Bravo heated up America’s obsession with fine cuisine with Top Chef, and now the network is aiming to add a dash of adventure travel to its recipe with Around The World In 80 Plates. Debuting tonight at 10pm, the series sees food TV personalities Curtis Stone and Cat Cora sending a dozen chefs racing around the far corners of the globe, learning regional customs and cuisines and trying to outdo each other in culinary feats of daring do.
The show is fairly heavy on the gay: Not only is Cora an out lesbian but two of the chefs, Nicole Lou and Gary Walker, are members of the tribe as well. Queerty chatted with Walker, currently a private chef in L.A., about his experiences on the show, his culinary background and—since Mother’s Day is right around the corner—how to prepare a brunch that will bring a smile to Mom’s face.
What made you want to apply to the show?
It just spoke to me on many levels, mostly travel and cooking. I worked as travel agent for many years, whichwas definitely an asset for me—I knew what to expect when your on the road a lot. I speak fluent French and love France and South America.
What was your biggest fear going into the show?
My biggest worry was my own insecurities: Not thinking that I’m good enough or a strong enough competitor to be there. But I think that’s a natural response.
Chefs have notoriously strong personalities—even without the added pressure of competing in foreign countries. How did you all get along?
Meeting the other chefs was great. I think we were 12 very unique personalities. I have made some pretty good friends. Nicole and I were the two queers—which wasn’t what our real bond was about, but it did connect us on some level. It obviously made it cuter for the show.
The restaurant world has this reputation of being very macho and hetero. How has your experience been?
Personally, my environment has always been very positive. I wouldn’t work somewhere where it wasn’t. But a kitchen is a tough place, no matter if you’re gay, straight, black, white, yellow or blue. I try to bring a lot of humor to the kitchen to help diffuse any potential issues.
What would you do if you won?
Well $150,000 is a nice chunk of change [laughs]. I’d probably help my family, pay off some student loans, do some cooking around the world… and I’ve always wanted to write a cookbook.
Speaking of cookbooks and recipes, Mother’s Day is this Sunday. What would you recommend making for a Mother’s Day brunch sure to please Mom?
Well, I always say to see whats in season: Go to your local farmer’s market and see what’s at it’s best. A frittata is fairly easy but looks like it took a lot of effort. You can make small ones in muffin tins so everyone gets their own. Use some asparagus, which is really fresh now—and of course, some cheese.
What about a Mother’s Day cocktail to help take the edge off a family gathering?
I’m a huge fan of a spicy Bloody Mary. I put a lot of horseradish, sriracha hot sause, pickle juice and hot peppers, It’s like a salad in a cup!
Around The World In 80 Plates debuts Wednesday, May 9, at 10pm on Bravo. Photos: Bravo