Bon vivant and thot savant Adahlia Cole joins Document to discuss food relief efforts, the restaurant community, and quarantine cooking
Self-described “bon vivant and thot savant” Adahlia Cole not only has a way with words, but a way with food. Digitally known as @hungryhungryhooker, Cole’s experiences in both the food and sex work communities have inspired her creation of an Instagram livestream show aptly titled Coronappétit. In light of COVID-19, Cole paired her intimate relationship with food with her passion for community building to host a series of conversations with members of the Bay Area food and beverage industry. The show unapologetically embodies an “anything goes” sentiment, featuring naked cooking tutorials and pet appearances alongside a discussion on how restaurants are staying afloat during these difficult times. Document virtually connected with Cole to discuss the inspiration behind Coronappétit, diversifying quarantine cooking, and food relief efforts amidst the global pandemic.
Rachel Cheung: Could you share a bit about your background in the food and restaurant community?
Adahlia Cole: I grew up working in restaurants from the time I could first get a job when I was fourteen, doing prep at a restaurant next door to my mom’s house. It’s been a long time since I’ve worked in service, but my partner is a server and is laid off right now. As someone who works in the sex industry and is really passionate about food, wine, cooking and dining out, I’ve found that community of people to be incredibly accepting. Even though my work is a stigmatized profession to be in, I’ve always had love and acceptance from people who worked in food and bev. Other sex working friends whose passions lie in different areas have felt much more of a need to be closeted about their jobs.
It’s very challenging to see people in my professional industry and the industry that most of my friends work in—food and bev—both having catastrophic financial losses right now. On the other hand, it’s been really interesting and cool to see that even though both of these communities are really suffering right now, we are people who are extremely adaptable. Seeing how folks have hustled to find new avenues of income, or ways to fill their time and try to get by during this wild era has been really inspirational and amazing.
Rachel: How did you come up with the idea for Coronappétit? What inspired you, how do you choose your guests?
Adahlia: I wanted to harness the crossover following I have from both industries to shine a light on the efforts restaurants are making to stay afloat. There are tons of people in the Bay doing incredible projects, but San Francisco is expensive as fuck. The intention with Coronappétit is to have conversations with people and show support for both independent restaurants and wage workers heavily impacted by this situation. I wanted to highlight my friends who are trying to feed people in the community, while also incorporating those within my own professional sex working sphere who love to cook. I did a mashup of these two spaces last week with Josie Qu, who has started a naked cooking show on OnlyFans. I want to do as much as I can to support people, and Coronappétit felt like an effective and entertaining way to do that.
Rachel: Is there a general structure of tutorials, recipe sharing, or a discussion segment, or do you let the conversation flow organically? And how do you choose your guests?
Adahlia: With these live conversations, I want to focus on how people are reacting and how everyone can help the restaurants they love and the people who work in them to give the audience an idea of what is going on behind the scenes. I tend to write questions out for each interview beforehand, depending on the guest, and there are definitely conversation points I like to hit on each time about the current state of communities, but I think it’s fun to let the episodes and conversations flow naturally, and I can interject as needed.
Most of my past guests are friends, or people I’ve mutually followed in the community for a long time. With Cheese Sex Death, I asked her to come on because I saw one of her lives and I was like, This is the most entertaining thing. She does this Cheese Church situation; it’s amazing and I definitely wanted to do something with her, and it was so fun. She is also doing a lot to promote independent cheesemakers which is great because it isn’t just restaurants that are struggling, its small producers, farmers, and the whole supply chain too.
“The intention with Coronappétit is to have conversations with people and show support for both independent restaurants and wage workers heavily impacted by this situation.”
Rachel: When it comes to grocery shopping and eating out during this time, what are your thoughts on food safety protocols?
Adahlia: I definitely think people should be looking for information about food safety protocols from professionals in the healthcare space. I know that a lot of restaurants that have pivoted to takeout are taking pretty stringent measures. My friend, Kim Alter, who is the chef and owner of Nightbird, closed the restaurant to the public and is exclusively partnering with organizations that are sending meals to hospital staff and people who are food insecure. I know her staff changes their gloves every certain number of minutes with constant hand washing, and they’re wearing masks in the restaurant and keeping as much distance between them as they can.
For me personally, I mostly buy food from farmer’s markets so there’s never too much excess packaging. When I go, I wear a mask and gloves, wash my hands, and don’t touch my face. I wash my greens when I get home like I always would, but I’m not taking other excessive precautions with the actual food. I think there’s a certain balance to be found between being able to find joy in life and being safe. I need to go to the farmer’s market to get the fresh food that is keeping me mentally healthy and sane—cooking is a meditation and something I can be proud of when everything feels fucking crazy and uncertain. I think people need to do their own research based on expert opinions and decide for themselves what they are comfortable with.
Rachel: Do you have tips on how to best prepare for two weeks of groceries, or how to spice up your meals?
