Queer Forty Interviews: Ted Allen on love of food and Dining Out For Life

Ted Allen is an author and TV personality best known for hosting Food Network’s “Chopped” and for being the original food and wine expert on “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy”. 

He is author of “The Food You Want to Eat: 100 Smart, Simple Recipes”, a collection of vibrant, all-natural dishes, and co-wrote the New York Times Best Seller “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy: The Fab Five’s Guide to Looking Better, Cooking Better, Dressing Better, Behaving Better, and Living Better.”

Ted is one of the spokespeople for Dining Out For Life, annual dining fundraising event raising money for community-based organizations serving people living with or impacted by HIV.

We spoke to Ted about his career highlights and the importance of Dining Out For Life:

Q40: Ted, thanks so much for joining us! Tell us more about Dining Out for Life.

The concept for Dining Out For Life is simple… restaurants donate a generous percentage of their sales to a local HIV service organization, and Dining Out For Life helps to fill participating restaurants with diners. Diners find a restaurant from the list of participating locations and on that city’s event date, Dine Out to help end HIV!

Most cities will hold their event on Thursday, April 2th, but if you visit www.diningoutforlife.com you can get the full list of locations and their exact date for definite!

What inspired you about the cause to get you involved?

I’ve been supporting DOFL a long time, and for me, this effort is a triple-win. It generates millions of dollars to fight HIV/AIDS disease; all the money raised in your community is spent in your community; and it helps create a new audience for chefs who are generous enough to participate, putting new people in their seats who might very well turn into regular customers. All while simply asking us to do what all of us should be doing anyway… Having dinner! A brilliant model!

What role does food play in our lives?

It’s one of the last bastions of ritual in modern life. Gathering together around the table to eat is a very special thing.

What’s your one main lesson for people who love food but want to eat healthier?

I’m a certified cheese addict and an unapologetic lover of pizza, beer, and potato chips—I think you might have the wrong number. I do like salad, though!

Actually, I’ve been wearing a step counter for about a year now, and my daily minimum is 10,000 steps. I get 6500 steps in an episode of Chopped. Without the counter, you might think you walked a lot, but you can’t really know. With it, you know. I often hit 14K, 16K, or more. I’m down three jeans sizes with zero change in my diet. Another round, please!

We all recognize you from Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, what do you think about the new version and its expansion beyond just “Straight Guys”?

For the record, the O.G. Queer Eye did a makeover of a trans person… but I think the reboot is fantastic! I’ve had everybody to my house for dinner except Karamo and Bobby, they all seem super sweet and smart, and I’m thrilled for their success. Am I a little irritated that they won THREE Emmys? Why on Earth would I find that a little excessive—of course not! #WeWonOursFirst

What do you think of Antoni? Did you have some words for him before he took over your role?

He’s homely, but he sure can cook! All I did was introduce him to the creators of the show. The rest of it was up to him! He nailed it! By the way, I wish I had thought of the show title, “Nailed It.” So good!

Chopped has been running for ten years now! What’s been some of your personal highlights from the show?

Without question, the highlight is having the opportunity to spend long days talking food with culinary greats: Mark Bittman, Nancy Silverton, Mike Symon, Bobby Flay. And our team of regular judges have been close personal friends for years, now—friendships that I treasure. Most summers, I host a Chopped BBQ at our house, although I’ve fallen behind recently. If I ever get a week off this summer, it is ON!

There are so many different cooking and food shows on TV now. What do you think is the appeal of these shows?

More people than ever are interested in food—even people who don’t cook it. In the 70s, you could count on one hand the number of fresh herbs available in grocery stores; less than one hand, in much of the country. Today, in rural Texas, markets brag about having 150 kinds of olive oil. There’s never been a better time to love food, and I don’t see that ending. Ever.

As you head into your 50’s, is life as a gay man what you expected it to be at this age?

What?! I’m 37!

Do you feel that you have more power as a middle-aged gay man?

Not when I try to go running. Also, see previous question, you rude bastard!

What’s on the horizon for you? What do you have coming up?

A cold beer and two slices of leftover pizza! So excited!

Queer Forty Staff

Queer Forty Staff

Queer Forty writing staff work hard to bring you all the latest articles to help inspire and inform.

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