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A Frustrated Transsexual Chef

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 

Well, I believe I am a chef.  I ran my family's pastry shop and cafe before coming to the  US to escape from my conservative culture.  I planned and executed everything in the kitchen from menu and preparation to purchasing and inventory to quality and sanitation.  I worked as a chef for over ten years, but I was called "owner".   Am I a chef in your definition?  I wore a chef coat, an apron, and a skull cap under the tutelage of my uncle who was a chef in Switzerland and Dubai before he came home.  I cooked Spanish, Malay, and Chinese-influenced local dishes made expensive and contemporary. 

  

When I came to the US to pursue my dream of becoming a novelist and yes, to escape, I became homeless in the country I thought would give me plenty of opportunities. I could not even find a job as a cook.  I turned my back from food and focused my energy on words.  I sold poetry to strangers in the streets, my way of begging since I cannot play guitar and sing, a very different experience to the old days when I sold seafood paella, fresh shrimp rolls, and pork blood stew to our loyal customers.

 

I stayed in the streets for almost half a decade.  I became immune to the nasty, unappetizing food of church lunches and soup kitchens.  I had no time thinking of gourmet and about food safety when surviving and a chapter of my novel preoccupied me.  Yes, I was young and on welfare then, so everything was an adventure.

 

One afternoon two years ago, a culinary student absentmindedly left his books that still had price tags on them at the bus stop where I usually took my after-lunch nap.  Cream soups prepared for the homeless were just too heavy for my stomach and made me feel lazy after gulping them in plastic cups.  I waited for the student to come back, but he never did.  Maybe he assumed he would never have them back since the bus stop was just across from a culinary school and a culinary student must have found and taken his books home.

 

The entire afternoon, I speed-read both books-- "A Day at elBulli" and "Alinea".  I still have them with me. Not satisfied, I went to the local library nearby and borrowed more books.  Everything by Thomas Keller, Heston Blumenthal, and Herve This the library carried, I borrowed them.   Unfortunately, they were not that many.  I read them all for a couple of days in the shelter where I was staying.  Usually, we were not allowed to stay during the day, but I begged them to allow me to stay put for a couple of days because the books were too heavy to carry around.  I fell in love with cooking and food again.

 

The following day I went to the culinary school across from the bus stop to inquire about their culinary arts program.  Right there and then, I registered.  The program was run by the community college near our homeless shelter in Orange County, California.  I did not have to pay anything.  My decision to go back to culinary arts changed my life.  I left the streets.  I now have an apartment, a kitchen, and a fridge.   

 

 

Although the program was disappointing, I continued.  I was so focused.   The chef instructor who made us cook and serve meatball spaghetti, french fries, and a cob of sweet corn in the school cafe did not discourage me.  I took some leftovers home to experiment.   I dehydrated them all to make spaghetti powder, french fries thickener, and corn chips, my very first foray in experimental cooking.  I could not afford those chemical-sounding powders that tickled my mind.  

 

I finished the program but internship because I could not find the right place to intern. It was no rocket science, so I got A's in all courses I took.  I have been looking for an internship or an entry-level position in a restaurant that does molecular cooking or innovative culinary techniques.  I sent e-mails and applied, but, so far, I have gotten nothing but silence and rejections. 

 

 

It could not be my experience or education or desire to become a chef in the US.  I was already a chef in my country who did stuff my mother and my grandmother could do. I want to be a different kind of chef, the one who does not only cook food but think about cooking food.  I now want to become a chef who does molecular cooking, a mindful cooking that changes shapes and textures so slimy and nasty-looking food will look presentable and palatable.  I do not want to do it just to impress.  I want to make it functional and necessary.  So far, it has been frustrating.  I just cannot find a place  to pursue the culinary career  I want.

 

I wonder if it is due to my being frank and upfront with my gender identity, the very reason why I left home.  I was interviewed before for an eight-dollar cook position in an Asian fusion restaurant only to be told that they already hired someone.  I could cook Asian stuff, yet I was not given a chance.  It was not even my looks but my honesty; I did not and do not look like a drag queen

. 

I always say without hesitation that I am a transsexual who has no intention of making what I am an issue.  I want to be honest right off the bat so I will not be accused of deception.  So far, it has not worked.  Even if I will be called a "faggot" in the kitchen, I will not complain.  It seems to me that is not enough to assure them that I am not a business risk.  I will not sue even if  I will be tormented in the kitchen daily.  I will be more challenged to do better things, excel, and be an asset.  Again, nobody has listened.

 

I just want to start somewhere where my culinary skills and interests will be appreciated, encouraged, and positively reinforced.  I talk more about transglutaminase and calcium gluconolactate than Madonna and Vogue.  I am more interested in checking out how to make fruit or vegetable spheres within spheres to make a salad than Lady Gaga's bizarre costumes.  Mozarella balloon filled with tomato espuma coated with green basil olive oil with balsamic vinegar caviar is more interesting to me than the Summer collection of Christian Dior.  Stuff in my bag do not include makeup, fake nails, wigs, and stockings.  Yes, I have a stainless steel tweezer, but it is not for my eyebrows.  

