State Fair of Texas opens today

You had us at ‘howdy,’ Big Tex

When the Food Choice Awards rolled out fried bubblegum as the Most Creative winner, we weren’t immediately on board. Yes, we know it’s a marshmallow that tastes like gum, but do we get to stick it under our ferris wheel seat when we’re done? Sure, we’ll try it, but the Best Taste winner Buffalo chicken in a flapjack rings like heaven in our ears. Welcome back, State Fair.

DEETS: Fair Park, 1121 First Ave. Through Oct. 23. $13.95. BigTex.com.

—  Rich Lopez

Driver’s Seat: Mark Trimble, Flutist

Name: Mark Trimble, 44.

Occupation: Musician (flute) and music educator.

How might we know you: My partner Ami Sadeh and I helped create the BearDance events.

Type of car: Blue 2008 Nissan Altima Coupe.

Best car memory? Driving my Nissan 350Z the first time with my partner around town with the top down!

Funniest road trip story: I don’t know if it’s funny or sad, but I had an audition in Tennessee and a drunk driver sliced off a big chunk of metal off the side of the trunk. It was my dad’s Oldsmobile Delta 88. I had to tie that chunk of metal back on the car as it flapped all the way back to Cincinnati where I lived.

Hmmm… we vote sad. OK, buy or lease? Lately I prefer leasing. I get the itch for something new or different about every three to four years. It doesn’t hurt that you can get a bit more car for less money per month!

You play the flute, but ever in the car? I think I’ve played it in my partner’s car while he’s been driving. It’s not at all practical for the driver and it doesn’t work well in the passenger seat either. There are better places to practice. Now I will practice finger patterns for music on the steering wheel from time to time though, and that’s a great way to practice without the instrument.

What do you jam out to? NPR or BPM on satellite radio. Sometimes it’s Beethoven or Lady Gaga.

Don’t you musclebear types drive Jeeps or big trucks usually? Am I really that now? Ha! Maybe I do need to get the requisite truck!  I’m not about all my image with my car, it’s more about the driving experience for me, and I like fun-to-drive cars usually as long as they are roomy enough for me.

Since it’s hot as hell out, how’s your A/C? It is fantastic! I’m lucky to have a garage to park in at home so that it’s not all heated up when I leave the house in the summer, but even when it’s been out in the sun, it cools down very quickly.

Sounds great. So, one last thing: flootist or flautist? Well, it can be both actually.

— Rich Lopez

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 26, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Gay game-show set designer Ed Flesh dies

Ed Flesh, the gay man who designed the Wheel of Fortune wheel, has died at 79, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Flesh is survived by his partner of 44 years, David Powers. Flesh gave the game show its look by designing the wheel to spin horizontally, not vertically. He began his career designing off-Broadway sets before he was hired by NBC. He gave many other game shows their look as well. He designed the $25,000 Pyramid as well as the sets for Jeopardy, Press Your Luck, The New Dating Game and The Newlywed Game. He also designed the set for David Letterman’s original NBC talk show and special sets for Oprah. He was also the set designer for the soap opera Days of Our Lives.

—  David Taffet

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

Bradford Cox aka Atlas Sound aka Deerhunter frontman releases free music download

Yesterday, Bradford Cox posted practically a whole album on his website available for free download. Under his moniker Atlas Sound, he offers Bedroom Databank Vol. 1, 11 tracks of work recorded at home and on his computer. Of the 11, there are two covers: Dylan and the Band’s “This Wheel’s on Fire,” which you might know as the theme from Absolutely Fabulous recorded by Julie Driscoll and Adrian Edmondson, and Kurt Vile’s “Freak Train.”

Sure he didn’t do an interview with us when he was last in town, but all is forgiven since we’re getting all this free music now. Funny how that works.

—  Rich Lopez