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L.A.'s Top Gay Chefs

By Aaron Drake

Gays and lesbians are making life better everywhere—even in the kitchen! Frontiers contributor Brian Padgett found some of L.A.'s top-notch chefs who created some of the city's best restaurants.

Oscar Wilde said, “After a good dinner, one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relatives.” If you’re in need of such a meal, these gay and lesbian culinary experts have a proven history of delivering L.A.’s best.

Shannon Swindle, Pastry Chef Craft
10100 Constellation Blvd., Century City (310) 279-4180;

“I have always been out and open,” says Swindle of both his personal and professional lives. Originally from Texas, Swindle credits two powerful factors that inspired him to don a toque and enter the kitchen—the seasonally driven culinary philosophy of Alice Waters and the creatively simple desserts of Austin-based chef Lisa Fox.

“They were the first desserts that I experienced that weren't overly sweetened. Growing up in Texas, we had Southern-style desserts, and those are often very sugary. Lisa's allowed the fruit and chocolate to shine without the sugar.”

Although his first professional foray into chefdom was under a homophobic manager who denied him opportunities for fear his sexuality would make others “uncomfortable,” Swindle says his kitchen experiences have been positive.

“We've come a long way in this profession, and [Craft founder] Tom Colicchio is actually a champion for equality and gay rights. He speaks out about it often, and I couldn't be happier about that. Craft is a very open and accepting restaurant family.”

Swindle admitted that his pumpkin clafouti, filled with poached quince and served with mincemeat ice cream, is his favorite dessert currently on the menu.

Rayn Gonzalez, Chef/Owner
Café Laurent, 4243 Overland Ave., Culver City (310) 558-8622;

This charming Westside bistro has been sating brunchers for years, thanks to the combined efforts of Chef/Owner Rayn Gonzalez and Front of the House Manager Matt Keller. Partners in business and in love, their passion for quality food, customer service and each other create a memorable experience for all involved.

Gonzalez, who designs the menu items, cites his exposure to international cuisine while attending boarding school as influencing his passion for food and his open-minded outlook.

“I feel that being out in the kitchen is a great thing,” he said. “I really think people look at me as an optimistic force in my kitchen.”

Sunday brunches at Café Laurent have become something of a Culver City ritual to Westside gays and straights alike, and Gonzalez admitted that he feels these days are particularly special.

“Everybody is happy. Most people like to sit on the patio, listen to live music—and you can bring your puppy with you!”

Popular items include the eggs benedict, served atop a butter croissant with a side of delectable potato gratin, as well as the L’Espagnole omelet, complete with chorizo and panela.

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