Breaking Bread: Table talk with Chef Maria Carter

Author’s note: I’ve been wanting to feature dapperQ’s from across the globe that look sharp and throw down in the kitchen! I’m extremely interested in food culture and fashion, how both are concerned with presentation, making lasting first impressions, and involve a creative process. My series “Breaking Bread,” takes us into the kitchens and closets of some of the most dapper cooks in our community! Feeling hungry yet?

CHEF MARIA CARTER

Chef Maria Carter was born and raised in North Philadelphia where she spent her childhood years in the kitchen observing her mother and grandmother’s Southern style of cooking. As time went on she realized that food was her passion and this spurred her to go to Culinary School at the Art Institute of Philadelphia. Upon graduating she moved to Los Angeles to pursue her dream of one day running a fleet of unique Southern-style food trucks and being known all over world for her one of a kind dishes.

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dapperQ: Tell us about how you conceptualize your meals? When did you first start cooking or recognize you have a talent for preparing food?

Carter: When I was young, I loved to watch my mother and grandmother in the kitchen. They primarily made Southern food and I fell in love with the flavors and comfort associated with a great home-style meal. I’m still very much influenced by Southern cooking! However, I have had to adapt to the different venues, clients, and audiences I have been cooking for over the years. I generally start off by choosing a protein and then choose a complementary starch and vegetable. For example, if I know that I want to make a great T-bone steak I would choose something like a Parmesan-herbed mashed potato and sautéed asparagus.

dapperQ: What challenges do you face being an LGBTQ cook and how do you overcome it on a daily basis?

Carter: For the last four years, I have been primarily working in restaurants and hotels. I find that kitchens are very much male dominated, which means I have had to deal with misogyny, racism, and homophobia while also carving out a niche for myself. Whereas in many professions people tend to hide their biases and intolerance, for some reason the kitchen seems to be a place where people just let loose and say whatever they want. Some kitchen staff I have worked with have not had the opportunity to have in depth conversations with an openly queer person before, so being able to open their minds to understanding the intersectionality and complexity of different genders, racial and sexual identities has been pretty cool. It’s exciting for me to know that these educational moments may make it easier for the next Black, masculine-of-center queer chef.

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dapperQ: How much of your personal style is influenced by your identity?

Carter: My personal style is very eccentric and androgynous! I identify as a masculine-of-center queer and definitely reflect that in my style. I have always felt more comfortable in “men’s” clothing than “women’s” clothing. I also often feel like the outcast in some ways in terms of my identity and that is made even more apparent in my clothing choices. I have a lot of fun mixing vintage with more modern pieces, classic with sporty items and always include an element of cultural reference. While I have not been able to trace my family history back prior to migration to the southern US, I am obsessed with ancient Egyptian imagery and can often be found wearing my favorite wooden Cleopatra necklace and am always sporting my Isis and Nefertiti tattoos.

dapperQ: Why is queer visibility so important in the work that you do? How does it play out in your personal style?

Carter: As someone who is often the only Black, queer person in the kitchen, I really appreciate being able to immediately identify community members. Seeing other masculine-of -enter queers at parties, art shows or even on the street reminds me that I am a part of a larger community. I appreciate being able to make a type of political statement just by choosing to wear specific clothes that immediately identify me as LGBTQ and I admire others who also choose to carve spaces for themselves in the world through their fashion choices.

dapperQ: What advice can you offer to people who fit outside of society’s understanding of traditionally masculine and feminine styles?

Carter: I am never one to shy away from wearing the most eccentric outfit at the party so my advice will always be to just go for it! Though I have a much more masculine aesthetic I still integrate “women’s” pieces into my wardrobe. I highly recommend mixing types, styles with abandon. Do whatever feels good to you and f*ck everyone else!

Chef carterPhoto Genna Sandler

dapperQ: What’s your favorite recipe and why?

Carter: As I said before, I love Southern cooking so it is no surprise that my favorite thing to make is peach cobbler. I found a recipe once in a Southern cookbook and tweaked it to make it my own. It’s my favorite recipe because it calls for tons of butter.

dapperQ: As I’ve mentioned in other interviews, I can’t do much in the kitchen. Give our readership some advice — for a dapper-date-night give us an example of something sexy, easy, and delicious our readers can prepare for their significant other(s).

Carter: Seafood is the way to any sexy queer’s heart. One of my personal favorite seafood dishes is salmon. I would sear a salmon filet skin side down to get the skin nice and crispy. Then flip it on its belly and pop it in the oven for a few minutes to cook through. While the salmon is in the oven, I would prepare a simple sauce of butter and fresh herbs; dill is my personal favorite. For my starch, I would choose rice or a risotto also cooked in butter. Sauteed zucchini and squash are great complements to the light flavor of salmon. Of course, these are prepared in butter as well, but you already knew that! If you don’t love butter like I do, olive oil is a great option too. You can serve yourself as dessert! If you really don’t feel confident at all in the kitchen, you can also just hire me as your personal chef for the night. I can guarantee you will be getting lucky later.

dapperQ: What big things can we expect for 2016?

Carter: The biggest thing I have on the horizon is my YouTube cooking show. It will integrate music and food and will also be a space where others can showcase their talents. Instead of revolving around me, most episodes will feature guests who will also talk about their love of food and their favorite dishes to prepare. Make sure to follow me at @iamchefcarter on Twitter and Instagram to keep in the loop for when it goes live!

Stay connected with Chef Carter:
@iamchefcarter on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat

Need a personal chef for your next night in? Contact: [email protected]

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