Thing: The Great Gay and Lesbian Cook Off

Granted, Martha Stewart makes a mean potpie. And Julia certainly has a way with roast quail and creme caramel. But when it comes to entertaining, there are experts and there are experts. Who else but queer cooks, for example, would prep for a dinner party with a trip to Lunds, Haskell's, Dayton's and Sister Fun?

So it's wise to expect the unexpected when the first-ever Great Gay and Lesbian CookOff kicks off at Mall of America this month. The national event, which has already garnered recipe submissions from foodies in 16 states, is slated to take place in conjunction with Camp Out '98 at Knott's Camp Snoopy on Saturday, Sept. 12. (See Q Calendar, p. 24 for details.) In addition to nine finalists in a nation-wide culinary competition, the slice-and-dice event will showcase the talents of queer culinarian and Food Network celeb Deborah Stanton. The creative captain of New York's Galaxy Restaurant, Stanton plans to demonstrate fusion-cooking techniques while nine amateur chefs duke it out in the recipe finals.

The gourmet gig is the brainchild of local community-newspaper publisher Craig White. "There's not that many national gay and lesbian events," White says. "This has nothing to do with sex or politics, and we've found it's of interest to a very large community of gays and lesbians."

White, who talked local event guru Scott Mayer into pairing the cook-off with this year's Camp Out fundraiser, which benefits the queer-youth center District 202, says promotional ads in queer publications around the country generated an astonishing response: Hundreds of chefs mailed in instructions for fixing fave foods. "I'm more of a recipe collector than a cook," admits competition finalist Ron Sheaffer, a 47-year-old Texan who'll fly to Minneapolis this month to prepare his Chile Con Queso soup.

White, whose specialty is chicken cacciatore, may have found the perfect concoction for bringing queer men and women together on common ground. "Even if people don't cook, they still think they have a recipe that could win a contest," he says. "Everybody has a favorite dish."

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