Where Is the First Gay Food Network Star?
By Noah Michelson
Ina Garten -- a.k.a. the Barefoot Contessa -- can't shake a spatula without hitting one of her many gay friends, who are forever milling about her fabulous East Hampton kitchen. She, Paula Deen, Nigella Lawson, Sandra Lee, and the rest of the Scripps Networks' culinary fag-hag harem have gay men tuning into and TiVo-ing the Food Network and the Cooking Channel by the couchful. But, strangely, for all of this pink pantry programming, you won't find a single out gay chef chiffonading on either network. Sure, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy's Ted Allen pops up a few times a week to host Chopped or judge Iron Chef America, which also features lesbian chef Cat Cora. And yes, in 2005, Steve McDonagh and Dan Smith, two gay men (a couple no less) won the first season of the Food Network's wildly popular reality competition The Next Food Network Star, and were awarded their own show, Party Line With the Hearty Boys, but after scoring dismal ratings it was canceled within a year. So, where exactly is the first (never mind the next) gay Food Network star, and why hasn't he or she been discovered yet?
It could be that the right man for the job just hasn't presented himself. 'We're always looking to broaden the diversity of our hosts, and we work hard to find talent that has the expertise, charisma, and broad appeal necessary to work on our air,' says Bob Tuschman, general manager and senior vice president of the Food Network, one of several gay high-level executives employed by Scripps. There's also the possibility that gay men have simply fallen into the chasm between the culturally sanctioned domestic approach of female chefs and the rough, often borderline homophobic atmosphere of professional kitchens that breed and boast Anthony Bourdain types. Still, not all hope is lost. Last December twinky Yigit Pura became the first queer winner of Bravo's Top Chef franchise, proving that elusive perfect trifecta of talent, likability, an on-camera appeal is out there. It may be only a matter of time before Pura, or someone like him, is wooed by the Scripps Networks. Until then, we'll have to settle for watching Ina Garten's gay BFFs tuck into her famous truffle macaroni and cheese.