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When a phone app release party masquerades as a food event – it’s Distinc.tt

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Restaurant industry leaders gathered at the Out Hotel in NYC on January 16th for a gay food panel discussion in celebration of the release of the iphone app Distinc.tt, a social/lifestyle network for the LGBT community designed to help members connect and explore relevant places, events, activities and travel packages. It is billed as a “good taste” app (hence the food event) which is why there was a panel of mostly gay chefs talking about gay food for its debut.

Publicity for the event described gay food as “food that prefers the company of other food from the same food group.” The fact is, there is no such thing as gay food. At least those were the opinions expressed by the panel described as “leaders and heavy hitters from TV, the New York Restaurant scene and culinary industry stars.”

If the comments of one chef were used to represent the entire panel discussion it would have to be Zac Young’s. He said: (we’re) “Creator first, gay second.” “In the kitchen, I don’t barge in singing show tunes, dancing around and being like here’s your soufflé.” “I’m here. I’m going to work harder then you. I can swear just as much as you. And, I can f**king throw things too!”

Following a video presentation describing the app and the events of the evening, the panelists got down to business. People labeled as panelists joined in discussing trends, ingredients, and the nature of being gay in a traditionally straight world. Nation’s Restaurant News Senior Editor, Brett Thorn was the moderator of what was a lively and thoughtful discussion.

The consensus: there is no gender in the kitchen; chefs are – first and foremost – chefs. That being said, being a gay chef meant working harder to prove yourself as you began your career, and gave you an edge in relating to fellow workers and (in the future) employees.

Besides the panelists, the folks labeled judges will decide in February who wins the Gayest Dessert Contest also sponsored by Distinc.tt. The contest, open to the public, will culminate in 10 finalists being chosen by Distinc.tt staff from which the celebrity judges will chose the final winner. See rules and more information here.

Here is the list of participating panelists and judges:

Bret Thorn, Award winning columnist Bret Thorn is senior food editor of Nation’s Restaurant News, with responsibility for spotting and reporting on culinary trends across the country (Moderator of the Gay Food Panel and Gayest Dessert Judge)

Zac Young, Executive Pastry Chef at David Burke Kitchen and Top Chef Just Desserts Alum. (Panelist and Judge)

Pichet Ong, award winning pastry chef and author of "The Sweet Spot," with projects worldwide including Spice Market, Tao, Jean Georges, and Max Brenner. Offering consulting and recipe development services and a new cookbook, he is also resident judge of Cake Wars and Sugar Dome on Food Network. (Panelist and Judge)

Anita Lo, Owner & Executive Chef, Annisa, Author of Cooking Without Borders, Chef Lo earned a Michelin Star and is ranked among the top 100 most influential women in business in New York by Crain’s. Lo appeared on Food Network's "Iron Chef America," besting Mario Batali in Battle Mushrooms. She was one of the last chefs standing during the inaugural season of Bravo's "Top Chef Masters. (Judge)

Ric Orlando, Winner of Food TV Network’s “Chopped” and three-time “Chopped” participant, Ric is a passionate chef, lecturer, author, and media source. (Judge)

Mitchell Davis, In addition to his role as Executive Vice President of the James Beard Foundation, Mitchell Davis is a cookbook author and food journalist with a Ph.D. in Food Studies from New York University. Davis’s most recent cookbook is Kitchen Sense and he is the author of two other cookbooks, Cook Something and The Mensch Chef. His academic work focuses on the role of restaurant reviews and their influence on taste. (Panelist)

Romulo Yanes, Renowned Editorial, Book and Commercial Food Photographer with 30 years of experience. (Judge)

John Fanning, General Manager of SD26 has specialized in the operations and development of Italian restaurants in New York City for the past 28 years. Currently at the helm of SD26 Restaurant and Wine Bar on Madison Square Park John's experience has spanned working with illustrious places such as Accademia Di Vino, Beppe, Felidia, Coco Pazzo, Le Madri & Palio. (Panelist)

Kian Lam-Kho, chef, food writer, teacher and food consultant specializing in Chinese cuisine. He is the creator of the James Beard Foundation Awards nominated Chinese home cooking blog Red Cook http://www.redcook.net and is consulting chef at New York’s first Yunnan restaurant, Lotus Blue. (Panelist)

Nick Malgieri, His first book was Perfect Pastry followed by Great Italian Desserts and Cookies Unlimited. He is also the author of Perfect Cakes A Baker’s Tour, which was nominated for a James Beard Foundation award and an IACP award, and Perfect Light Desserts, coauthored with David Joachim. (Judge)

Paul Grimes Master Food Stylist and Former Senior Editor and Stylist for Gourmet Magazine. (Judge)

Michael Guerrieri is a celebrated chef and owner of outrageously popular City Sandwich NYC, recently featured on GMALive and named Hidden Gem Not to Be Missed by Zagat. City Sandwich and Guerrieri share the stage and privilege of creating the official LGBT sandwich in celebration of Distinc.tt’s official launch. (Panelist)

Richard Frisbie, Head baker at Hudson Valley Dessert Company, Food Correspondent for Gather.com, prolific culinary travel writer for EDGE Publications and dozens of prominent newspapers, magazines and websites. (Panelist and Judge)

Michael Belkin, Founder and CEO of Distinc.tt, the new social app for the LGBT market, founded his first company at age 12, and attended Harvard Business School where he was awarded an Arthur Rock Entrepreneurial Fellowship. (Panelist and Judge)

Dale Schnell, executive chef of KTCHN restaurant and THE OUT HOTEL NYC brings international luxury experience including positions with The Setai Fifth Avenue, Picholine (NYC), The Russian Tea Room (NYC), and the world’s only 7-star hotel, The Burj al Arab in Dubai (Panelist and Judge)

Eric Perlmutter has been developing and building different concepts into successful restaurant enterprises for over a decade. In addition to serving as co-owner of Hill and Bay, he is also co-owner of E&E Grill House Time Square. (Panelist)

Manos Angelakis is a well-known wine & food critic, and accomplished travel writer, based in the New York City area. He is the Senior Food & Wine writer for LuxuryWeb Magazine and The Oenophile Blog. (Judge)

In addition to participating in the panel discussion, Michael Guerrieri created vegetarian and non-vegetarian versions of a LGTB sandwich which premiered at his restaurant earlier in the day. They are the official gay sandwiches of Distinc.tt.

Founder and CEO of Distinc.tt, Michael Belkin, explained that Distinc.tt is an app to help locate people by their interests - where they shop, dine, what movies they see – and not by their sexual fantasies. It is also the first gay app to be rated as age-appropriate for 12 and up, meaning if your mother looks over your shoulder – either figuratively or actually – you’ll have no reason to be ashamed.

Distinc.tt is an iphone app currently in beta testing for android. Using it is a great way to find suitable companions for sharing wholesome good times. Check out Distinc.tt. It’s an app designed by gay people for gay people looking for more than just a hook-up. It’s a “good taste” app that could fast become your go-to social media app. Try it out here:

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