Master of HIS domain

Ben Starr, the recently out Dallas cheftestant on Fox’s ‘MasterChef,’ camps it up on Gordon Ramsay’s cooking competition series

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

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MASTERCHEF
Airs Tuesdays on Fox (Ch. 4) at 8 p.m.

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When Lewisville-based travel writer Ben Starr auditioned for Fox’s MasterChef, he doubted they’d be interested in his style of home cooking. But not only did he make the cut, he’s been one of the more memorable cheftestants — just this week, he had the judge’s favorite dish.

The series is only halfway through, but for Starr, it’s already made a huge difference in his life: It forced him to come out to his parents just last month. We talked to him about the experience and his favorite meals.

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You’ve been struggling since you wowed the judges at your audition. The audition kinda set me up to expect that I would do well in the competition, but we spun pretty quickly into an emphasis on gourmet cuisine, which is not my thing at all. My street tacos were a little bit spiffy, and I am extremely well traveled, but I tend to eat peasant food even when I travel. I was seeing all these people around me making restaurant quality cuisine and trying to compete on their level. Nice to make a good ol’ catfish in a skillet.

What was the hardest challenge for you? The biggest challenge has definitely been psychological. I’m competitive by nature and I want to feel like I’m competition, but I was surrounded by chefs that were a little more connected to the Food Network that I am. They’d use words like umami [a Japanese word for a savory flavor] and I had to go look it up. There was a common lexicon among the contestants about what these famous chefs I’ve never heard of are doing in their restaurants. I felt like an idiot stumbling around in the dark. That started to leak into my cooking and I began to question, “Is this sophisticated enough? Is this even sophisticated?” The episode this week was a turning point. I felt like for the first time I’m back in my own element.

You certainly have made an impression with your outfits. I don’t wear those hats at home, though I do wear an apron, just for practicality. But [the show] has started this storytelling legacy — people expect me to wear them when they come over. My mom made me the pumpkin hat and apron. Actually, she made me five or six pairs to wear. That’s why you always see a different one on me each episode. I was going through them.

Was wearing them part of a conscious effort to stand during the auditions? I am fairly myself, though I had to set myself apart that wasn’t just about food. I needed to be someone [the judges] remember when they go home at night. That’s why I talked about my rural upbringing, because I thought it would generate a memory.

Had you watched the show before? Did you know what to expect? I don’t watch much TV, but this is not my first time being on TV, which is ironic because I abhor reality television —it brings out the worst in our culture. But I did Rachael Ray’s So You Think You Can Cook in 2007. The audience there was much more caring and nurturing than the machine on MasterChef, but I was a little bit prepared for the frank judgment.

I did not watch the first season of MasterChef, but my friend Karen Rutherford said, “I’ll never speak to you again if you don’t audition [for season 2].” So I watched them all on Hulu. I just sweated my way through them. I knew how intense and stressful it is to cook on TV, and saw how brutal Joe Bastianich and Gordon Ramsay were with the contestants. I thought: Screw this. Then a few weeks passed and the terror faded [and I went through the lengthy audition process]. It was a lot of work — the most difficult full-time job I’ve ever had that doesn’t pay.

What’s your favorite kind of cuisine? While my DNA wants to say Mexican food — I had it in the womb six times a week — I am most intrigued by Thai food. It is so complex, yet so much of it is cooked on the street in a tiny little cart. From the richest to the poorest, everybody eats on the street.

How about a favorite meal? One of the most memorable meals I’ve ever had was in Egypt on New Year’s Eve in 2001. I spent it on Mount Sinai and hiked eight miles back down to the car for the drive back to our resort. [The driver] fell asleep at the wheel and we plummeted into a canyon. Eventually a camel train of Bedouins came by the bottom of this canyon. They took us onto the camels and rode four or five miles to their camp. All the women came out, killed a goat and started cooking while the men tried to pull our car out of the canyon.

It was a humble meal — just a goat stew and some flat bread — but the flavors were really intense and felt they came right out of the desert. I could not even communicate with these people who live in abject poverty, but still they were willing to kill one of their last goats and throw a big feast for us because it’s in their nature to be hospitable. I realized it was important to me to use food to nurture people in my life — I could never be a chef and be in the back. I need to be with the people. My partner is one of the main reasons I cook — we’ve been together eight years and I want to marry him one day.

Did you plan to be “the gay guy” on the show? When I was on [Rachael Ray] it was not addressed and I didn’t talk about it openly. At that point my family didn’t know I was gay — in fact, I didn’t come out to my parents until about five weeks ago. They were totally shell-shocked — they didn’t have a clue.

Maybe mom should have guessed since she made you all those hats. Ha! Maybe.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 8, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Hear Lovers tonight at Andy’s in Denton

Lovers’ finds zero limits as an out musicians

Lovers has five albums under its belt, and through rotating members, the touchstone has always been Berk. But this current incarnation of the band seems to find Lovers at its best self. Berk, Kerby Ferris and Emily Kingan have produced a confident album with Dark Light, and after a decade of doing this, Berk feels this is the band at its strongest.

