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Oakland Artist and LGBTQ Activist Brontez Purnell Stars in New YouTube Cooking Show

Go behind-the-scenes at East Bay restaurants and into kitchen of a Bay Area drag legend in Cooking With Brontez

A man wearing a black baseball hat and glasses sits at a wooden picnic table eating a corn dog. KQED

If you’re hungry for some seasonal entertainment that’s a break from super saccharine rom-coms and bland holiday classics, KQED has a new cooking show that just might fit the bill. Cooking With Brontez premiered Monday and stars longtime Oakland artist, author, and activist Brontez Purnell as he sizzles his first-ever batch of fried chicken, infiltrates the kitchen at Eli’s Mile High Club for late-night snacks, and celebrates Thanksgiving in the cozy Tenderloin kitchen of drag legend Juanita More.

Purnell, who grew up in Alabama and has lived in the Bay Area for more than a decade, is a Renaissance man of sorts, known for his acclaimed novel Since I Laid My Burden Down, which tells the story of “growing up gay in 1980s Alabama;” as well as launching the zine Fag School in the early aughts; and shining as the frontman of punk band the Younger Lovers. He’s also the founder of the Brontez Purnell Dance Company and released a new novel 100 Boyfriends earlier this year.

Purnell says the idea for Cooking With Brontez involved a little bit of kismet: He filmed a video of himself making fried chicken to go along with an essay he wrote for Put an Egg on It zine. The video never went anywhere, but he mentioned it to someone at KQED, one thing led to another, and the YouTube series was born. The episodes range from about 7 to 15 minutes, and focus on a mix of home cooking as well as the food scene of the East Bay. “I don’t think there was any real agenda,” Purnell says. “We just went with the things that felt right right to us.”

Mostly, the episodes give viewers a look into how dishes — whether a restaurant’s Mexican pizza or a Thanksgiving dinner, come together. All filtered through Purnell’s point of view. And ultimately, it’s the exploration of process, something he often examines in his art, that drew Purnell to food. “It was an art form I’ve never really explored,” he says. “We forget it’s an art and is a process and it’s a science.”

Episode 1 of Cooking With Brontez is available to watch now on the KQED Food YouTube channel.

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