Food can magically turn around lives: American transgender chef Chris Trapani

Hindusan Times | ByIdrees Bukhtiyar, New Delhi
Feb 03, 2018 12:25 PM IST

The world-acclaimed chef, who visited India recently, believes that food can empower transgenders to excel in life. Trapani wants to create job opportunities for transgenders by training them in food business.

Food has immense strength to instil creativity and empower people of the LGBTQ community, says chef Chris Trapani, who specialises in Tex-Mex food. The American transgender chef who was recently in India on a five-city tour, conducted culinary workshops for the members of the transgender community to help them run a food truck business. “I know that eking out a living in India is a huge struggle for transgenders in India. But I believe that every gender is equal, and people here will soon realize and give them their due,” says Trapani.

Chef Chris Trapani says that food truck business can help transgenders fulfil their dreams. It’s better than running a hotel or a restaurant.
Chef Chris Trapani says that food truck business can help transgenders fulfil their dreams. It’s better than running a hotel or a restaurant.

The chef met many transgenders on his first visit to India, who are very passionate about cooking. “The people I met are very passionate and talented. If given an equal chance, they can prove to be excellent. Their passion and love for food and the desire to learn more is so heartening. Cooking can also be a very therapeutic experience for them, and if they get into the business of food truck like me, it can totally take off in India, ” says the chef who was invited to India by The Lalit Suri Hospitality Group that is supporting his initiative.

The chef who started off with a food truck, says that it better than having a restaurant or working in a hotel. “We started with serving lunch at offices, breweries, and parks. Now we are usually always booked for private events,” he says.

While creating job opportunities for transgenders by cultivating culinary skills, the chef also wants to send out the message that transgenders deserve better. The chef has hope that Indians will overcome their prejudice and give the LGBTQ community the chance to excel in life “We are promoting #purelove. Pure love stands for being inclusive. Even transgenders are humans. They need to be the given the same rights those enjoyed by others. It’s inhuman to deny them jobs and opportunities and judge them on the basis of gender. But I have hope that India will change.. India is traditional so it will be a tough journey, but initiatives like these will bring about changes,” says Trapani, who visited Mumbai, Bangalore, Kolkata and Chandigarh and interacted with the transgender community.

Trapani was the first transgender person to appear on the Food Network as a chef in 2014. “It got a lot of youngsters to contact me, asking questions about transitioning and what life it is like. I made them feel braver and inspired them to be who they wanted to me. That for me was inspiring!,” the chef recalls.

Trapani, who was born a woman, changed his sex and became a male. “Since my childhood, I felt that something was missing in my life…I felt let down and upset. I finally found the courage to live the way I wanted to,” he shares Trapani credits his happiness to his wife. “She is my best friend. She stood by me through many challenges. She helped me to realize that who I was, and gave me the strength to undergo sex change surgery,” he says.

A transgender attending chef Trapani’s workshop
A transgender attending chef Trapani’s workshop

The chef believes in sprinkling his food with a lot of love. “Food has the power to bind everyone in a bond. The food that I am teaching transgenders to cook is fun, delicious and simple to make. Dishes such as fried pimento cheese, Siracha chicken, avocado taco and street corn are a hit everywhere,” says the chef, who got his first job in kitchen during summer school when he was sixteen-year-old. The chef was drawn towards food and service since a young age. “Life is about love and service. By feeding people we create memories that provide comfort and joy, I think there is no better way to serve,” he says.

Keshav Suri, executive director, The Lalit Suri Hospitality Group with chef Tripani and a group of transgenders .
Keshav Suri, executive director, The Lalit Suri Hospitality Group with chef Tripani and a group of transgenders .

Keshav Suri, executive director, The Lalit Suri Hospitality Group, says that with the idea behind inviting people is to instill confidence among transgenders. “World acclaimed trandgenders such as Chris Trapani are an inspiration for the community. We have a transgender in our Parliament and in the High Court but still there is so much stigma that many transgenders end up as beggars or prostitutes. We want to change this forever,” he says.

Recipes by chef Chirs Tripani

Pimento Cheese Fritters

In a mixing bowl, mix shredded cheddar, cream cheese, mayo, minced roasted peppers or mild chiles, salt, sherry, a small amount of corn start and some bread crumbs. Roll into cocktail size balls. Dip in flour, coat in milk, dip in panko crumbs and freeze. Thaw/defrost and fry in olive oil and serve with your favourite chutneys.

Heirloom Tomato Salsas & Freshly Fried Chips

Roast Tomatoes, a Jalapeno or two, a large red onion at 375 until skin peels from tomatoes.

Let cool and peel skin off tomatoes, peppers. Place in food processor with a pinch of sugar, salt, pepper, hot sauce, chopped cilantro, dash of lime juice, and fresh garlic. Pulse until slight chunks are left. Cool and serve with freshly fried chips.

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