Home is a queer cooking series. Home is inclusive. Home is about real people and real food. It’s about coming together, taking care of each other and sharing our stories. It seeks to create loving, human and honest images of queer people through something we all do each day. Food brings people together, it’s personal and creates intimacy.
YASS met Michael Chernak who is the artist behind Home Queer Cooking. Michael is a queer filmmaker, video editor and photographer living in East London. He is originally from Upstate, New York where he studied experimental film and representation in media. Michael spent the last few years focusing on video editing and documentary filmmaking focusing on the LGBTQA community.
What is Home, Queer Cooking?
Home is a queer cooking series documenting queer people and food. Home is inclusive. Home is about real people and real food. It’s about coming together, taking care of each other and sharing our stories. It seeks to create loving, human and honest images of queer people through something we all do each day. The episodes are short glimpses into queer people’s homes, each episode is 5-10 minutes where you go into a queer persons home and share a dish and their experiences with them. The series streams on Youtube, Facebook and REVRYtv. You can find photos, videos and text on Instagram and Facebook.
How do you feel that Home has been featured in Fringe! Queer Film Festival 2017, Brixton Reel Film Festival and Sunday Funday Film Festival?
I’m grateful that the series is featured in queer film festivals. Every filmmaker is worried if their work is going to be seen. The work featured at these festivals are always inspiring and strong. Queer Film Festivals are usually run by a small group of people who started these events from the ground up. For example, the Queer Film Festival portion of Fringe! began when funding was taken away. A few inspired queer people kept the festival going and it’s still running events that are featuring talented queer filmmakers and artists. Not only do these events support queer filmmaking but they support a community of artists to come together and speak about their work and meet new filmmakers.
Who are the people behind this project? Tell us some things about you.
My name is Michael Chernak, I’m currently the only person funding, filming, editing and marketing the series. I’m a queer filmmaker and video editor from New York currently living in East London. I have a background in experimental film and queer film theory. Documenting queer people is important to my filmmaking. Finding multi-dimensional and inclusive representation of the queer community is rare and this is always a driving force in my work.
How did you come up with the idea of this project?
As a queer filmmaker, I want to create honest and intimate images of queer people. It’s rare to find multi-dimensional and inclusive representation of queer people in the media and that’s always frustrated me. I came up with the idea of going into people’s homes, the most intimate space, where queer people talk about their work, what they do every day and talk about what their identity means to them in present day.
I’m from a small town in Upstate, New York where queer people are few and far between. My LGBTQ friends in Upstate, New York would hold pot-luck dinners very often. Everyone would bring a dish and we would go to someone’s home where we share our dishes and socialize. These events were always so special to me because it was a time where we could talk about whatever we wanted in a safe place.
Bringing food and queer conversation together only seemed to make sense. Each person brings a different perspective and experience being queer to each episode. Each person brings different ideals around food and cooking and what all of this means to them. It’s about taking care of each other and ourselves in ever changing times.
How can someone become part of your video recipes?
Anyone who is interested in talking about their queer experiences and who’s interested in cooking and food can be a part of the project! There’s not one specific person that can participate, no experience cooking is needed. The episodes range from person to person, for example; there are professional chefs and bakers to drag kings/queens to people who rarely cook. You can email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org, DM me on Instagram @HomeQueerCooking or through Home, A Queer Cooking Series website to participate. This is an on-going series I’m constantly filming new episodes and looking for new people to participate.
How has the LGBTQ community reacted to your project?
I’ve received a lot of positive feedback about the series. The film festivals where the series were featured in gave me a lot of inspiration to move forward with the project and seek out more talented queer people. I’m always checking myself and making sure that the series stays as inclusive as possible and as honest as possible to the community so it will always be changing and featuring new people.
What is the ideal dish for the perfect date?
I’m not sure if there is an ideal dish for a perfect date! I think when people cook for their dates they get very nervous and worried. It can turn into a negative experience where love is forgotten and anxiety takes over. I think the perfect dish, whatever you make is filled with love and intention. Making a dish that is meaningful to you and wanting to share that with your date is so special. Just make sure to keep the intention in mind.
What advice would you give to potential “cook adventurers” who do not know how to cook?
Relax! Cooking is so much fun. There aren’t any rules to cooking. Always experiment, have your friends and family try your food, go out and try food at new restaurants. Have an open mind.
Where do you find your inspirations?
I find inspiration in the queer people I film. Everyone who’s participated in the series keeps me inspired to move forward in my filmmaking and creative endeavours. I find inspiration in the small things we do every day. Whether it’s being kind to someone on the street or lifting up my friends during a hard time. Living life intentionally with an open mind and acceptance of others keeps me inspired.
From a queer perspective, how does food bring people together?
Food is intimate. Recipes are sometime handed down from family and past relationships. When we share these with our friends or partners; its loving. We all are from different places and cultures and when we share a dish that is specific to our background, we share a part of ourselves with each other. I think that’s really important. Food can help bridge a gap between two completely different people.
What are the individual stories that you look for in the queer protagonists of the food series?
I don’t look for specifics in each individual. It’s more about meaning and where the person finds meaning in their queerness and in their cooking. The person who participates forms what the episode is about. I try and reach out to people on social media who inspire me. Whether it’s a performance artist or another queer food project, I’m always looking to hear everyone’s stories no matter how complex they are or how simple. Queer is an umbrella term that can be mouldable to each person.
What are your future plans?
I’m continuing the series with more episodes. There are currently 21 episodes. Season 5 is released in March. This season features Billie & Benjamin Butch, drag and performances artists based in London. Georgeous Michael, Drag King and Queer Film Festival Programmer in London and Shelia, a Roller Derby Athlete and food photographer. The series is growing and changing so keep an eye out for new episodes and updates! I have so many ideas for this project. I hope to create more tangible and real life events relating to food to contribute to the queer community. Whether its volunteering with LGBTQ youth or people in need, I’d love to use this platform as a way to contribute and lift up the queer community outside of the internet and episodes.
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*all images are courtesy of Home Queer Cooking