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by Robin Mosley, Communications and Development Coordinator

Food has always been a universal language, transcending borders and bringing people together. It tells stories, preserves traditions, and offers a delicious way to celebrate diversity. The food that LGBTQ2S+ people make isn’t in theory much different from anyone else in taste, but in context it can do a lot of things – promote activism, raise awareness, restart and build community, develop safe spaces and even help someone see themselves. It’s not only activism, but it’s also celebration. “By its very definition, Slow Food is queer food; it’s challenging the status quo and pointing to a better way which embraces biodiversity in all its forms,” said David Matchett, technical director and treasurer for the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery and a member of the Slow Food LGBTQ2S+ Affinity Group.

Ever Williams, a board member for Slow Food Atlanta and chef-owner of Ever Feeding and Odd Cakes, understands this well. Drawing on their childhood, they found themselves experiencing food through their Jewish roots and the Food Network. “I just always consumed a lot of food media when I was a kid. I just grew up absorbing a lot of information about flavor and different types of food. And then, I got into farming in college and beyond. I learned so much about seasonality, how to work with herbs and hot peppers, and how you can make things a lot more dimensional by layering flavors,” Ever said.

Ever’s work is a call to support community. Full-time, they work at a non-profit, Georgia Organics, where they facilitate relationships between chefs and growers through the Farmer Champion program. Before that, Ever worked with Joe Reynolds, who runs Love is Love cooperative farm, a worker-owned space that provides certified organic produce, flowers and seedlings. He walked Ever through the Atlanta food community while they were a line cook at Empire State South, “which was a fine dining farm-to-table restaurant of Hugh Acheson,” Ever said. Outside of work, Ever has always been a cook and baker. Odd Cakes, a food popup, started in 2020 as a side hustle and Ever Feeding followed. 

As chef and owner of Leftie Lee’s in Avondale Estates, Vivian Lee draws on her Korean heritage as part of her connection to food. While it may have taken Viv time to make her way into the food industry as a chef, her family owned a restaurant. “I think it was because they owned restaurants that they didn’t want me to do it,” Viv said. So, she went to school for landscape architecture. It was at that very job that her spark reignited. While the economy tanked, “I signed up for the bread course at a French Culinary Institute in New York,” Viv said. “So yeah, I started my cooking career through bread.”

While both Ever and Viv’s beginnings were different, they landed in the culinary world with a sense of making an impact through food. How these two express themselves through food shows up in different ways. 

There is a reason why it’s mostly LGBTQ+ staff at Leftie Lee’s: It’s because Viv cultivated a space where employees feel comfortable being themselves. “I feel like we’re a safe place, you know. I was talking to one of my employees who’s queer about how even if someone says they’re an ally, there’s still some things that they just don’t understand,” Viv said. “When you’re part of the queer community and you’re surrounded by queer folks, there are unsaid things or things within the culture that you just know to laugh about, or joke around about, things like that”

Viv explained that she’s always loved to foster growth in people and that “[she] loves that we’ve been able to build an environment of inclusivity.” Because of this environment, Leftie Lee’s also attracts a lot of customers who are queer.

How queerness shows up for Ever is simple. “I remind myself that there don’t have to be many rules. And I just like to push the envelope in a lot of different areas of my life. And I think that’s where queerness aids me in the kitchen because I am always trying to be a little bit more expansive than the recipe,” Ever said. Odd Cakes expanded to a popup for dance parties, art galleries and even to raise funds for Ever’s top surgery. “I like to merge the fine art world with the food world, through my work in the types of places that I want to be. A lot of my friends are visual artists or sound artists. So I’m very interested in what role food has in those types of spaces,” Ever said.

The same boldness found in their cooking and fundraising efforts is seen in their teaching through Ever Feeding, where they work with people to help them make healthier food choices. “I’ve started these one-on-one cooking lessons, which have been rewarding when talking to people about their specific needs, coming up with different solutions and practicing together to cook things they can make on their own in the future,” Ever said. They’ve also raised funds for relief efforts in Gaza — about $9,000 — with the community’s support.

Whether it’s through fundraising or serving the community, Viv and Ever understand that a lot of the work they do and their success are about seeing people in all their facets, and queerness also helps with centering inclusiveness. “I think an essential part of queerness is expansiveness, and bringing that to any community is going to push a community to become more accessible,” Ever said. “There’s more seats at the table. And queer people have always been hugely involved in justice movements. There’s also a lens of disability and justice; I feel like in queer spaces, you often see people masking or making space [for people], you know.”

Viv will experience this sense of playfulness in October during Atlanta Pride as a continuation of a pride event she held at Leftie Lee’s this month. “We’re going to do everything, rainbow. We’re going to do funfetti croissants, rainbow shortbread cookies, rainbow fruit cheesecake…things like that. We’ll help raise money for a local nonprofit that is trying to help end homelessness within the LGBTQ2S+ youth population,” Viv said.

At its core, playfulness is just as important as justice, and just as Ever and Viv displayed, highlighting these through food always has the power to serve and support everyone in the community.