Ask (March 24, 2009)


Question: I am a Food Network junkie, and on a recent bender I noticed a handsome female chef, Elizabeth Falkner. Who is she and where has she been all my life?

— Terri, South Shore, MA

Elizabeth Falkner

Answer: Elizabeth Falkner has been in the kitchen, of course!

The out lesbian and California-native graduated from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1989 with a BA in fine arts, and began her career in food in 1990.

After working at Cafe Claude, Masa’s, Elka in the Miyako Hotel, and Rubicon, she became the executive pastry chef and owner of Citizen Cake (established in 1997) and executive chef and co-owner of Orson, two acclaimed restaurants in San Francisco.

Her arts background is made obvious in her culinary creations. Falkner’s Star Chefs bio states, "She uses an ultrafine baker’s sugar to create her signature pulled sugar ribbons, roses, cages, spirals and tuiles. Stalactites of sugar, teetering sugar shards, sweet hard and soft meringues. Glistening, colorful—they make you stop and look and gaze with awe before taking that first bite."

In 2007 she published Demolition Desserts, a cookbook described by Publishers Weekly as "geared toward seasoned bakers who won’t quail at suggested time lines starting a month in advance or five-page instructions for Tiramisushi—cocoa roulade sponge cake with marsala mascarpone filling and mocha-rum dipping sauce, to be consumed via biscotti chopsticks."

As for your (and my) favorite channel, Falkner has also appeared on Iron Chef America (she is the former sous chef for Iron Chef Cat Cora), Tyler’s Ultimate, $40 a Day, Sugar Rush, Best Of, Bay Cafe, and others Food Network programs. And in 2006, Falkner was a guest judge on Bravo’s reality hit, Top Chef.

Just the other night, I watched Falkner compete in, of all things, The Food Network Challenge: Battle of the Brides. (You can see a clip of the show here.) I was sucked in by official description of the show:

Four cake artists learn they’ll be designing wedding cakes for brides they’ve just met, and the brides will actually be assisting them. Will these novice bridezillas help or hurt them in their quest to create the perfect wedding cake? The stakes are high, since the winning chef gets $10,000 and the winning bride assistant gets to have her dream cake recreated at her wedding.

I can tell you that I didn’t witness much "bridezilla" behavior, but I did watch with awe as Falkner spun as much magic as she did sugar in concocting the cake(s) for her very pleased "assistant."

According to her bio on the Orson website, Falkner is very generous when it comes to sharing her gift with others:

Dedicated to education, the arts, and social justice, Falkner has been a tireless advocate for many Bay Area organizations, donating time, goods and services to The Edible Schoolyard, Human Rights Campaign, Share Our Strength, America’s Second Harvest, Project Open Hand, Glide Memorial Church, Frameline, ODC, Slow Food and many other school and arts programs. In June 2008, she made the City Hall wedding cake for lifetime partners and longtime lesbian activists Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon.

If all of that (edible) talent weren’t reason enough to be a fan, her dedication to making the world a better a place should seal the deal.

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