Spotlight on Local Black Lesbian Chef Chantel Mines

Chef Chantel Mines worked as a Sous Chef with the eclectic Tarks Grill in Maryland, placed second in the 2016 Mason Dixon Master Chef competition, and eventually found her way to Atlanta as the Executive Chef at The Lost Druid Brewery. With such accolades and success, you’d think cooking was Mines’ lifelong passion. Well, you’d be wrong: she only decided to pursue cooking after tragically losing a loved one forced her to reevaluate her life.

“About ten years ago, a friend of mine was murdered,” Mines told Georgia Voice. “It kind of made me start thinking about if what I was doing was worth my time and energy.”

At the time, Mines was working as a paralegal at a prominent law firm. “I just started thinking about all the things I could do because I was unsatisfied with what I was doing,” she said. “I spent a lot of time lying to folks, giving people false hopes that we’d be able to help them even though I knew that we wouldn’t.”

Mines took a variety of personality and interests tests and did ample research until she landed on cooking. Flash forward to today, and Mines is working as the Executive Chef at The Lost Druid Brewery. At the brewery, she’s in charge of handcrafting the menu, which rotates every season. On the new fall/winter menu, you can find “tapas with an American twist,” like pretzels, pork rinds, flatbreads, pork tacos, tostadas, and stuffed mushrooms. Some of the dishes, including the brussel sprouts and banana bread, are even made using beer from the brewery or leftover grain from beer production.

Mines makes sure she personalizes each and every dish, pulling inspiration from a variety of places – including her own upbringing. Despite originally being from Baltimore, Mines spent a lot of her childhood overseas in Santiago, Chile, and later traveled to nearby countries like Peru and Argentina. “The tacos and tostadas were something personal [that I added to the menu] that I just liked to make myself,” she said. “I’m very into Latin cooking because of my upbringing. A big thing for me is being able to connect food cross-culturally.”

After making that life changing decision almost ten years ago, Mines has discovered that cooking could not only be both a passion and career, but a creative and emotional outlet as well.

“I’m a pretty non-traditional person. I’m very spontaneous and ambiguous, so I feel like cooking allows me to express that in a healthy way,” Mines said. “I’m an Aquarias: I’m super emotional, but I don’t show my emotions very well, so I feel like cooking has always been an outlet for me to just let feelings out. I think that traumatic event showed me that cooking was a thing I could utilize to deal with what I was feeling. I’ve used it as such ever since.”

“I also really enjoy the creativity of cooking and the fact that it’s always changing,” she continued. “There’s no one person that could know everything.”

However, it hasn’t always been easy. Mines, being a black lesbian woman, has experienced some roadblocks throughout her career. “I would say that my LGBTQ identity has affected my career in a way – and it’s not only being LGBTQ, but also being a woman,” she told Georgia Voice. “It’s a male-dominated field and it’s hard to gain and maintain respect. You get such a hard time, but then you work with guys who are lazier than you, that don’t work as hard as you, and no one ever says anything about it. As a woman, you must work harder just to receive equal or even less reward.”

“It becomes tedious at times,” she continued. “I stay with jobs as long as I could, but I was never married to any of my jobs; I was married to myself. If a situation got uncomfortable – because I was a woman or because of my sexual preference – I would just walk away before it got out of hand (because I spent a lot of time working for small businesses without an HR I could talk to about discrimination).”

However, she’s finally found somewhere she’s comfortable and is ultimately thankful for her past experience, no matter how frustrating.

“I just started to find places where I felt comfortable and accepted for who I was: woman, black, lesbian. It hasn’t always been an easy fit, but I’m thankful because I was able to learn about perseverance.”