Food Network star by day and Heartbreaker-Drag Baker by night, Kareema Puff is serving us some hot, sweet treats this weekend in HK!
Thotyssey: Hello Kareema, happy End of March! How did the month treat you?
Kareema Puff: Quiet for me, honestly… but I enjoyed the break. My alter ego is on TV, so I’m busy with all that!
That alter ego, Chef Tom, is part of Spring Baking Championship’s eighth season on the Food Network (Mondays at 8pm)! How long ago was that filmed, and what was the experience of doing it like?
We filmed last summer. It was an amazing experience. We are all pastry nerds, so it was fun to be around like minded-people. Also, we love a space to be creative for creativity’s sake, y’know.
So baking in that competitive environment is creativity-inducing, and not so super stressful and limiting?
Eh… yes it’s stressful, and yes, that clock is a bitch! But it was fun stress most of the time. That kitchen was fully stocked with whatever we needed, so you weren’t limited. That’s kinda what I loved most!
What’s your favorite pastry you’ve made on the show that we’ve seen so far?
Hmm… my float cake that got me a ribbon was probably my tastiest and most creative. Or the brie Japanese cheesecake I made last episode.
You’re not in drag on SBC (although you did get a moment to discuss Kareema and share a pic of her on the last episode), but there seems to be a trend of drag queens appearing on cooking shows lately! Lagoona Bloo and Selma Nilla were on Nailed It last year, and Marti Gould Cummings and Peachez were just on Worst Cooks in America, where Peachez came through as the winner! What do you make of all this TV Kitchen Drag, lol?
More power to them. I know how long those shoot days are, and to be in makeup and body for that long… y’all have strength that I do not. I mean, I think what it really comes down to is that drag is so mainstream now… so it makes sense that it’s bleeding into all the other forms of media. These cooking shows are just different vehicles of entertainment. It makes sense to me, but as a professional pastry chef I knew I didn’t want the lines of Chef Tom and Kareema to blur too much. They are very much separate.
Where are you from originally, and did you grow up in a food / entertainment household?
I am from Sayville, New York–you know, that place you drive through to get to the Pines Ferry. My grandpa owned a deli, my uncle has owned multiple delis, and food is how my family celebrates. Actually, we have more desserts than savory food during the holidays… not sure how that happens. I am the youngest of three, so to get attention I did musicals and acting.
What’s your history with baking?
I started young with my grandpa, but did more experimental baking in high school. I think its the purest form of gift giving, so I have always loved it. I got a little side tracked from my passion in college [where I started pursuing] finance, but after leaving that dreaded world I moved to Paris to learn this skill professionally. I have been working in the industry ever since (2015).
Love that! What’s your favorite cake flavor?
Chocolate is a classic, but delicious. Tea flavors are actually quite fun to work with.
How did Kareema Puff come to be?
A friend of mine had a show at Bar Nine called “Homecoming,” which was where he had new drag queens perform. He told me a month out that I was performing, and to get ready. Kareema Puff was born that August, 2018. It was so much fun that I had to keep doing it; only recently have my makeup skills gotten okay. Ha! [That host] since moved to LA, so I kinda of took his spot and made it “Fresh Baked,” a safe space for queer artists to perform.
Do you also come out as Kareema to other venues, like for competition shows or guest spots?
I’ve come out to Brooklyn on occasion; Rify Royalty and I go back to his gogo boy days, and when I first moved to the city. I’ve competed at “Mother” [hosted by Maddelynn Hatter at Hush] once. I have a full time job, so she takes a backseat a lot of time. Those weeknight gigs are hard to bounce back from, lol! Coming into work with eyeliner and smudged lips is not a cute look.
What kind of numbers and looks do you like to serve as Kareema nowadays?
Is “comfortable” a good response? No, kidding! Kareema is hyper pop and SNL, or weird internet content. She is much more of a comedy queen that pulls inspo from some niche corners of SNL or TikTok videos.
We’ll get to see her in action when the “Fresh Baked” brunch show returns to Bar Nine this Saturday! You’ll be joined by Robin Rose Quartz, Aria Jae and Stella Rise. Tell us a bit more about this show and venue… what can we expect?
I think “Fresh Baked” is a great mix of fun, laughs, and dranks! I give the queens equal space to talk to the audience, so it’s not just me droning on. I feel like people open their wallets more when they get to know the queens more. I play a game called “Get the Fuck Off the Stage” where we get some fun stories from the audience. No yucking anyone’s yum… just a good time!
What’s coming up for Kareema and Chef Tom?
Kareema is always down for a guest spot on weekends. And Chef Tom, well… he is trying to stay on Food Network full time. I joked with Molly, the host of the show, that I was coming for her job.
I have no doubt we’ll be seeing more of Chef Tom on our TV soon enough! So in closing… if you had to do a Drag Race runway based on a dessert, what food item might best inspire you?
I have zero idea why this popped into my head, but a lemon meringue pie. I’m seeing a white dollop wig that looks like the meringue, with a cute yellow sequin body suit and cork shoes… or like, a natural crust-looking heel. And I could pull a small pie outta my hair and sit and eat it. Like a lady!
What delicious inspiration! Thanks, Kareema!
Check Thotyssey’s calendar for Kareema Puff’s upcoming appearances, and follow her on Instagram (drag and Chef Tom).