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Creativity reigns at Calgary Pride Festival fund-raising event Sashay, Fillet!, which pairs local culinary and drag artists together

It may seem like an unlikely pairing, drag queens and chefs teaming up to win a live culinary competition. After all, drag queens are boldly out in front performing and most chefs tend to be behind the scenes.  

But Eat North’s Dan Clapson immediately saw what they have in common. “Both industries, culinary and drag, are very creative,” the food writer says. “Performers as well as chefs draw inspiration from a lot of different things, so the way they look at something or turn it into and act or a plate of food isn’t so different.” 

Seeing the potential, Clapson created Sashay, Fillet! The event matches some of Alberta’s best drag artists with some of our best culinary artists for a lively fund-raising event that gives audiences a chance to enjoy delicious food, dynamite performances and the delight of watching people at the top of their respective games collaborate.  

Now in its second year, Sashay, Fillet! is the only official culinary event in Calgary’s Pride Festival, with proceeds going towards Calgary Pride’s year-round programming. It also happens to be one of the rare evening events during Pride that is all-ages. (It recently captured the imagination of the Whistler Food and Wine Festival, who have asked Clapson to curate the event in Whistler for the first time this year.)

Alongside local talent, the competition also attracts some of the biggest names in drag; RuPaul’s Drag Race alumni Jaidynn Diore Fierce will be co-hosting the event this year with Today 101.5 FM’s Christy Farrell.  Fellow Drag Race alumni Laila McQueen will be head judge. 

With playful challenges like creating a canapé inspired by the drag performer’s look and putting the drag performer in charge of making a dish live on stage there are lots of opportunities for creativity … and comedy.  Each year the teams are different so the chemistry is as fresh as the food. But chefs and drag queens are reading for anything. They are always responding to new ideas and possibilities.

“We try to cook as seasonal as we can here so every time the season changes we try to be on top of it and create new seasonal dishes,” says Bridgette Bar chef Sterling Cummings, who’s participating this year. “We often change the menu here to keep the creativity going.” 

“With cooking you are taking the meat and the vegetables and you’re cooking them and turning them into something different than they were before,” says Cummings’ teammate, drag queen Felicia Bonée. “With drag we take a wig and shoes and our make-up and all these different elements… it’s like cooking a dish.”

But what really attracted Bonée to the competition?

“Free food!” she laughs.

With Sashay, Fillet’s talented lineup of performers and chefs competing in a playful format, both the food and the laughs are sure to bring people together during one of the city’s most positive celebrations of community, Pride. 

It’s all about being proud of what you bring to the table says Cummings.  “Just be yourself. At the end of the day, for us as chefs it’s putting food on a plate and for a drag queen it’s getting dressed up and that’s probably how we feel most comfortable. Just being super expressive with ourselves.”

(Photo of Felicia Bonée courtesy Eat North.)

Sashay, Fillet! takes place Thursday Aug. 29 at 7 p.m. at Hotel Arts.  Tickets available at https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/eat-north-presents-sashay-fillet-2019-tickets-65477857033.  Partial proceeds go to support Calgary Pride. 

Vicki Stroich is a Calgary based theatre artist and community builder in the nonprofit sector with a passion for the arts, culture and the environment.

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