“When we came together, it felt very egalitarian and feminist and comfortable,” she says. “I hadn’t experienced that level of confidence and there are a lot of benefits to having our kind of connection. I felt like this was a really great place to be creatively.”

This confidence has taken Berk to new levels, as an artist and a person. All three members identify as queer, and for Berk, that offers a comfort in writing her music. Although she starts the song on her acoustic guitar, the others chime in for a group dynamic.

At 32, her personal growth over these 10 years has manifested differently in Dark Light than it has on any of the previous releases. She’s out of the closet, but this album shows Berk coming out of her shell.

“I feel like I sort of went from being an artist who was working mostly to exorcise personal demons to someone who, with time, is able to looking more outward,” she says. “This is the most extroverted album Lovers has ever had.”

Read the entire article here.

DEETS: With Sextape and One Red Martian. Andy’s Bar, 122 N. Locust Road, Denton. May 13. 9 p.m. $6–$8. LoversAreLovers.com.

—  Rich Lopez

Has GayBingo Dallas ever not been DIVA-licious?

—  John Wright

GOProud’s thanks for giving CPAC more coverage than it ever has? A swift curb kick, natch

According to WorldNetDaily (so make of it what you will), organizers have already chosen to strip gay conservative group GOProud from next year’s CPAC convention:

a source has confirmed that a board vote has been taken that will realign plans for those who participate [in CPAC] next year to exclude homosexual advocacy, although details had not been released.

A spokeswoman at the ACU promised WND a statement regarding the new position, but it had not arrived yet.

GOProud out at annual summit of conservatives [WND]

GOPushedAside

GOPerennialTarget

GOPlatformThatExcludesMostAnyPushForwardOnCrucialRightsIssues

The big question: Why do these gays wanna “GO” at all?

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*Chris Barron just told radio host Michelangelo Signorile that this report is “patently false,” comparing WND to The Onion. That last point is valid, and we certainly don’t treat WND as anything close to credible. But “ACU promised WND a statement” goes beyond typical far-right spin. It’s not opinion journalism: It either is or it isn’t, regardless of who reports it. So stay tuned to see if the statement materializes.

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**UPDATE: The aforementioned Signorile interview got CRAZY heated, and Mike hung up on Chris. We’ll try to get audio.




Good As You

—  David Taffet

Kerry Whybrow’s Trans-Continental, Transgender Happily Ever After

A hearty congratulations to 66-year-old Kerry Whybrow, a retired British firefighter, and her new wife Alcia Evans, a Jamaican chef and mother of one (and thirty years Kerry's junior), who wed in a civil partnership ceremony in Britain. The pair met on an international dating site. For Kerry, it is her fourth wedding: Back when she was Roger Steed, Kerry managed to marry and divorce three women. And while Kerry's only child, a daughter from her first marriage, refused to attend the wedding after breaking off ties following Kerry's coming out as trans, Kerry's third wife Cindy Steed, whom she married in 1989, was there to celebrate. They split in 2003 after Kerry (then Roger) told Cindy she felt trapped in the wrong body; Roger began wearing women's clothes before the two officially divorced. Under Britain's curious discriminatory laws, Kerry and Alcia were eligible for only a civil partnership, but not marriage, because theirs is a same-sex relationship; had Kerry remained a man, they would have been only able to be married, and not have a civil partnership.


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Queerty

—  David Taffet

Ever wonder why gay or lesbian teens kill themselves at higher rates?

So much for the myth constantly being paraded by the right that gay and lesbian teens kill themselves at a higher rate because they are innately unhappy with their supposed choice of being gay or lesbian. A new study from Yale’s “The Office Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics” proves society punishes them simply for being who they are.

Gay and lesbian teens in the United States are about 40 percent more likely than their straight peers to be punished by schools, police and the courts, according to a study published Monday, which finds that girls are especially at risk for unequal treatment.

The study, is a welcomed one, when there has been such a focus on why gay teens tend to commit suicide at higher rates:

The study brings punishment differences for gay teens into focus at a time when public concern about torment and bullying is heightened. In September, an 18-year-old Rutgers University student jumped off a bridge to his death after his gay sexual encounter was allegedly filmed by a roommate on a webcam and announced on Twitter.

Andrew Barnett, executive director of the Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League, in Washington, says it best:

“This is a symptom of school administrators, teachers, court officials, police officers – anyone who works with youth – not necessarily being equipped to handle the challenges” faced by the teens in their care, he said. “It’s much easier to punish the youth than to work with them and figure out why they may keep getting in fights and what is leading to this behavior.”

My answer why gay and lesbian kids get picked on more than straight kids? Because they can. Therefore, the adults in the LGBT community, who know all too well how this behavior plays out for LGBT teens need to be their advocates every chance we get. We are their only hope, and in the words of Harvey Milk, “We’ve got to give them hope.”




