A Denver drag queen is doing her part to sweeten people's mood during the pandemic.
Pastry chef Martin Howard, aka 7-foot drag sensation Chocolatina, Queen of the Dessert, is delivering pies all over the Mile High City. In addition to freshly baked goods, customers get served a live performance — socially distanced, of course.
Howard moved to Denver about 3½ years ago from New York, where he plied his delicious trade at notable restaurants like Rainbow Room and Brasserie 8 and garnered awards from Chocolatier magazine and the James Beard Foundation. He had started working for a catering company but had to restrategize in the wake of Covid-19.
"It's just so up in the air, this catering business, you never know," Howard told NBC affiliate KUSA of Denver. "The parties cancel real quick, or the numbers drop a lot."
In July, he posted a picture of a raspberry-rhubarb pie he made for some friends on Facebook, and the response was overwhelming. That's when inspiration struck.
"I'm going to be a drag queen and sell pie," Howard said.
Howard, who has been performing as Chocolatina for over a decade, had also been hosting Sunday drag brunch at a Denver café, but Covid-19 put an end to that, too.
"With Covid, you can't perform inside. It's, like, 25 feet and a mask," he said, "and that's impossible."
Outside, however, is a different story. For $100, customers get a "party package" — two 6-inch pies, two quiches and a song — at an outdoor area of their choice.
"Pie is a comfort food, and in these times people are definitely craving comfort food," he said.
Deliveries are usually on Saturdays, and Howard posts the pie menu on Facebook, along with the neighborhoods he's heading to.
It's part of a growing trend of drag queen delivery during the pandemic, one that includes the "Meals on Heels" program from San Francisco's Oasis nightclub and Sunday "drag-livery" from Fresca's Cantina in Queens, New York.
Business has been booming for Chocolatina, and, weather permitting, Howard routinely sells out. His pies range from traditional offerings, like pumpkin and pecan, to more unique wares, including apple-cranberry, pear-huckleberry and black plum.
"For me, it's great, because I've got a live audience no matter how small. They are just starved for entertainment, because there is no live entertainment anymore," he told KUSA. "It's just a win-win for everyone. It makes them happy, it makes me happy — there's pie, and that makes people happy, as well."