Chefs Deborah VanTrece and Steven Satterfield. Photo of Deborah VanTrece by Henri Hollis; and of Steven Satterfield by Andrew Thomas Lee


What Pride Means to Chefs Deborah VanTrece and Steven Satterfield


Living in Atlanta — an historic transportation hub that’s brought all sorts of folks together by trains, planes, and automobiles since its inception — is a daily celebration of diversity. And a major portion of that is Atlanta’s famously loud and proud LGBTQ+ community. Within that family are many of ATL’s most talented and accomplished chefs and restaurateurs, and among the most visible are Deborah VanTrece and Steven Satterfield.

Both operate westside-perimeter restaurants considered among Atlanta’s very best places to dine. And both are tireless advocates and activists for a variety of progressive causes related to food and the hospitality industry, in and beyond Atlanta.

VanTrece, a consistent voice of inclusion and insistence on excellence in dining, leads three Atlanta restaurants: Twisted Soul Cookhouse + Pours, Oreatha’s at The Point, and recently opened La Panarda. She is regularly featured in national media (NBC’s Today Show, Good Morning America, The New York Times, and others), and is venerated for creating unique and exceptional presentations of what we know as “soul food,” with deep reverence for food that is culturally important to the heritage of Black Americans and throughout the African Diaspora. She is passionate in her support for and promotion of families who operate local farms (and the humane treatment of farm animals), as well as causes like sustainable agriculture and food waste reduction.

Satterfield, who won the James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef: Southeast award in 2017, gave Atlanta the highly acclaimed, super-seasonally-driven restaurant Miller Union, widely considered one of the best in the nation. He’s a Southern Foodways Alliance and Georgia Organics member, holds leadership positions with Chef’s Collaborative and Slow Food Atlanta, and in spring 2020 helped form the Independent Restaurant Coalition, which lobbies Congress for support in rebuilding restaurants following the global COVID-19 crisis.  

Both are also the authors of exceptional cookbooks. Satterfield has three books under his belt: 2015’s Root to Leaf: A Southern Chef Cooks Through the Seasons, Peanuts (2017), and Vegetable Revelations: Inspiration for Produce-Forward Cooking, just released in April. And VanTrece’s debut, The Twisted Soul Cookbook: Modern Soul Food with Global Flavors, was published in 2021; a follow-up book is currently in the works.

The LGBTQ+ community seems to be in a different moment in 2023. In Georgia and beyond, there’s notable opposition to everything from drag performances to discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity in schools. To mark this moment, VanTrece and Satterfield share candid perspectives on the challenges still being faced by the LGBTQ+ community — along with the celebration and spirit of unity it continues to celebrate in full and living color during Pride Month in Atlanta.


Chef Deborah VanTrece’s 2021 cookbook, The Twisted Soul Cookbook. Photo courtesy of Deborah VanTrece
Steven Satterfield’s new cookbook, Vegetable Revelations. Photo by Harper Wave

Atlanta is quite famously known as an LGBTQIA+-friendly city. How are we living up to that in reality? 

Satterfield: For the South, it is one of the most accepting cities for this community. I have always felt welcome here, and have been able to express my views and myself freely without hesitation.

VanTrece: I don’t think that any place or any city can say, “OK, we’ve arrived and the fight for equality is over.” However, Atlanta in 2023 is in a really amazing space for the LGBTQ+ community. Let’s not forget that we are a city in the “Deep South.” That is also what makes the fact that Atlanta is among the most progressive and welcoming cities for the LGBTQ+ community so special.

Atlanta is one of the capitals of the “New South.” We have culture, we have amazing restaurants, and we have communities who embrace everyone who is part of it. So how is Atlanta doing? We are doing really well, and the best is yet to come.

Atlanta is one of the capitals of the New South. We have culture, we have amazing restaurants, and we have communities who embrace everyone who is part of it. — Deborah VanTrece

What does community look like on the inside of Atlanta’s culinary scene?

