Rock, Recipes Collide in New Cookbook
Published: Monday, December 5, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, December 6, 2011 14:12
The term "tasty" is thrown around a lot in the music world.
There are tasty guitar solos and tasty jams, tasty lineups and tasty venues, and, of course, tasty little tunes. Basically, it's a word used any time music fans want to convey their approval.
Rarely in the music business, however, has the term served as a more suitable – and literal – description than in the case of the rock band-top chef collaboration, "The Recipe Project: A Delectable Extravaganza of Food and Music" (Black Balloon, $25. 116 pages).
This tasty new release, which hit stores in recent weeks, is part hardcover cookbook and part music CD, with recipes from, among others, San Francisco chef Chris Cosentino and New York's Tom Colicchio, Mario Batali and David Chang.
It comes courtesy of the Brooklyn band One Ring Zero, which has established a track record taking on improbable concepts and turning them into reality. This endeavor might just be the most unusual of the band's career.
"The original concept that I had was, wouldn't it be interesting to take recipes and set them to music and sing the recipes word for word?" says multi-instrumentalist Michael Hearst, who founded the eccentric modern-rock troupe One Ring Zero with Joshua Camp in 1998.
And, indeed, it did turn out to be interesting. If you've ever wondered how a recipe for shrimp remoulade or pickled pumpkin would sound as a song, then your answer awaits on the CD portion of the "The Recipe Project."
Hearst and his band of musical merrymakers began work on "Project" in 2008. It wasn't the first time that Hearst had the notion to mix music and food. His initial foray resulted in the 2007 solo work "Songs for Ice Cream Trucks," an album that delivers exactly what's promised.
"I was basically sick of hearing the same ice cream truck song. I thought, ‘Why hasn't any one written any new songs for ice cream trucks?'" Hearst says, as he explains the impetus to write a batch of new ice-cream-truck jingles. To his delight, the album is actually being used by 50-plus ice cream trucks.
One Ring Zero also previously had success with something similar to "The Recipe Project," the album As Smart as We Are, which featured lyrics from notable authors, including the Bay Area's own Dave Eggers. So, the musicians thought they knew what they were in for when they decided to approach famous chefs for recipes that they could then turn into songs.
As it turned out, it was much tougher.
"It was fairly difficult, actually," Hearst says. "Chefs are just insanely busy. The hard part was just getting in touch with them. They own five restaurants and do three TV shows and have a line of cheese graters. I'm sure they all thought (the project) was a little wacky."
Fortunately, Hearst had an "in" – his brother-in-law is Cosentino, the celebrity chef from San Francisco's Incanto restaurant and a past contestant on TV's "The Next Iron Chef."
Cosentino was the first chef to sign on for the project, contributing his recipe for brains and eggs. You hear that recipe, word for word, on Track 3 of the CD.
And you might just find yourself singing along to such lyrics as "Remove the brains from the water with a perforated spoon and place on a plate." (Cole Porter would be proud.)
"Working on this project with Michael was so much fun," Cosentino says. "It's not the normal interview with run of the mill questions. This was a full collaboration with food and music. And the outcome of my ‘Brains and Eggs' song is great. How could you not love it? Even better, my cooks love it!"
As if trying to sell recipes as lyrics was not a tall enough order, One Ring Zero decided to take it one step further and come up with arrangements that matched the chefs' musical tastes.
Cosentino is a big Beastie Boys fan, so One Ring Zero did the song "Brains and Eggs" as a kind of hip-hop jam. Aaron Sanchez, a celebrity chef in New York City, prefers traditional Mexican brass-band music – and that's exactly what he got with One Ring Zero's version of his recipe for "Pickled Pumpkin."
Michael Symon, a James Beard Foundation Award-winning chef who appears regularly on the Food Network, as well as ABC's new foodie talk show, "The Chew," is a metal-head, so the band rocked hard on his recipe for "Octopus Salad with Black-Eyed Peas."
One Ring Zero called upon many talented friends to help bring the project to life. Alt-rock pioneer Tanya Donelly (of Throwing Muses and Belly fame) and indie-pop star Claudia Gonson (Magnetic Fields) contributed vocals.
Now One Ring Zero is performing "The Recipe Project" material in concert.
Hearst says most fans seem to enjoy hearing the recipe-songs. He does, however, make sure to give them the back story behind the material, so they're not left to wonder why the band is singing about "one cup mayonnaise" and "one tablespoon white wine vinegar."
"In some of the shows, we've been projecting the recipes behind us," Hearst says. "If I could figure out how to do the ‘bouncing ball' thing, I'd do it."