The Art of Gay Cooking: A Culinary Memoir

Daniel Isengart
Foreword by Jeremiah Tower
350 pages
$18.50 paperback ISBN 9781944853495
$9.99 ebook
June 2018

For Daniel Isengart, home cooking has always been an essential part of living a creative life.

A cabaret performer and sought-after private chef in New York City, he knows how to deliver one delectable meal after another with the ease of a seasoned entertainer.

The Art of Gay Cooking is a witty literary portrait that takes the reader from the author’s grandmother’s kitchen in southern Germany to his formative childhood years in Paris, from the attic apartment in Brooklyn Heights where he lives with his husband to his clients’ posh homes in Manhattan and the Hamptons. Alternating intimate anecdotes and wry observations about the culinary world with over 250 easy-to-follow recipes, the book explores a rich, gay life devoted to beauty and art where the home kitchen always takes center stage.

Jeremiah Tower, the eminent Godfather of modern American cooking, adds words of wisdom in his candid Foreword that describes how Isengart’s inspired approach to cooking brought back memories of his own beginnings as the original chef of the legendary Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley.

Cleverly composed as an homage to The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook, The Art of Gay Cooking adheres closely to Toklas’s idiosyncratic style, mirroring specific passages and echoing her amusingly eccentric tone. A chapter devoted to recipes from friends presents a poignant contrast to the limelight on celebrity chefs and restaurant food, proving that, at least in Isengart’s lively social circle of individualists, sophisticated yet unpretentious home-cooking is not a lost art.

“I was overwhelmed by its very personal beauty… Reading The Art of Gay Cooking I think back to a life I wanted to re-create, and the terms on which I wanted to re-create it.” – Jeremiah Tower, co-owner of Chez Panisse (1972-1978) and author of Start The Fire and numerous other cookbooks

“Like a jazz musician riffing on a classical theme, Daniel Isengart has written a cookbook-memoir of his life in present-day New York that is, at the same time, a loving response to the Alice B. Toklas Cook Book. In recounting his various adventures and experiences as a European-born bohemian artist-performer living a double life as a private chef to the very rich in modern-day New York, he has created a unique work that is as dense and delicious as a Dresdener stollen. The Art of Gay Cooking features some experimental writing, many anecdotes of the artistic life, a bit of queer theory, and beneath it all, a gentle exploration of the nature of love and devotion. But above all else it is a book of instruction, with some very sound kitchen advice and an extraordinary number of fine, venturesome recipes for people interested in doing a better sort of cooking. Having read it, I wanted Daniel J. Isengart and his husband to come spend a weekend with me — to cook, to dine, to laugh and to share in all the many pleasures of the table.” – Justin Spring, author of Secret Historian, National Book Award finalist, and The Gourmands’ Way, 2017 PW Nonfiction Book of the Year

“Yes, this is a cookbook, and one of the best and most inspiring I’ve read in years, but it’s also a sly and hilarious memoir of downtown New York in the 90s, full of gossip and drama and heart. Daniel Isengart’s The Art of Gay Cooking is hugely entertaining, provocative, and useful–an Alice B. Toklas Cookbook for a new generation. I love this book.” – Luke Barr, author of Ritz and Escoffier and Provence, 1970

“This book, written by a thinking and talented cook in a style very like Elizabeth David’s, is tasty to read and sensible in the best meaning of the word. I am moved to cook from it and know that Richard Olney would have loved to have dinner at the author’s and his husband’s home.” – Judith Olney, cookbook author, former Washington Times restaurant critic

“Impossible not to gulp this book cover to cover as memoir morphs into stimulating recipes, profiles of all kinds of people, places, cultures, deliciously witty illustrations, mouth-watering processes — every ingredient transformed by the intimate voice of Daniel Isengart as he stirs together the art of cooking, eating and loving. Thank you, Daniel for welcoming me to your table.” – Betty Fussell, author of Eat, Live, Love, Die