Satterfield: I find that the restaurant community is very accepting of all types, and there is a lot of support and understanding in our community — at least in my part of the world that I am exposed to. I see a lot of diversity in the Atlanta restaurant community and I am always pushing for more.

VanTrece: Right now, Atlanta’s culinary scene, coming out of the pandemic, is seeing a renaissance like never before. There are so many talented young chefs getting opportunities and getting their due, and that is so encouraging to see.

I have mentored some very special young chefs who are now becoming successful in their own right, including chef Christian “Lucke” Bell at Oreatha’s at The Point in Cascade Heights and chef Robert Butts at Twisted Soul Cookhouse & Pours. I see more and more restaurateurs and chefs who are following that lead and are opening doors for young chef talent, and that is the mark of a truly special community.

Steven Satterfield. Photo by Andrew Thomas Lee
Deborah VanTrece recently opened La Panarda. Photo by Shelby Light

What does this moment in time feel like for you? There seems to be a new push of backlash against LGBTQ+ people. Does it feel like we’re moving backward or getting closer to better times? Or something else?

Satterfield: There is a great divide and more pushback from the conservative side, with damaging legislation being debated that greatly threatens the rights of LGBTQ+ people, particularly trans. It is very disheartening because gay and trans people are humans too, with feelings and emotions.

It’s unfortunate that some people feel they must interfere with the lives of others instead of letting people be who they are or who they want to be. I’m all for personal freedoms, and I welcome all walks of life into my world and my place of business. 

VanTrece: Oh, I think a part of this moment in time is, unfortunately, being stalled by these manufactured controversies by fear mongers, like Bud Light facing backlash because of the Dylan Mulvaney partnership, and recently, Target and Kohl’s stores facing a backlash because of “Pride” apparel being sold there. In the grand scheme of things, these are distractions from “haters.”

The idea of corporations embracing Pride and diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts shouldn’t be provocative. Part of the problem is the media looking for clicks, and certain groups wanting to stoke division and hate. You have to look past those distractions and focus on progress for both the LGBTQ+ community and for civil rights.

There are many fighting against us, but there are also many fighting for us. The latter is what gives me hope. We must continue to be vocal and share our stories to invoke the change we want to see. Change has never been easy!

I walk in the truth of being a member of the LGBTQ community every moment, so all my accomplishments or milestones are Pride moments.  — Deborah VanTrece

What are you doing to celebrate Pride month?  

VanTrece: This year for Pride month, I will celebrate by attending several scheduled events in and outside of the city, and hopefully get my dance on.

On a more civic note, I will be donating meals to the Lost-n-Found Youth Organization in Atlanta. It’s an organization that seeks to eradicate homelessness for all LGBTQ youth and give them the tools to become self-sustainable.   

Satterfield: I’m teaming up with Ashley Christensen in Raleigh NC on Tuesday, June 20 to raise money for Raleigh Pride in her hometown. Outside of that, the book has kept me so busy, I haven’t planned any other Pride activities, but we did have the VEG REV slow food fundraiser party on Sunday June 4th.

Deborah VanTrece. Photo courtesy of VanTrece Hospitality Group
Steven Satterfield. Photo by Andrew Thomas Lee

June obviously isn’t the only month to celebrate. Was there a recent time prior to this month you felt was a “Pride moment”?

Satterfield: Gathering with our LGBTQ+  friends and allies for porch hangs and backyard barbecues over Memorial Day weekend.

VanTrece: I walk in the truth of being a member of the LGBTQ community every moment, so all my accomplishments or milestones are Pride moments. Often, my simplest movements help to encourage someone else. I just recently opened my newest restaurant, La Panarda, and many members of my staff are part of the LGBTQ community. They are inspired by my journey, and confident they are in a safe and supportive environment. To be an inspiration and to provide hope for young members of my staff is a constant source of joy and Pride for me.