Catching Up With Top Chef's Yigit Pura
November 21 2010 7:00 PM EST
February 05 2015 9:27 PM EST
It wouldn't have mattered whether pastry master Yigit Pura won or lost the first season of Top Chef: Just Desserts. He'd already won himself a legion of gay fans devoted to his puppy-dog eyes and sweetheart disposition. But after the 29-year-old Turkish-American became the first gay winner of any Top Chef, we caught up with him to get the dish on Gail Simmons's shoe closet, combating homophobia on TV, and his giant crush on Ricky Martin.
Out: Let's start by playing a game called Man Candy. I'll name a man and you describe what he'd taste like if he were a dessert.
Yigit Pura: [laughs] Ok.
Zac Young [friend and Top Chef: Just Desserts competitor].
[Laughs even louder] Sour Patch Kids.
Something classic and elegant where every bite brings a little more flavor into your mouth, but it's all very gentlemanly.
I'm going to have to leave that to your readers to decide.
Wow, you know, I never used to be a fan of Ricky Martin, but when I saw him on Oprah a few weeks ago, I actually had some flutters. I think I fell in love. If Out could ever make that happen, I'd be more than open to it'
I'll see what I can do. How about Johnny Weir?
A good chocolate 'clair: shiny and tasty and cream-filled.
Morgan Wilson [Top Chef: Just Desserts competitor].
Oh god. He would have to be a very complex and angry dessert, so'let me get back to you on that one.
How did you react to the homophobic comments Morgan made all season, which seemed to become more numerous as the finale got closer?
He made a comment about how he felt so isolated being there. He hated it because he was surrounded by gay men and women. At that point my lid kind of flipped and I told him, 'You have no idea what it means to be isolated. Most gay youth have to go through their entire lives like this and the fact that you can't relate to people because they're female or because of their sexual orientation says nothing about their personality. It just means you're closed-minded and have no compassion.' It's really kind of pathetic and sad.
Was he in the back of your mind when you filmed your video for the "It Gets Better" Project?
Definitely. I can't imagine any gay youth, including myself, who didn't think about suicide when you were coming out. I had a hard time with that. I started thinking about Morgan and how he kept calling Zac a fairy and a little girl. When you make an insult toward a gay person, you make an insult toward me and every gay man, lesbian, transgender, or questioning youth in the country.
Do you think it's different when Morgan calls Zac a little girl and when you call him your little sister?
It's absolutely very different because when I call Zac my little sister, he is like my little sister or little brother. Zac and I have that kind of rapport. I think it depends on the context in which you say it. Morgan's comment was definitely meant in a derogatory term. Any man who has to reiterate that he's a heterosexual man repeatedly, there's usually a little something missing in that link.
Wait, so you think Morgan is gay?
If he's gay or if he's straight, that's none of my business. I think we owe each other the respect to be human beings no matter what the case is. And I have an answer for you for Morgan's candy: black licorice. It's something that I've tried to like over the years and every time I have a bite I have a really bad taste in my mouth.
Inspiring and supporting the LGBTQ community seems to be very important to you. How are you planning to use your platform as the first gay Top Chef winner?
I'm really honored by that. I knew if I won it would be a huge pinnacle for my career. As a gay man, to win this was really important to me because I wanted the rest of America to see that not all gay men and lesbians and transgender people fit into these stereotypes. Being gay has nothing to do with the person that you are. I was actually just contacted by the HRC to do some work with them. I just hope that my kids growing up -- I need a husband for that first -- won't even have to think about gay rights. I know that's going to take a lot of work, so if I can have a little voice in that, I'd be more than honored to.
There's been buzz that you and Zac should do a show together. How do you feel about these as potential titles? Go Diva!
I love it. Zac had this idea that -- you know how Bravo has Tabatha's Salon Takeover? -- there are so many great restaurants out there with mediocre desserts because often times they can't afford that pastry chef. So, we figured we'd be the Go Divas! to the rescue and revamp their pastry kitchens.
Well how about Disco Dust or Turkish Delight?
Yeah, I think those would be the individual titles for our own shows.
For the Godiva challenge, you made a dessert inspired by your first date with your then-boyfriend. But you're no longer together, so what was that like to watch? Most of us don't live out our relationships on TV.
And most of us don't live out our breakups on TV either. But my ex-boyfriend is a great guy and I have nothing but love and admiration for him. When I returned, we parted ways for our own reasons and the healing of a heart takes time. But watching that I was actually really happy because I realized that I was truly in love. There's nothing wrong with that.
Would you give us a little taste of what your single life is like now?
My single life is packed with work and trying to be creative and keep this momentum going. When the right time and the right man come along, I'm certainly not opposed to that. Write that up for Ricky Martin and send it over to him.
Maybe Mr. Right is Gail Simmons. She really blossomed as the Just Desserts host and it's no secret that you were lady-crushing on her all season.
How can you not lady-crush on her? She's so adorable. She had her cold moments, like Padma, when she needed to do it for television, but I could see right through her. Gail has the softest and warmest heart. When she announced my name as the winner, I could just see that smile on her face and after that I blacked out for a few seconds until she came over and gave me a hug. She's tremendous. I love her.
So when you took the judges on a culinary date for the final challenge, really you were just asking Gail out.
I don't know if I was asking Gail out but now that she said she wants to bathe in my milk jam, when I go back to work I'm going to have to make a 60-liter batch of milk jam and send it to her office in New York. But Gail did promise me that when this was all over we'd have a date to go shoe shopping.
Now the truth comes out. How much of your crush came from shoe-envy?
Oh, a lot of it.