AMERICAblog Gay

—  admin

The Final Exam For Seton Hall’s Gay Marriage Class: How Ever Did This Course Manage to Get Taught?

Seton Hall's gay marriage class — the one that had Newark's Catholic Archbishop John J. Myers (pictured, top) dry heaving — was not taken off the school's course list as conservative administrators had hoped. Instead, "Special Topics in Political Theory: Gay Marriage" has been meeting twice a week as scheduled, with openly gay prof W. King Mott (pictured, below) leading his charges. And Jesus has yet to turn the quad into a place to slaughter thy first born.

CONTINUED »


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Queerty

—  admin

The Department Of Defense Is EVER So Pissed About The Leaked DADT Survey

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is furious about the leaked DADT survey and has launched an investigation to find its source. In the meantime, today the Pentagon issued a super-annoyed press release.

Secretary Gates is very concerned and extremely disappointed that unnamed sources within the Department of Defense have selectively revealed aspects of the draft findings of the Comprehensive Review Working Group, presumably to shape perceptions of the report prior to its release. The Secretary launched this review in March to objectively ascertain the impact of potential repeal of the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law on military readiness, effectiveness, recruiting, retention, unit cohesion and families. He made it clear then and throughout this process that it was ‘critical that this effort be carried out in a professional, thorough and dispassionate manner.’ He has also stated clearly that ‘given the political dimension of this issue, it is equally critical that…every effort be made to shield our men and women in uniform and their families from those aspects of this debate.’

For nearly nine months the Working Group has operated in strict accordance to that mandate. Anonymous sources now risk undermining the integrity of this process. The Secretary strongly condemns the unauthorized release of information related to this report and has directed an investigation to establish who communicated with the Washington Post or any other news organization without authorization and in violation of Department policy and his specific instruction. The full report will be made public for all to review early next month. Until then, no one at the Pentagon will comment on its contents.

You gotta wonder how much of a hand Tony Perkins had in this response.

Joe. My. God.

—  admin

Audio: Gillibrand committed as ever to #DADT; Dioguardi might put hand on table after others have done heavy lifting

New York debate for U.S. Senate: Incumbent Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D and former Congressman Joe Dioguardi (R) speak out on #DADT repeal. Basically it’s a split between a “moral imperative” to lead vs. a willingness to wait while good and decent citizens are discharged because of who they are:

MORE: Sen. Gillibrand cites #DADT appeal as a top two point where she breaks from her boss. Meanwhile, the moderator gives Dioguardi the perfect opportunity to repudiate Carl Paladino’s hurtful comments, yet the Republican challenger fails to seize it:



(SOURCE: WABC)




Good As You

—  John Wright

The MOST RACIST anti-Obama pitch you will ever see – Operation Black Storm

crossposted on Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters

I'm still a little lightheaded after seeing this:

This is from Operation Black Storm. You won't believe it but it's a pitch to elect black conservatives to Congress.

From People for the American Way:

Patriot PAC has unveiled Operation Black Storm, a national coalition effort to unite the nation behind the 15 black conservative congressional candidates running in key districts around the country as Republican nominees for the upcoming November elections.

Helping to lead the charge among the Tea Party and Patriot movement in America for substantive political reform, Operation Black Storm will fight to fundamentally reshape the makeup of the U.S. Congress on November 2, 2010.

 . . . This coalition has put its collective weight behind these highly qualified conservative black candidates to provide the resources and exposure they need to win on Election Day. Coalition members helping with voter education and candidate scorecards include Break the Bonds of Tyranny, Unite in Action, The ConservativeMESSENGER, The Frederick Douglass Foundation, and The Black Sphere, among others.

And the kicker? On the website under the above videos are the pictures of the 15 black conservatives wanting to be elected behind this mess. Call it what you want, but I say it's an endorsement of the insane, paranoid message in the video.

And by the way, this isn't a joke. There are legitimate organizations pushing this. The Frederick Douglass Foundation claims to be

 . . . a public policy and educational organization which brings the sanctity of free market and limited government ideas to bear on the hardest problems facing our nation. We are a collection of pro-active individuals committed to developing innovative and new approaches to today's problems with the assistance of elected officials, scholars from universities and colleges and community activist.

Black Sphere is an extreme right-wing blog/organization.

And Conservative Messenger seems to be an organization run by one man, K. Carl Smith, who “claims” to espouse the free labor system of government

Quite simply, this is the most God-awful piece of crap I have ever seen in my life. It goes beyond the ideas of respecting black conservatives simply because they have a difference of opinion when it comes to the majority of the African-American community when it comes to the ballot box.

It's like a mad scientist crossed the DNA of a stereotypical Uncle Tom with that of a stereotypical House Negro, made clones, weaned them all on Fox News and then sent them out loose in the world.

I think we need holy water and 15 copies of The Autobiography of Malcolm X.

If that doesn't work, nothing will.

 

Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  John Wright