 

Do you think I still have a chance to pursue my dream?  Do you think transsexuals chefs have no place in the kitchen?  I wish the world measures what I can do  not what I am.    


Edited by TransChef - 2/25/11 at 4:00pm
post #2 of 17

 Half a novel there....

 

To your question:

Most employers--myself included really don't give a rodent's posterior what you do on your time off.  At work, as long as you keep your hands to yourself (and I tell this to the straight guys ogling the waitresses) I'm a happy camper.

 

In short, your personality is what detrmines your success in most kitchens

...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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post #3 of 17

I can't tell you what to do and how to act when your  NOT ON PREMISE. This applies to everyone.

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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post #4 of 17

The great thing about showing up for interviews in Chef gear is that they are not gender specific. Keep your personal life out of the interview, being too forward about what you do at home is a turn off, especially if your a stamp collector (god those guys are boring). As long as your not showing up for interviews looking like Eddie Izzard (love that guy) during his stand up routines I don't see what the problem is....wait am I confusing transsexual with transvestite or are those the same? man, I always get trans confused.

"In those days spirits were brave, the stakes were high, men were real men, women were real women, and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri. "
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"In those days spirits were brave, the stakes were high, men were real men, women were real women, and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri. "
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post #5 of 17

I have what I call the "speech" i give to all potential employees. Paraphrased it basically says;

 

I don't care what you do when you're not at work, it's no one's business but yours.

When you're here, you do nothing to hurt, upset or bother anyone else. No one harasses anyone, no one picks on anyone, no one hurts anyone. No drugs at work, no booze at work. If you come to work stoned or drunk, you're done. You start cracking racist or sexist jokes... you're done. At work, you wear your uniform, you follow all company appearance guidelines and do your job. Period.

 

 

 

Honestly. This business IS full of racist, sexist d**kheads, and it's simply a sad reality. But, if you're talented, and you're a good cook... you'll find work.

post #6 of 17
Thread Starter 
hehehe, Gunnar. I always preempted my interviewer before (s)he gets shocked upon learning my old gender and name after checking my Social Security records or accuses me of withholding information. When I used to hire kitchen workers before, an applicant's honesty was a plus. To me, it meant I did not have to wonder all the time where some steaks went. I wish there's a generic way of hiring like asking applicants to do all mother sauces or to cook eggs in ten different ways besides fried, poached, and boiled.
post #7 of 17

Transchef,

Your old gender? Social Security? Since we're being frank. Have you have any medical gender changes?  Hormones?  I understand that you might inform

an employer about yourself, but it's pretty safe to say that if you put your business on the street in a large kitchen you might encounter some BS.

  Would I be able to tell if you're trans something just by looking at you? Like Gunnar, I'm not sure about Transgender, Transexual, Transvestite, Translucent etc.

I'm old so you'll have to clue me in on the SS tweezers?

I personally feel you'll find a good job if you don't talk yourself out of it.

Good luck

Jeff

FOR YEARS I LIVED TO WORK! NOW I WORK TO LIVE!
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FOR YEARS I LIVED TO WORK! NOW I WORK TO LIVE!
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post #8 of 17

I've had to and am dealing with the sexist stuff  being a female sous with some of our current cooks but I can handle that.  I don't give a rat's butt what they think of me as a person but at work I am their immediate superior and they need to respect that, period.  If not they will be enjoying a shift cut.

What anyone does in their off time is none of anyone else's business and you should not feel that your gender identity is an issue for any  job you take.  I agree though that you should keep it to yourself, especially in an interview.. not that it is something to be ashamed of but as I said... none of anyone else's business but your own.  At a later time if you want to bring it up you can but really again it is your business not anyone else's so why do they need to know? Also bear in mind that not everyone is open minded and being honest about it on first meeting may be a detriment to you in the long run.

 

Good luck in your journey... you will be successful in this business and just don't be so hard on yourself!

 

OK ... where am I going?.. and WHY am I in this handbasket??
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OK ... where am I going?.. and WHY am I in this handbasket??
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post #9 of 17
Thread Starter 

I have been a transsexual since I was 12. I immigrated to the US also because I could change my name and gender which was impossible to obtain in my country. My first day at the culinary school I attended, I told all my instructors that I am a transsexual- its definition is on wikipedia-- the only defense I could think so I would not feel hiding something all the time. I find a good food tweezer or tong useful in plating, especially in handling those microgreens that keep falling. Thank you, guys, for the responses. They are definitely helping me check my self-esteem and confidence.

post #10 of 17

TransChef, I'm an active heterosexual but I simply do not broadcast it.

