includes classics such as crab bisque and beef Wellington.

Puerta Vallarta, Mexico

10 Jose Ruiz, Abadia
Jose Ruiz has built a solid reputation by blending contemporary Mexican flavors with traditional European dishes in selections like seared duck breast in Chiapas coffee sauce or beef and salmon carpaccio with anato seeds. He takes ingredients like prime venison, partridge, and foie gras, combines them in an artistic plate presentation, and sets a new standard for Mexican cuisine.

The information in this story was accurate at the time of publication. We suggest that you confirm all details directly with the establishments mentioned before making travel plans. Please feel free to e-mail us at if you have any new information.

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