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5 LGBTQ+ cooks who will spark joy in your kitchen

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From drunk kitchen shenanigans and Ghanaian supper clubs to budget recipes and poverty campaigning, these LGBTQ+ cooks are bringing joy to the food industry.

Image credit: sarah marlowe on Flickr

Co-op foundation is leading a programme called ‘Belong’, which attempts to tackle youth loneliness and sponsors a range of youth support services including ‘Space’ for young LGBTQ+ people and LGBTQ+ inclusivity events. As part of their celebrations of LGBT history month, we’ve sought out some inspirational LGBTQ+ cooks who spark joy in our hearts and in our kitchens to share with you.

Hannah Hart

Hannah Hart is probably the chef that many of us can relate to - the drunk chef. Yes, that’s right, Hannah genuinely managed to carve herself out a culinary career from a tipsy start in her own kitchen. She began a career on YouTube after a friend told her that she missed her drunk cooking from university and so Hannah switched on the camera and filmed herself drunkenly making a cheese toastie. She uploaded the video to YouTube with the title ‘My Drunk Kitchen’ and it quickly gained over 100,000 views and she received numerous requests for another episode. Thus, My Drunk Kitchen was born.

It turns out people love watching a tipsy chef; Hannah’s audience stands at over 2 million subscribers. You can see why - she adds a real element of fun and silliness to cooking that draws people in. In one episode, called ‘Smashed Brothers’, Hannah dresses up as Mario from Super Mario Brothers and tries her hand at making meatballs. Hannah’s cookbook; My Drunk Kitchen Holidays!: How to Savor and Celebrate the Year, comes out in the autumn.

Hannah is also openly gay and uses her wide-reaching platform to talk about her coming out story and dating as an LGBT person. She’s even been deemed an ‘LGBT Hero’ by Vogue. She’s engaged to her long term girlfriend, who frequently appears on her YouTube channel, and they’re planning to wed in 2020.

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Jack Monroe

Jack Monroe is a food writer and poverty campaigner. Her career took off when she created her blog, A Girl Named Jack, which she later renamed Cooking on a Bootstrap. The book contains over 100 recipes that are all centred on the concept of cooking meals for less than £10 a week, which will feed an adult and a child. The inspiration is taken from her own experiences of living in financial hardship with her young son and wanting to help others in a similar situation.

Jack’s mantra is that everyone should have as much choice as possible, right down to the food that we put into our bellies every day. She’s particularly angry about the number of mums that have to use food banks in the UK and she has worked with big brands like Oxfam and Tesco to promote her affordable recipes.

Despite working with these huge brands, she maintains that the most important thing people can do is offer help and support within their local communities to people who are struggling. A recent study by Co-op found that young people who are in financial hardship are less comfortable asking for help and it can be an incredibly isolating experience. Jack’s advice? That a little help and neighbourly support can go an awfully long way.

In 2015, Jack came out as non-binary. Before she became a food writer, Jack worked in the fire service and she claims that she did not change her name while in this job because she was worried that the culture wasn’t particularly accepting and that she would be bullied. In 2019, she announced her engagement to her long-term partner Louisa Crompton.

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Michael W. Twitty

Award-winning “cooking genie” and self-described “African American/Jewish culinary historian” Michael W. Twitty, who resides in Washington DC, writes about culinary roots in the US Old South and Africa. He’s currently planning a pilgrimage (his third) to West Africa with the tour company Roots to Glory - an organisation that helps connect the African Diaspora to their ancestral history.

Michael told Buzzfeed: “When you can help recapture a moment from someone’s past or the collective past by teaching the history of food, that is amazing… A lot of the good comes from helping people to acknowledge they have a story of their own to tell, and that they should — by any means necessary — make sure it gets told.”

It’s a great mission and one that we should support. Find out more about Michael’s fundraising campaign here.

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Antoni Porowoski

If you’ve watched the Netflix revival of Queer Eye, you’ll know Antoni Porowoski. For those who don’t know: Queer Eye is a makeover show, where a group of five experts covering grooming, fashion, culture and lifestyle, design, and food and drink, whirlwind into someone’s life for five days and give it a total transformation. Antoni is the dreamy resident food and drink expert.

Antoni began by working in a small Polish restaurant as a busboy and climbed his way up the industry before eventually managing his own restaurant in London. He used to work for Ted Allen, who was the original food and wine expert on Queer Eye before the Netflix revival, and he encouraged Antoni to go for the role. He also currently hosts a cooking competition on Food Network, called Chopped.

Antoni resists any label regarding his sexuality and is open about the ‘imposter syndrome’ he felt that he had when he first joined Queer Eye because he wasn’t ‘gay enough’. He states that his sexuality is fluid and that he doesn’t consider gender a factor in who he is attracted to.

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Zoe Adjonyoh (aka Zoe Ghana)

Zoe is something of an accidental chef. She’s had no formal kitchen training, but watched her parents cook and took inspiration from them to create Ghanaian dishes when she was older. Now, she has her own restaurants spanning across London and New York and has recently released a cookbook that is described as a “collection of traditional Ghanaian recipes re-mixed for the modern kitchen”.

It all began when Zoe’s flat was being used as a gallery space in a local art fair called Hackney Wicked, and she had an idea. She brought her oven outside and made a batch her homemade ‘Zoe’s peanut butter stew’ to feed the attendees and, to her surprise, it proved to be a huge success. She repeatedly sold out of the stew and received a number of compliments on it.

The next year, she evolved the idea and turned her flat into a makeshift restaurant called Ghana Kitchen while the festival was taking place. It was a total hit with the art crowd - she would sometimes serve over 100 people in an evening from her kitchen, and by the end of the festival she had over 200 email addresses of people who wanted to hear about more events. After this, she hosted the dinners every six months, which then increased to every three months, and Ghana Kitchen started to get a reputation!

In 2018, Zoe took part on a panel show called ‘Why Pride Matters’ as part of the Pride in London festival, where she discussed the meaning of Pride in present times. She is married to her long-term girlfriend.

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To check out the youth services that Co-op sponsors as part of their Foundation project, visit the website here.

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