April 21, 2012
Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson, the musician with a foodie streak, and Graham Elliot, the chef and music buff, have announced a joint venture to create food and music events for private events, industry parties and food-and-wine festivals.
Call it hip-hop catering.
The musical-culinary marriage makes sense. The question is, how did the Chicago chef and the East Coast musician find each other?
It was one of those you-got-chocolate-on-my-peanut-butter moments. And it took place at last year's Lollapalooza music festival.
Thompson — drummer, DJ and co-founder of the Roots (a multiple Grammy-winning group best known as the house band for "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon") — was performing at Lollapalooza last August, where he ran into award-winning chef Graham Elliot — Michelin-starred and Beard-nominated chef, rock 'n roll aficionado and Lollapalooza's culinary director.
"I was DJ'ing," Thompson said. "Basically, I followed him around; he explained how he curated all the food at Lollapalooza. I realized our worlds were pretty parallel. He has this encyclopedic knowledge of the culinary world the way I try to have that knowledge about the music world. The way I can break down all the ingredients of a Public Enemy recordng, he can eat something and identify every element that went into it. That's a helluva talent."
Thompson has food credentials of his own, having launched a successful fried-chicken food truck in New York last year; his signature item, Love's Drumsticks ("a no-brainer," says the drummer) got mentions in Food & Wine and Bon Appetit magazines.
"It's an incredibly seasoned free-range organic chicken, fried crispy, and presented in this cool origami wrap," Elliot says. "It's about as big a signature item as the turkey leg at Taste of Chicago."
Recently on "Late Night," Thompson battled Momofuku chef David Chang — Love's Drumsticks vs. Chang's chicken wings. Thompson lost, but still: David Chang.
Thompson has had offers to take his food act on the road. "I could sort of stick with the food truck idea," he says, "but with Graham, we can get more high-profile events, carry the affair mixed with music."
"Say Person X is hosting a party of 200, and wants it to be a cool, slick time," Elliot says. "So they hire our group; Questlove can DJ, we make the room and every aspect hip and cool, and the food's coming from me and pairs perfectly with the music. Totally immersive."
The awkward but attention-grabbing name for the venture will be, "Quest Loves Food powered by Graham Elliot."
"It's gonna be awesome," Elliot says. "I don't think there's been anything like it."
Most of us will be on the wrong side of the velvet rope for these private events, but Elliot still likes the idea of applying the venture's formula to more public events, such as music festivals.
"If we could get The Roots on board to do Lolla, put the two together, that'd be fun," he says.
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