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Jun 10, 2020

Ted Allen On Quarantine Cooking, Building Community Through Food, And Celebrating Pride

"It’s important for people of every color, gender, or orientation to see people like themselves reflected in the wider world."

If you're a fan of food TV, you already know Ted Allen. 🍽

Food Network

He's the current host of Chopped and the resident food expert from the original run of Queer Eye back in the day. He's also a contributor to the new cookbook, Tasty Pride: 75 Recipes and Stories From The Queer Food Community, which raised $50,000 for GLAAD upon its publication.

We had the chance to talk with Ted a few weeks ago about how he's approaching quarantine cooking, how he's celebrating Pride this year, and why inclusivity in media matters more than ever. Ted also shared his summer recipe for scallops with polenta, bacon, and arugula, which you can find at the bottom of this post.

How have you been approaching cooking at home during these past few months?

Ted Allen: Day by day! My husband and I have started getting big boxes of veggies delivered from Misfits Market, so that often provides inspiration. I currently need to figure out what to make that uses a lot of potatoes!

What's been one of your go-to meals during quarantine so far?

Ted Allen: My husband's favorite is North Carolina-style pulled pork, so that’s a frequent play. I’ve also found that the best lettuce to buy is romaine, because it’s delicious and it keeps a long time.

Why do you think representation is so important within food media — especially right now?

Ted Allen: Representation is important in all facets of media. It’s important for people of every color, gender, orientation — or any other flavor — to see people like themselves reflected in the wider world, and to be able to believe that there are no limits on what they might be able to do.

In that sense, how do you think food can build community?

Ted Allen: Eating brings people together. Cooking is such a fun way to express yourself, and to express affection for your loved ones and friends. It’s also important to support groups like City Harvest and The Food Bank for NYC, which work to feed people who are in need.

What can cookbook publishers and other media outlets do to make sure LGBTQ+ representation continues beyond Pride month?

Ted Allen: Actively seek out voices that might not have been heard. It’s not just the right thing to do — it’s good business. People really appreciate it.

What are some of the ways you are celebrating Pride this year?

Ted Allen: My husband and I have repotted pretty much every plant in the house, which is already paying off — they love getting more space to grow in, and they really bring life to a room.

Tell us about the inspiration behind the recipe, below, that you contributed to Tasty Pride.

Ted Allen: It’s a play on classic shrimp and grits. And the key ingredients are flexible: try bacon, ham, or chorizo for the meat, and shrimp or scallops for the seafood.

Scallops with Grilled Polenta, Bacon, and Arugula by Ted Allen

Clarkson Potter

Food Network has always embraced LGBTQ+ people — both on-camera and in the executive suite — and I’m proud to be part of the family. Those values were also true of my first TV home on Bravo, whose original 'Queer Eye for the Straight Guy' was the reason my husband and I uprooted our lives in Chicago and moved to New York City.

Shortly after Queer Eye ended, I was judging Bravo’s 'Top Chef' in Miami when I first experienced shrimp and grits. This recipe is my take on the classic but made with grilled sea scallops, crispy bacon, fresh arugula, grilled polenta, and avocado assembled into a simple summer salad that’s perfect for serving as a side or a main. As the Fab Five always said, "Cheers, queers!"

Grilled Polenta Squares
2 cups chicken broth

1 cup whole milk

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup finely ground yellow cornmeal

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Olive oil

Scallops and Arugula Salad

2 tablespoons olive oil

12 sea scallops, side muscles removed

Kosher salt

3 slices smoked cured bacon, chopped

¼ cup finely minced chives

1 garlic clove, minced

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

2 cups fresh arugula

1 Hass avocado, pitted and cut into large pieces

1 teaspoon champagne vinegar

Freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

1. Make the polenta squares: Grease an 8-inch square baking dish with nonstick spray.

2. In a medium pot over high heat, combine the chicken broth, milk, and butter and bring to a boil. Slowly whisk in the cornmeal, then reduce the heat to low and continue whisking for about 5 minutes, until the cornmeal has thickened and all the liquid has been absorbed. Stir in the salt. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish and spread in an even layer. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to overnight, until set.

3. Make the scallops: Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat.Pat the scallops dry with a paper towel and season with salt on both sides. Sear the scallops for about 4 minutes, flipping halfway, until golden brown and opaque. Transfer the scallops to a plate lined with paper towels.

4. Add the bacon to the pan and cook until brown and crispy, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl lined with paper towels to drain. Pour out all but 1 tablespoon of excess fat from the pan. Add half the chives, the garlic, and lemon juice to the pan. Cook for 2 minutes, until the chives begin to brown, then remove the pan from the heat.

5. In a medium bowl, toss the arugula with the remaining chives, avocado, remaining tablespoon olive oil, and the champagne vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

6. Heat a grill pan or griddle over medium heat. Cut the polenta into four 4-inch squares, and brush both sides with olive oil. Grill the polenta until warmed through and grill marks appear, about 3 minutes per side.

7. Arrange the polenta squares on a serving platter along with the scallops, bacon, and the arugula and avocado salad. Drizzle with the pan sauce, and season with black pepper. Serve immediately

For more delicious recipes like this one, order a copy of Tasty Pride: 75 Recipes and Stories From The Queer Food Community.

Clarkson Potter

Get it from Amazon for $17.59 or from Bookshop (to support local bookstores) for $22.50.

Reprinted with permission from Tasty Pride: 75 Recipes and Stories from the Queer Food Community by Jesse Szewczyk and BuzzFeed's Tasty © 2020. Published by Clarkson Potter Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House. Photography: Lauren Volo © 2020.

Looking for more ways to get involved? Check out all of BuzzFeed's posts celebrating Pride on our relaunched LGBTQ page.

Ryan Pattie/BuzzFeed