If you’ve read Issue 6, you may recognize Moudi Sbeity and Derek Kitchen as our Salt Lake City guides. Last summer, they took us through their hometown during its thriving Pride weekend, for a memorable few days of food and gay festivities. As both restauranteurs (they own the modern Middle Eastern eatery Laziz Kitchen) and LGBTQ community leaders (Derek was recently elected as a state senator, and in the 2013 case Kitchen v. Herbert, they were one of three couples who successfully challenged the state’s ban on gay marriage), they’re uniquely poised to speak to the city’s vibrant queer scene, as well as its vibrant food scene.
In a little over a week, we are beyond excited to return to Salt Lake for the first-ever Queer Food Festival. This will be a one-of-a-kind event, first with a party on Saturday night showcasing a sampling of bites by queer chefs and food businesses from across the Salt Lake City area, as well as signature cocktails, drag performances, and dancing, with all proceeds supporting the life-saving services of the Utah Pride Center. Then on Sunday, Laziz Kitchen will host its first-ever Drag Brunch, featuring 5 local queens, mimosas and other daytime cocktails, and a brunch spread prepared by Moudi and his team. We spoke with Moudi and Derek about some of the new developments in their lives since last summer when we saw them, as well as about what to expect at the Queer Food Festival. Get your tickets now for the QFF party and Drag Brunch!
Since we saw you last year, Derek was elected Senator for Utah Senate District 2! Derek, how are you enjoying this new role? And Laziz Kitchen was featured on the Guy Fieri show Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives—what was that experience like? Did it affect business at the restaurant?
[Derek:] I love it. I am learning so much and building really important relationships in the community. Being a Senator definitely comes with its fair share of challenges, though. I represent a large and diverse district, so balancing the differing views of my constituents can be hard. Overall I enjoy the built-in pressure and diving into policy.
[Moudi:] And being featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives was an incredible experience beyond anything we could have ever imagined for our “Pop & Pop” (Guy Fieri's words) restaurant. Business ticked up since, and we're excited to see what comes next!
As we wrote in our Issue 6 story about you two, Salt Lake City is both a vibrant queer city and a vibrant food city—making it a perfect spot for the first-ever Queer Food Festival. Do you have any insight as to how SLC evolved this way?
Salt Lake City, for as long as I can remember, which is only 10 years, has always been queer. I think I read somewhere that it is fifth on the list for most gayest cities in America, and first for gay parents per capita. Besides LGBT people in Salt Lake, the heavy-handed influence of the Mormon culture gave life to a very strong and vibrant counter culture, which most definitely included the queer community. The Queer Food Festival will be the first of its kind in Salt Lake, and that is a testament to our growing city.
Tell us a bit about some of the people and food businesses participating in the QFF. How did you go about pulling together this group of food folks?
It was not hard at all to pull together a group of establishments, and there still are many that we haven't talked to yet! Which is a good excuse to grow this again next year. Some of the featured establishments are Pallet and Meditrina, both lesbian owned fine-dining restaurants in the city. We'll also be joined by the Coffee Garden and Nostalgia, both gay owned coffee shops with pastries and savory bites. Others include Fillings and Emulsions (a pastry shop), Stone Ground Kitchen, Laziz of course, and allies like Caputos, The Rose Establishment, and Beehive Cheese.
When the opportunity to throw a queer food party as a fundraiser came up, I immediately thought of the Utah Pride Center. The UPC is a local LGBTQ organization that supports queer youth, hosts the SAGE group for the aging LGBTQ population, and organizes the official pride parade and festival. I've always admired their contribution to the queer community in need, and I see the potential that can happen for a lot of the youth that need their support. Additionally, the UPC has the resources, connections, and talent to organize an event at this scale, which is a huge help.
And the weekend will also feature Laziz's first Drag Brunch, right? Had you considered hosting one before?
YAAAAAS! This will be Laziz's first drag brunch! I had always dreamed of hosting one but never knew how to go about it. It's finally happening, and I'm so excited to bring more life into our restaurant. Who doesn't love a confident queen to tickle your senses while you sip on mimosas and jiggle your over-easy eggs?
What can people expect next weekend? What do you hope we all accomplish with the QFF?
Food, drinks, and all the queer your heart could desire! I'm hoping this will be a night for industry workers to come together for elevated cuisine, boozy drinks, and expressive queers that deserve a night to celebrate. This isn't your typical fine-dining food-tasting event. This is a party, catered by the best of the best in Salt Lake City. If you're not feeling yourself by the end of the night, you probably didn't let loose enough <3.
Queer Food Festival Weekend in Salt Lake City / March 23 + 24
Saturday, March 23, 7-10 PM
975 South West Temple
Salt Lake City
Drinks, Bites, Dancing,
Drag Performances and DJ
Tickets: $15 (youth)
$20 (Senior Admission)
$40(General Admission—$45 at door)
Sunday, March 24, 11 AM–2 PM
912 Jefferson St W
Salt Lake City
Performances by Too Many Queens
Includes brunch and one mimosa
(Additional drinks and mimosas available for purchase)
Order your copy of Issue 6 featuring Moudi & Derek’s guide to Salt Lake City now!