If You're Not Watching 'Home: A Queer Cooking Series,' You Should Be
Michael Chernak, creator of the Youtube series "Home: A Queer Cooking Series" had a hard time meeting people when they lived in upstate New York. But Chernak, a video editor by day, has been cooking since the age of 13, so it seemed only natural to start a potluck tradition as a way to build a community in their new home. They started hosting dinners and brunches that Chernack—who began to make friends by hanging out at local bars, and researching LGBTQ-friendly groups, like “queer knitting,” they joke—put on with their husband. The equation was simple: Friends would gather over a meal, and discuss politics and art in a warm, welcoming space.
That was two years ago, and whether they knew it at the time or not, they had planted the seed for the cooking show they would eventually launch in the spring of 2017, which comes back for its sixth season today.
“There weren’t many places upstate where we could connect with the LGBTQ community. It was really important to have these dinners because we met people and had the most productive and loving conversations, whether it was about politics or relationships,” Chernak told Food & Wine.
Eventually, when Chernak and their husband relocated to London, where they live now, Chernak decided to embark on a video series that featured members of the queer community in London.
In their words, "Home is a queer cooking series. Home is inclusive. Home is about real people and real food. It’s about coming together, taking care of each other and sharing our stories."
At first, Chernak filmed people they had connected with through Instagram. Many of the people they feature—burlesque performer Rubyyy Jones and fashion designer Prinx Lydia, a cabaret singer named Mark, and a drag performer who goes by the name Untitled Queen, to list a few—aren’t necessarily accomplished cooks, but Chernak says the medium of food allows their subjects to express different facets of themselves. For instance, one person might make a simple dish of beans of toast, but that dish can launch a memory of struggling with depression.
“A lot of people find nostalgia and comfort in cooking and being home with their friends, while a lot of people in the series have a negative relationship with food and all that kind of intersects,”Chernak says.
Even now, Chernak thinks that most mainstream spaces still have a very narrow view of how queer people should be represented. Placing these folks in the kitchen feels especially moving because it works to show that, as Chernak puts it, “a house and picket fence” can be a part of the queer experience—anything can.
“Sometimes they don’t leave the house, they sit at home and go through their recipes cards. That’s queer in itself,” Chernak says.
As he puts it, food serves as a “middle ground” in the series, where people who might not share much else can “get take away and sit around and talk.” For Chernak, sharing a meal is akin to meditation, a safe space where people can feel free to talk openly and honestly with each other.
That feeling of communion is extended to the viewer as well: Whether you’re getting insight into food, sexuality, race, performance art, or burlesque, “you can come into the episode and learn something about someone.” Through cooking, Chernak sees an opportunity to build bridges of understanding.
“There’s a connection between how we cook and nourish and take care of each other,” Chernak says. “Relationships can be built around food. You don’t need much time or much money. It brings people together.”
New episodes of Home: A Queer Cooking Series will be available on Youtube starting today.