American trans chef Chris Trapani: Food industry is a haven for LGBTQ people
In India on a five-city tour, American trans chef Chris Trapani says the world of food and drink is one of the most inclusive
Tex Mex tacos
Growing up in New York, Chris Trapani harboured a curiosity for Indian food. His multi-ethnic bunch of friends made sure he sampled everything India is known for, especially the curries. But it's when he travelled here that he realised that Indian food in India is different. "Now that I am sampling it first hand - the ingredients, the soil - it all makes a difference. And don't even get me started on the traffic. People say NYC has a traffic problem, but that's nothing compared to this!" he laughs.
Chef Trapani is on a five-city tour of the country as part of The Lalit's initiative to promote inclusion and diversity. Tripani, who hails from Texas, became the first transgender chef to appear on the Food Network in the United States, in 2015, when he participated in the Great Food Truck Race. After staying in New York for 28 years, the chef moved to Austin, 11 years ago, where he set up food truck, Urban Cowboy, and also transitioned. "People think of the South as a more conservative place. But cities like Austin are like Bengaluru actually - the headquarters of Facebook is there now; it also promotes inclusion and is very artsy, over all."
In food, his first true love is Tex Mex, which is seen as a fusion of Mexican and American cuisines, and is what he will cooking through this tour "I always had a fascination for southern cuisine, and so I put all my influences to use, and mixed it all up." For example, one of his best-selling dishes is a salad that he says he is "tired of making". It's a simple avocado salad, but it has French, Thai and Tex Mex influences. There are tomatoes, cilantro, basil, carpaccio, and honey chili vinaigrette - it's a perfect example of fusion."
Trapani sheds positive light on inclusiveness in the food world, and says that it's a safe haven for LGBTQ people. "Food is a creative outlet, and LGBTQ people seek that. It's an ideal place to let loose your creativity. I would say, start a food truck. It's independent, and is good for trans people who are anyway seeking confidence." When we tell him that the Supreme Court is prepping to once again hear the case for decriminalising homosexuality, he is surprised a fight such as this even exists here. "In the States, when we talk about India, we see it as a country of harmony, peace and Kamasutra. This just doesn't seem to make sense then."
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