“This memoir has everything — it is illuminating, moving, hilarious, and truly eye-opening. Your life will change forever after you engage with Daniel’s food philosophies; if you are in a rut in the kitchen, this is the book that will give you back your enthusiasm for the ordinary, extraordinary act of cooking for yourself and others.” – Emily Gould, author of Friendship and And the Heart Says Whatever

“This is a great book imaginative enough to feed every appetite and leave you dreaming of second helpings.” – Rex Reed

“A blueprint for kindling a love flame of dough-mysticity in your own home”

“Each pie, galette or cake recipe is accompanied by pithy stories, with insider dish as important as ingredients”

“Mr. Isengart’s book reveals many onion layers of giving, gratitude and identity. ‘In my early childhood, whenever I had been asked what I wanted to become later in life, I had always answered, a painter, a dancer and a cook,’ he writes. ‘The puzzled reactions had always been the least enthusiastic in regards to the latter of the three. A young man wearing an apron was regarded as being a mere step away from cross-dressing’”
– Lily Koppel, The New York Times

“In his deliciously witty The Art of Gay Cooking, Daniel Isengart serves up a memoir with recipes from his youth in France and Germany and from his extensive travels with his husband, artist Filip Noterdaeme. The book is a contemporary homage to The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book, with its groundbreaking blend of autobiography and cooking instruction, elevating the preparation of meals in the “safe harbor” of home to an art form…” – Rachel Jagareski, Foreword Reviews

“The writer, cabaret artist, and chef has donned a high-collared Edwardian shirt and tied a cluster of metallic bulbs and beads around his neck to serve as a tie. Standing behind the kitchen island that faces his dining table (his stage; his audience) with a smattering of fruit, vegetables, and other ingredients before him (his cast; his props), he looks directly into the camera as we begin taking photos: stern but amused, laser-sharp. It’s Marlene Dietrich. Or Johnny Weir. Meanwhile, Liza Minnelli belts from the CD player. . .” – Lukas Volger, Jarry magazine

“Cookbooks by lesbian and gay authors have been published steadily over the decades, with Alice B. Toklas leading the charge. Daniel Isengart… has made an important new addition to this sphere…” – Martha E. Stone, The Gay & Lesbian Review

At Heritage Radio Network on the weekly show The Food Seen, host Michael Harlan Turkell talks to Daniel Isengart about living as an artist in a world of food. Download the podcast from iTunes.

“A deliciously peculiar fellow, the writer, performance artist and sometime chef Daniel Isengart has created The Art of Gay Cooking as a gloss on Gertrude Stein’s The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook, often with line-by-line plays on the original’s text. The book incorporates dozens of recipes, but many of its pages are vivid memoirs of the occasions on which these dishes were inspired or consumed, along with a whimsical narrative of Isengart’s life with his husband, artist Filip Noterdaem, whose clever pen-and-ink illustrations provide occasional grace notes to the text. – Passport Magazine’s “Best Books for Savvy Travelers

“American baking is about comfort, speed, and convenience. It makes up in a surplus of butter and sugar (signs of the New World’s wealth) what it lacks in refinement. This is why the forgiving, comparatively vague system of volume measurements makes perfect sense for American-style home baking. It’s a smart system that grew out of oral tradition and was in fact meant to help the novice baker grasp a recipe’s underlying principle and ingredient ratio and to not worry too much about precision…” – Daniel Isengart at .

“There are no healthy or unhealthy foods; there are only healthy and unhealthy eating habits. Any extreme diet—be it a junk-food addiction or a green-juice affliction—is unhealthy and dissatisfying in the long run, both physically and mentally. And since most of us have both unreasonable urges and a will to better ourselves, why not seek a sense of balance and marry them?…” – Daniel Isengart in his food and cooking advice column, The Pickle at .

Daniel Isengart is a writer, cabaret entertainer and private chef living in New York City. He is the author of Queering the Kitchen: A Manifesto, based on his popular series at Slate Magazine. He has written on hidden gay culinary history for Jarry Magazine and elsewhere. Daniel is also the subject of The Autobiography of Daniel J. Isengart, written by his partner Filip Noterdaeme.