Chef Chris Trapani, the first transgender chef to appear on the Food Network in the United States, is on a 5-city tour of India to extend his culinary expertise in the country. A household name in Tex-Mex cuisine, Chef Trapani along with The LaLiT Food Truck Company will visit hotels in New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Kolkata and Chandigarh to present a special hand-crafted menu for food connoisseurs and food truck lovers. His anecdotes are not only telling but inspiring and are appreciated across the country.
Excerpts from a tête-à-tête with Austin Food Trucker at The LaLiT, New Delhi.
Are you familiar with the Indian cuisine? If yes, do you enjoy any of its dishes?
I’ve had some Indian friends my whole life. I’ve had a lot of knowledge about India and I do work with Indian food sometimes. I’m still learning more though. My favourite dishes are butter chicken, roti (naan especially), and chutney. I love chutneys. Especially mango chutney.
Describe an incident when another transgender approached you for instruction?
After ‘Chopped’ (TV Show), a lot of kids e-mailed me, and one of them was a 9-year-old – aspiring female to male. His mom e-mailed me and said that my daughter is transitioning into a boy. She was learning a lot and asked if her daughter could talk to me. My first response was, “Okay, I will talk to HIM, no problem.” He called me and said he was so happy and that I was an inspiration. We talked for a while, e-mailed a bunch of times.
Why did you move from New York to Austin? Did it have anything to do with your sexuality?
It had nothing to do with my sexuality when I moved to Austin about 12 years ago. My wife lived here. New York has 8 million people and Austin has like 800,000. Small town for me. I live 20 minutes outside of Austin. Whenever I go to the grocery store or the post office, I meet someone I know. I like that. The post office lady remembers me and grocery store people know me and I like that feeling.
Do you have any tips for the budding chefs in India?
It’s always tough to give advice or tell people to do what you want to do, be brave and have the courage. I’ve had many friends who had to deal with a lot at home. They have had to leave home and can’t find a job.
In that case, my advice to myself would be that who cares what people think. It’s not about others but at the end of the day you need to protect yourself. You have to make sure that you don’t end up doing something harmful to yourself. Support is building in India as compared to a couple of decades ago. Surgery is more abundant here, a lot cheaper and skill is even better. Surgeries look better here.
What do you think about the LaLiT group’s ‘Inclusivity and Diversity’ policy?
Seeing what Mr. Suri has done here is he’s like a ground breaker in terms of inclusivity and everybody who works here is on the same track. Everyone loves their job and they don’t mind talking about it. It’s a mindset he’s creating here and hope it spreads. It’s a good movement he’s driving. Makes me feel special to be part of it. I think he’s making history here.
Check out The LaLiT’s blog for such events at hotels in Goa, New Delhi, Chandigarh, Mumbai and other destinations.