Dykes in the kitchen

What real chefs bring to lezzie potlucks

I have sickened myself with comfort. Four plates of appetizers, a main course, and two desserts. I can hardly rest a bottle of seltzer on my gut as I lie here, unable to move.

But the paralysis is good. As the chilly-chill sets in, it is imperative that I keep my central heating chug-chugging along, yet sometimes I don’t feel like being the one responsible to stoke my little coals.

Being fairly new to town, I didn’t want to take my chances on a mediocre sitting and end up rifling through a box of waxy Christmas chocolates at 2am because I was still hungry.

Luckily, I got a hot tip from several sets of lips.

Southern Accent is one haunt renowned for down-home styles, and for more than 10 years has had nary a problem pulling in stragglers and neighborhood friendlies at its home in Mervish Village. And no wonder: the place is run like a Geneva timepiece, and it employs a kitchen of talented and dedicated cooks, five of whom are dykes.

You enter a homey, three-storey speakeasy with low ceilings, wide rooms and thinning hallways, covered in red velvet and fringe. Fairy lights peck at stained glass, and brick walls are monuments to Mardis Gras mementos. When this joint is packed, you know it gets hopping, but on the right night it can just as easily disguise itself as a quiet and quaint nook for two.

There are testaments to be had here. Like the piquant tiger shrimp sauteed in garlic lime hot sauce with a beignet on the side. Impeccably fried hush puppies, gumbo that tastes like it’s been simmering for a fortnight, or a fish currently visiting from Africa called Pompano. Send your letter of goddamn! to the kitchen before you even walk through the door.

The sultaness of peptic delights is Elena Embrioni, head chef and half owner of Southern Accent. She is the husky den mother of the kitchen; steady eyes and creamy voice packed into a durable frame; passionate and confident.

Elena is eager to share her talents and cooks with fervour. No plate ever looks the same and is consistently outstanding. When you sit down to eat, you are home.

The tiny T-shaped kitchen houses a tight knit crew of veterans in love with what they do, most having worked their way up the ranks of kitchen hierarchy. Take sous chef phenom, Jake Roy. If Ricky Schroeder was a cool-wiry-tattooed-bad ass dyke with a cocked eyebrow and an elfin smirk, that would be Jake. At 15, Jake roamed around Quebec and Ontario, picking up skills at restaurants and cooking schools until one day, while searching for her lost cat, happened upon the back door of Southern Accent.


Elena asked what she was looking for and Jake said: “My cat and a job.”

Elena gave her a job. Kitty came scurrying home that same night.

Xtra: What are the benefits of working in a kitchen with five lesbians?

Elena Embrioni: It has never been a concern of mine if there are lesbians in here or not. What matters is if the workers have intuition, common sense, a smile and some energy. It was actually quite by accident that we have so many in the kitchen, but Southern Accent is pretty well known to have a lot of gay staff, so it was natural.

Jake Roy: Yeah, but there is always something to talk about! Like who’s single, who is bleeding, who had heat go out in their apartment…

Embrioni: Yes, we are a tight team and family. I feel that they are all like my children.

Xtra: Why do you think that dykes in the service industry have a tendency to gravitate towards the kitchen?

Embrioni: The dynamic in the kitchen is very interesting and intense. You always need to be one step ahead of everyone else, not just as a woman, but as a human doing the best they can. But I think lesbians have that punch that makes them do it. They don’t worry so much about their complexion and they love the drama!

Roy: Because we’re all PMSing at the same time!

Xtra: Being a cook is a pretty sexy position. How do you use it to your advantage? Do you have a system for checking the ladies out?

Embrioni: We have people on the floor who come back and tell us. For example, “Table seven is something you wanna see!”

Roy: Then that table would see five heads sticking out of the kitchen door. Ding! Subtle.

Xtra: When you’re not at the restaurant, are you still cooking?

Embrioni: I love entertaining and I get into things that have more detail- things that I want to learn.

Roy: I like entertaining at home and cooking for my friends, but when it comes to cooking for me, I am a fan of junk food.

Xtra: What about dinner parties or potlucks?

Embrioni: I am always the one feeding them. I cook everything. My friends love it.

Roy: I’m usually the one bringing the whole menu..

Embrioni: People take advantage of the cooks….

Roy: Yeah, they usually say, “I’ll help peel the yams.” But as far as them bringing something, it’s most likely a loaf of bread from Future’s.

Xtra: What would you bring to someone else’s potluck?

Roy: I used to be a pastry chef and I’ll always like a good pie or dessert. People think it’s so hard to make a pie. It’s just a pie!

Embrioni: I don’t really have a favorite recipe. I would rather whip up something from the one ingredient in their fridge. I am not afraid to fuck up. I will do whatever. A big piece of lamb, whatever. I cook big. Lots of leftovers. I give away so much Tupperware.


6 egg yolks

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 cups plus 2tbsp whip cream

1 tbsp vanilla extract

1/2 scraped vanilla bean

1) Whisk yolk and sugar until frothy. Combine cream, vanilla extract and vanilla bean. Heat until hot.

2) Add 1 cup hot cream to yolk mixture. Sit 2 to 3 minutes. Incorporate remaining cream while whisking.

3) Pour mix into 6 ramekins (1/2 cup each) on baking tray. Fill half way up side of ramekins with hot water.

4) 350 degrees for 40 minutes until brown. Cool in fridge. Place brown sugar on top and put under broiler for few minutes until tops get crispy.

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Culture, Opinion, News, Toronto, Ottawa, Canada

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