We recently grabbed the busy Issue 6 contributor, chef, and writer, to discuss his influences, interests, experience as a queer chef in professional kitchens, and to subject him to the first Jarry Rapid Fire. Spoiler Alert: His drag name would be “Pretzel Attitudes.”
Chef and writer Aaron Hutcherson has been passionate about food since he was a kid, but he didn’t originally set out to start a career in the field. After first earning his masters degree in finance he worked for a few years on Wall Street. Then he decided to enroll in a culinary degree program, and knew immediately it was his calling. Since then he’s done a bit of everything: cooked professionally, extensive recipe development for his own The Hungry Hutch and other clients, and written on topics as wide-ranging as Lawry’s Seasoned Salt, neck bones, and a series of recipes and personal vignettes about comfort food which appears in Issue 6: Mind & Body.
What do you think has most shaped you as a cook and food writer? Who are your strongest influences?
As a cook, it was definitely my mother. She laid the foundation for all that has followed in the years since I was a young boy. In terms of my writing, it's hard to say. A big part of my job is reading, and I always tend to pick up new lessons from some of my favorites, such as Korsha Wilson, John Birdsall, and Soleil Ho.
And what are the types of stories that interest you most as a reader, as well as the ones you're most excited to write?
The stories that I'm most excited to both read and write tend to be the ones that haven't really been told before. There's only so many profiles of established, straight, white male chefs that I can take. And as one of the limited number of Black food writers in the industry, I tend to gravitate towards those pieces that represent my culture in some way. Partly as a way to educate others, but also as a means of recording some of the people, places, recipes, and the like that aren't found elsewhere.
Has your background in finance and engineering informed your work in food in any unexpected ways?
I'm pretty sure it's my background in those areas that enabled me to land the corporate restaurant positions I've held, which enabled me to get a pretty decent understanding of the business side of the industry.
Over the years we've spent a lot of time discussing the experiences of LGBTQ cooks in the restaurant kitchen setting. You've worked in the professional kitchen—what was your experience like? And from your vantage point have you seen changes in terms of kitchens being more welcoming and inclusive spaces?
I was in my early twenties when I worked in a kitchen, so I was still hesitant to share my sexual orientation with people, but I was lucky in that the restaurant I worked at was very open and accepting of just about everyone. There was even another gay cook among the small back of house staff. I was fortunate to not have experienced any of the harassment that other LGBTQ cooks have endured during my somewhat limited time in kitchens. These days, there definitely has been a shift. The fact that there's been so much conversation surrounding inclusiveness in the kitchen has put a spotlight on it, making it more difficult for the old ways to persist. But that isn't to say that it's been eradicated—I'm sure there's still a long way to go.
Aaron + The Jarry Rapid Fire:
Give us your drag name, which is your last snack + the first queer bar you ever visited: Pretzel Attitudes
You're sent to a desert island and only get to bring three foods. What are they? Buffalo wings, Cara Cara oranges, and whiskey. And if whiskey doesn't count, I'll swap it out with nachos.
Book(s) on your nightstand and/or cookbook(s) on your counter: So many! The Taste of Country Cooking by Edna Lewis, Brain On Fire by Susannah Cahalan, The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen, The Cooking Gene by Michael W. Twitty, and both The Flavor Bible and The Vegetarian Flavor Bible by Karen Page.
The kitchen item you most wish would clean itself: My cast iron grill pan. I think purchasing it was a mistake and I almost never use it now because it's so difficult to clean.
Your dream queer dinner guest, living or not: Adam Rippon—mostly because I think we would have a lot of fun.
Essentials of your dinner party playlist: Depends on the mood I'm going for, but in general it would include artists along the lines of Daniel Caesar, H.E.R., Thirdstory, Lauryn Hill, Solange, and Tank and The Bangas.
Brunch: Thumbs up? Thumbs down? All the way up!
The restaurant you pray never closes: Uncle Boons
Best food city on the planet IYHO: I love New York City, but I really enjoy exploring all of the food options that Los Angeles has to offer when I visit.
Your airplane drink: Whiskey on the rocks.
Wellness in a word: Comfort
In 280 characters or less, what does "queer food" mean to you? Queer food is anything prepared or consumed by queer people.
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