Adahlia: Definitely buy the types of things you like to and can eat. The things I’ve been doing are going to a nice butcher shop or market to buy meat to freeze ahead, to prepare in case of supply chain interruptions; I bought a bunch of Jimmy Red Corn Grits, which last forever-ish. I buy different kinds of rice; I know people think rice is so boring, but there are so many different varieties. I make a lot of sticky rice, which you soak overnight and then steam for like 25-30 minutes, toss it with a little sesame oil and cooked alliums, which is delicious. Sweet potatoes last a long time; I’ve been doing a lot of roasted miso-butter sweet potatoes and also getting big bags of the tiny Yukon Golds and doing them smashed or fried in duck fat with some mushrooms, leeks, and a poached egg on top. Cabbage lasts a long ass time in the fridge so I’ve been making a ton of spatchcocked chickens cooked over sliced schmaltzy cabbage (shoutout Helen Rosner for this brilliance). I think it’s important to think about what kinds of grains and vegetables you like which have some longevity in the fridge or pantry, and how you can cook them with different flavors and methods.
“I think there’s a certain balance to be found between being able to find joy in life and being safe. I need to go to the farmer’s market to get the fresh food that is keeping me mentally healthy and sane—cooking is a meditation and something I can be proud of when everything feels fucking crazy and uncertain.”
Rachel: In what ways have you noticed the effects of COVID-19 bringing out community relief efforts in the food community?
Adahlia: Restaurant people really like to take care of other people. It’s been really heartwarming to see many communities determined to help those who are food insecure and frontline healthcare workers, and also each other. With Coronappétit, it started really organically because I just wanted to have open conversations with people about how they’re scrambling to survive right now. One thing I love about the restaurant community, and something I see as a similarity to the sex work community, is that there are a lot of really caring people. Both industries are about hospitality. There’s a lot of mutual aid happening in both spheres in a way that I haven’t seen in any other spaces. People are on it, they’re like, Who needs what? Can I trade you for this? Let’s arrange a safe drop, I’ll bring flour. It’s like a collective Let’s find a way to make this work as best as we can together, you know.
I just wrote an article compiling a database of people in the Bay Area who largely worked in super fancy, Michelin star, tasting menu types of spots and have started rad side hustles since being laid off. Line cooks are making around $18 an hour in one of the most expensive cities to live in, so everyone is mostly living paycheck to paycheck and can’t really amass savings for a rainy day, let alone a pandemic of uncertain length. I want to focus on the people we don’t see, those who are behind the scenes but are absolutely just as much part of that super fancy experience as the head chef is. To keep themselves going, many of these people are forming incredibly cool entrepreneurial efforts, like baking bread out of their house or making pies to sell. There’s someone doing a fresh pasta delivery box, others doing Singaporean delivery—all out of their houses. I wanted to highlight all these incredible people doing amazing things, for themselves and their communities, all in one space.
Rachel: Are there any particular resources you recommend for those who want to get involved with food access relief, or general tips on giving back to local restaurant communities?
Adahlia: José Andrés‘s World Central Kitchen is one of the biggest organizations giving back, and that’s definitely a great way to get involved. In San Francisco, another group arranging meals for frontline workers is SF New Deal. These organizations raise funding to pay restaurants and workers for their work so they can stay afloat, while also feeding people on the frontlines. Bay Area Hospitality Coalition is a great organization started by local chefs where you can find resources as well.
Other ways to help is finding local spots still open for takeout. It’s great to cook at home, but if you’re not feeling it, call in and order out. I’ve also bought a bunch of gift cards to use later, trying to infuse cash into places now for them to still be open when we get out of this. I also think it’s really important to talk about, especially in places like San Francisco and New York, where rent is astronomical, how you still have to pay for your living space. It’s really hard to be a line cook or a dishwasher in these cities and have sufficient savings for uncertain times. There are a lot of undocumented people in the restaurant industry who can’t access unemployment relief or assistance. Donating to relief funds specifically for wage workers is also a great way to show support. If you are financially secure and lucky enough to work from home, I encourage you to search for relief efforts important to you and your community.
“If you are financially secure and lucky enough to work from home, I encourage you to search for relief efforts important to you and your community.”
Rachel: When is your next Coronappétit episode, and do you have any exciting projects coming up?
Adahlia: I’ll announce the next few Coronappétit episodes on my Instagram as they’re planned out, but I think eventually it will just revert back to my regular Hungry Hungry Hooker show. I’ll be adding to the Bay Area relief database as people continue to share their projects and efforts. As for the restaurant industry, I just hope the food spaces and people I love will make it through this. It’s been really challenging for people to work through this, but I’m grateful for everyone’s collective efforts.
Check out the next episode of Coronappétit with sommelier and wine content creator Amanda McCrossin next Friday at 8:30pm EST here.