What Questlove Loves
June is Music + Food Month on Tasting Table.
When it comes to his love for food and music, Questlove knows where both passions started: a drumstick. "That's how they're connected for me," the 44-year-old bandleader, born Ahmir Thompson, says. It makes sense: He plays the drums in The Roots, the house band for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, and among his many food ventures was a short-lived fried chicken restaurant called Hybird in New York's Chelsea Market.
Somewhere in his busy schedule between the nightly show, touring, speaking with chef Paul Qui at SXSW and organizing "food salons" in his home in New York, we got Thompson to pause for a few minutes and tell us a bit more about where his two interests crossed over—and where to find the best food in the country. "I've thought about getting a separate phone number just to respond to friends asking me which restaurants to try," he laughs. "Like back in the day when you used to call Moviefone for showtimes."
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Where do you see the strongest connection between food and music?
Chefs and musicians are both DJs in a way. We both have to plan for rhythm, anticipate taste, read the crowd. The connection that I make with humans when I'm DJing is very similar to the sharing of a meal: It's personal; it's intimate; it's the most human thing you can do.
What's your favorite food moment?
I invited Björk and Carl Bernstein to one of my food salons at my apartment. About 40 of the most diverse people you would ever see in a room together were there, and I'll never forget it. Björk was the first to arrive. She was so early she asked if she could help in the kitchen.
If you could pair a chef with a musician for a dinner, who would you choose?
There is a trend toward connecting music and food in a direct way: one musician, one chef. But I don't feel it can be done in that way. A menu can be an album or a DJ set. But a song is not a menu; a menu is not a chef; a musician isn't a dish. I want to develop DJ sets around menus, connecting several artists and songs to one dining experience. I recently went to the Modernist Cuisine Lab and was lucky enough to experience a meal with Nathan Myhrvold, and I would like to DJ one of his menus—he knows how to anticipate the diner.
Inside Dominique Ansel Kitchen | Photo: Lam Thuy Vo
Questlove's Favorite Restaurants:
Dominique Ansel Kitchen (New York, NY): "I always stop at Dominique Ansel's bakery on my way from my house to 30 Rock. Luckily for me, his Kitchen just opened, and everything there is made to order, and you can get brown sugar DKAs [Dominique's kouign amann]."
Kachka (Portland, OR): "Modern Russian food done just the way you would imagine it."
Petit Trois (Los Angeles, CA): "I get hit up all the time to get people into Trois Mec, and it's not easy to score a reservation (even for me). Now there's Petit Trois next door—a classic French bistro but the best French bistro."
Pizzeria Beddia (Philadelphia, PA): "There's no phone, no delivery; only one dude makes every pie, and he always sells out. One of the guys in our management office in Philly gets pizza here every Thursday, and I don't know how he does it—I think he has Beddia's cell phone number."
Craftsman and Wolves (San Francisco, CA): "This spot is on my list for their innovative pastries, specifically The Rebel Within, a sausage-and-cheese muffin with a soft-cooked egg baked inside."
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