Most of us first became aware of Ted Allen from the groundbreaking show “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.” After the 5 season run of that show a lot of people would have taken a break, but not Ted.
Most of us first became aware of Ted Allen from the groundbreaking show “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.” After the 5 season run of that show a lot of people would have taken a break, but not Ted. He has been in the limelight ever since with stints on Top Chef and now the host of 2 of his own shows, “Chopped” and “Food Detective” on Food Network. But there is way more to this face then a television personality; Ted cares very much about the gay community and donates his time in many ways. He is very passionate about Dining Out For Life and this is his second year with the organization as the national spokesperson. Ted has a great deal of admiration for gay rights activists and/or HIV/AIDS activists. However, he says “Everybody has to eat and 1 day a year 55 cities donate a portion of their profits. This is a way that anybody can get involved with helping the cause for HIV/AIDS. I feel the restaurant industry is usually a generous industry. This event kind of rewards their generosity by bringing customers into the restaurant. Last year we raised over 3.9 million in one day.”
I was lucky enough to sit down with Ted for an in depth interview:
When did you first get interested in food?
My mom encouraged my sister and I to cook simple things like hamburgers, etc. I got more serious about it when I got a job editing for the Chicago Magazine, where I was interviewing chefs, and I fell in love with the whole culture and started learning how to cook more ambitious foods.
When did you come out?
I came out very late in life, when I was 26. I realized I was gay earlier, but I didn’t have any role models. The only images I had of gay people were leather and effeminate people, and there is nothing wrong with that, but I didn’t see myself as either of those. This is why it is so important for people to be out and become role models.
You have a long time partner, Barry rice. How did you meet and how long have you been together?
On March 17th was our 16th anniversary. We met at a meeting of the National Gay & Lesbian Journalist Association in Chicago. I asked him out the day I met him and we saw a documentary about free speech.
I think most people got their taste (pun intended) of you from Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. How did that come about? Tell me about the experience filming that show?
I heard about the audition from a friend and thought it would be fun to do and I kept getting call backs. The show was exhausting as it took an entire week to make the one hour show. It was very long hours and hard work, but the other 4 guys are fantastic and we had a great time together. It was really a life changing experience for me, and I really miss the guys.
How exciting was it to win the Emmy in 2004 for outstanding reality program?
Oh my gosh, never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined an experience where that would have happened. It was so cool, and the EMMY really looks good on my shelf. Tom uses his as a toilet paper holder.
You have co-written many books, but your last book “The Food you Want to Eat: 100 Smart, Simple Recipes” you wrote by yourself. How was that experience?
Harder, a cook book is a lot of work. There is a tremendous amount of recipe developing, getting it all written and photographed, and then there is the media tour. Having said that, it is also a lot of fun and I would love to do another one!
I have to admit Padma, the hostess of Top Chef, is one of my favorites. How was it to work with her? And how was it to judge that show for 2 seasons?
It was great, I love those guys. Padma is hilarious and great to work with. I love her hair. Unfortunately I had to give the show up for my Food Network shows.
What are the differences/similarities in judging Top Chef and Iron Chef?
Iron Chef features chefs at the top of their game so they are much better and more experienced then the chefs on Top Chef. Top Chef is more like Chopped. Food is not easy, and making great food in a tiny amount of time is really hard. Usually the winner of Top Chef is not who we predict. It is very easy to make mistakes and get eliminated.
Currently you are a busy man, being the host of 2 prime time shows, Food Network’s “Chopped” and “Food Detective.” Compare these 2 shows.
“Food Detective” is about scientific experiments that answers the questions about food and food myths. It takes 3 ½ months to make 13 episodes. “Chopped” is a competition and we shoot 26 episodes in just over a month, so it’s a lot more efficient. I am really looking forward to taping the new season of “Chopped” which begins filming soon (as of interview time).
What does Ted like to do for fun?
Believe it or not I like to cook for fun. Currently we have a 1948 kitchen which we are remodeling, so things are hectic. I also love to garden.
What’s ahead for Ted?
Right now the 2 shows are all consuming, and in my time off I usually develop recipes. But my focus now is Food Network.