 

IMHO, one's sexual orientation, political viewpoints, religion, or other personal characteristics are just that, personal and PRIVATE!

 

ANYONE who broadcasts their personal characteristics, whatever they might be, in a business or job situation that I'm in charge of is GONE. Note clearly, I said BROADCASTS, as long as you do the job you are assigned and keep your personal life to yourself, you're fine.

Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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post #11 of 17

I just hope things work out for you, myself, to get a good job and a leg up in this profession/trade, I am going to school, getting a job and  leaving my wife 450 miles behind tommorow to go work in LA while she works and lives in Grass Valley. I expect to see her again near my birthday in April. I also expect to be gone for the next two years and get to see her once in a while every few months. I figure if I can see her more then a soldier on a tour of duty can see thier loved ones,  I am ahead of the game at this point. Good luck to us boththumb.gif

"In those days spirits were brave, the stakes were high, men were real men, women were real women, and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri. "
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"In those days spirits were brave, the stakes were high, men were real men, women were real women, and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri. "
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post #12 of 17

Personally, I don't think you need to bring up the issue of your gender identity. If they ask about the name discrepancy, explain it very briefly then, but don't focus on it. Do focus on your passion and interest in that type of cooking.

 

I have a foodie friend in LA; she recommends looking into The Bazaar in Beverly Hills and Providence on Melrose.

Anulos qui animum ostendunt omnes gestemus!
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Anulos qui animum ostendunt omnes gestemus!
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post #13 of 17

Don't be frustrated because of what you are.. Im a culinary student and am i transexual/transgender.. I told my family and friends that someday i want to be the first transexual/transgender chef on TV.. I served in the military for 13 years. So I'm still here pursuing what i really want to be, fighting, believing  to myself that someday i will be on food network.. Don't get affected of what people will say.. Good luck to you... :)

post #14 of 17

I tend to agree with the general opinion that what happens outside the kitchen is your own business. I know dozens of openly gay chefs and cooks and a few transgendered line cooks too. No one in any itchen I've ever been in really cares.
You probably will hear quite a bit of insults and off colored language in a kitchen during prep and some of it might involve your gender idnetity. But it will be equally insulting to everyone, and generally meant to show camaraderie, rather than to be an actual insult.  if you're insulted, don't take it personally consider that you're a member of the in-crowd that likes each other enough to give them a ration of shirt. 
The very best of the best of the chefs in my town were called out on social media just two days ago in a loving but expletive filled post by another one of the best of the best. Almost all of us responded with loving but expletive filled return posts of camaraderie. (I am NOT in their category, but was really honored to be included and specifically and personally lovingly insulted)

  The line is a little less verbally assaulting (because there is a chance a customer might overhear) if you're sensitive. But I think that OC Cali or LA Cali are very LBGTQ friendly, especially in the food community. I think we all support you. Kawaiipinay, we hope you make it too!

post #15 of 17

TBH when hiring i dont give a S**T what gender roles peoplr prefer or claim to be... to me its about what you can show me on the line..... i think everyone in this industry can talk about how hard it is to find a good, honest, reliable breakfast cook.  I had one for years that was the best I worked with.  gay hispanic man in his late 40's, cross dressed on weekends and from his voice you could tell he was gay.  he is one of the few people i've ever had under me that i would be fine with admitting could out cook me.... honestly what shocked me more was my pastry chef... late 20's female from switzerland...   I of course was used to kitchen language, but she in a matter of minutes could make me blush...  one morning (around 5 am) i walked into the kitchen to both of them discussing which flavor of condoms they prefer, after that I had to make a rule that NOONE was allowed to discuss private matter untill i have had atleast one cup of coffee.  

 

Keep in mind i grew up in a part of TEXAS that was know for bigotry, etc. but all that matters to me to this day is what you can do not who you are.

post #16 of 17

If you feel that broadcasting who you are will be an issue, then simply don't broadcast it.

 

Be prepared to face difficulties if you meet bosses/coworkers who turn out to be bigoted as soon as you turn out to be trans. Simple as that.

 

In the US, college degrees and experience don't guarantee being hired. If you do get hired, don't whine if you have to spend a year washing dishes and cutting veg for 10 hours a day.

 

Let your experience shine through your work. You more than likely aren't going to be a chef in a short amount of time; get that notion out of your head.

 

Work hard, work safe, work clean. Try to exploit your talents to your superiors any chance you get. Be your own resume, feel me?

 

It would be utopian to live in a world wherein your identity was irrelevant at all times, but sadly, that's not the case, no matter which country you live in.

 

I drink this next two fingers of scotch in salute to your struggle...

post #17 of 17

Not gonna lie, if you are skilled, and finding problems because you're trans, I might suggest you try looking for employment in West Hollywood, that place is extremely friendly to the LGBT community, lots of my friends from culinary school worked around there. Lot's of amazing food, bars, bistro's, and restaurants there. Just a suggestion.

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