Role models of greatness.

Here you will discover the back stories of kings, titans of industry, stellar athletes, giants of the entertainment field, scientists, politicians, artists and heroes – all of them gay or bisexual men. If their lives can serve as role models to young men who have been bullied or taught to think less of themselves for their sexual orientation, all the better. The sexual orientation of those featured here did not stand in the way of their achievements.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Craig Claiborne

Craig Claiborne (1920-2000) was an American restaurant critic, food writer and cookbook author. Born in Mississippi, he was raised on the region's cuisine in the kitchen of his mother's boarding house. After serving in the U.S. Navy, he decided his passion lay in cooking, and he used his G.I. Bill benefits to attend the famed École hôtelière de Lausanne in Switzerland.

Upon returning to the U.S., Claiborne became a contributor to Gourmet magazine, a food-products publicist and most notably the food editor of The New York Times newspaper in 1957, where he created the four-star system of rating restaurants still used today. He quickly rose to the very top of his profession. His writings exposed the American public to ethnic cuisines, especially Asian and Mexican foods. He had a long-time professional (but not personal) relationship with the French-born NYC based chef, author and television personality Pierre Franey, with whom Claiborne collaborated on many books and culinary projects.

Claiborne (left) with professional collaborator Pierre Franey:

Claiborne was a gay man who was born too soon to be able to live openly in the public eye, causing major frustration in his life. Although he was out to most of his friends and colleagues, he struggled to come to terms with his sexuality. He also drank way too much and ignored his deteriorating health as time went on. Claiborne left his books and papers to the Culinary Institute of America and a few other things to friends. However, he bequeathed his house in East Hampton, his apartment in NYC and everything else not specifically named in the will to his (married) lover, James Dinneen, a physician. The tale of their meeting is related in Thomas McNamee’s new book (2012), “The Man Who Changed the Way We Eat (Craig Claiborne and the American Food Renaissance)”:

"The two were strolling past each other in Manhattan when they locked eyes, and it was love at first sight. Dinneen was married, with six children, and living in Florida. Yet in Claiborne style, the two had countless trysts over the next two decades in choice hotels throughout the world and dined exquisitely until age and illness parted them. Dying nearly a decade later, Dinneen left behind no acknowledgment of their even having met."

Claiborne wrote a memoir, "A Feast Made for Laughter" (1982), in which he detailed a dark and disturbing youth, despite the book’s lighthearted title. He took solace in the company of his mother’s African-American household staff as an escape from the taunts of his straight schoolmates, a difficult, doting mother (Claiborne didn't attend her funeral) and sexual involvement with his father.

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