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Living Authentically

In celebration of LGBTQIA + Pride Month we’re showcasing some of today’s most authentic, out and proud culinary leaders, and giving you a taste of their unique flavors—in the kitchen, and the community.   

Zac Young, Pastry Chef & TV Personality 

Known and loved for his pizzaz and playful takes on American desserts, Zac Young has soared to success and celebrity as a finalist on Top Chef: Just Desserts, and appearances on Food Network shows like Halloween Baking Championship and Chopped. Young graduated from the Institute of Culinary Education honing his skills at Bouchon Bakery and Butter Restaurant and worked his way to Partner at Craveable Hospitality Group. His latest venture, Sprinkletown, offers a choose-your-own-adventure menu, delighting kids and adults alike with sweet treats and sprinkles. As a gay chef, Young acknowledges the activists on the front lines doing very important work. While his focus has been staying true to himself—Young receives messages of gratitude from people who felt comfortable coming out because of him. He is touched by the greater acceptance that the community is getting now.   

Vanessa Parish, Queer Food Foundation Founder & Chef 

An accomplished chef, Parish emphasizes the comfort of home in the kitchen. She draws inspiration from cherished comfort foods—whether they’re nostalgic dishes from way back when, a meal from a special restaurant, or favorites from a food truck. But her passion for the feeling of home in the culinary space doesn’t stop there. As the Executive Director and founding co-member of the Queer Food Foundation (QFF), Parish’s culinary expertise drives its mission, which is to promote, protect, fund, and create queer food spaces. The foundation serves as a nationwide resource and platform for LGBTQIA+ individuals in the food industry, aiming to acknowledge, celebrate, and honor queer food workers and chefs. Another of her passion projects is Tasty Tutelage. This mutual-aid program accepts donations to provide private classes and groceries to recipients, prioritizing queer-identifying Black individuals.  

James Cox & Ryann Ibasco, Sugar Daddy Owners & Chef 

These proud co-owners and life partners founded Sugar Daddy in 2021 and opened it with the pageantry it deserved—including tempting treats and performances by drag queens. It was a shared vision to create this sweet spot as an inclusive and safe space for everyone—especially the LGBTQIA+ community—with love baked into every item. They have partnered with the Free Mom Hugs non-profit group to sell a specialized cookie with proceeds supporting LGBTQIA+ people who are not accepted by their families—a cause Ibasco connects with since coming out as gay was challenging in his Filipino culture. In 2023, Cox was among 12 bakers selected to be on Food Network’s Halloween Baking Challenge. His masterful creations of the Creepy Clown Cake and the Tarot-misu—earned him a tasty tie for second place! 

Kristen Kish, Chef & Top Chef Winner 

Named in 2023 to TIME100’s Next, Adweek’s Creative 100, and Claire’s Power Lists, Kish has shattered the glass ceiling of the restaurant kitchen on her terms. After graduating from Le Cordon Bleu in Chicago, she became a sous chef at Stir and later joined James Beard Award-winning restaurateur Barbara Lynch as chef de cuisine at Menton. Working for Lynch was unique in a male-dominated industry—and at a time Kish struggled with many issues including her sexuality. After winning Top Chef, Kish came out and redefined her own success. She has since written a book, hosted Restaurants at the End of the World on the Travel Channel, and opened Arlo Grey in Austin, affectionately called Arlo Gay. Thrilled by messages from the LGBTQIA+ and Asian American communities, Kish is glad to inspire others to understand that it’s possible to overcome and thrive. 

Gregory Gourdet, Chef & Culinary Director 

This award-winning chef is a best-selling author, television personality, and known for his trendsetting role in Portland’s culinary boom. A Queens, NY, native and Culinary Institute of America graduate, Gourdet is the first student to intern with celebrity chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, honing his skills at three of Jean-Georges’ restaurants before becoming chef de cuisine. In 2022 he opened Kann, a live-fire dinner house celebrating Haitian flavors—quickly earning accolades as one of the best new restaurants by Eater, The New York Times, and the Robb report. Most recently, Kann was named the James Beard Awards 2023 Best New Restaurant—and the Pan-Caribbean food and drink of his latest restaurant, Sousol, earned the top spot on the best bar list by Esquire that same year.  An openly gay and proud member of the LGBTQIA+ community, he works hard to ensure his restaurants are safe spaces for his teammates—never wanting anyone to feel their identity is not respected in the workplace.  

Where to Be to Support LGBTQIA+ 

Support the community by checking out some of these spots when you’re out and about in Chicago!    

Ann Sather: 
A Swedish breakfast restaurant owned by former Ald. Tom Tunney. 909 W. Belmont Ave., 3415 N. Broadway and 1147 W. Granville Ave. 

Chicago Sugar Daddy:  
Offering everything from traditional cakes, brownies, truffles and cupcakes to savory options like breads. 3243 N. Broadway. 

Sfera:  
Sfera specializes in Sicilian street food and is open for breakfast and lunch. 5759 N. Broadway 

Wood:  
Offering a range of shareable plates on a frequently rotating menu for dinner and Sunday brunch using locally grown produce and house-butchered meats from responsible Illinois purveyors. 3335 N. Halsted St. 


Courtesy of Esrock Partners, a food marketing agency located near Chicago, Illinois that specializes in the food, beverage and foodservice industries and their current market trends. For a close-up of our capabilities, see our services

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