The undisputed coolest guy in New York is, of course, Ahmir Thompson, who you probably know as Questlove. He’s a musician with a day job. His band, The Roots is the house band for The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, a job they’ve had since Fallon was the host of Late Night. He has produced music for artists including Elvis Costello, Amy Winehouse, Jay-Z, and Erykah Badu. He somehow finds time to DJ at the Brooklyn Bowl every Thursday night, a gig he’s had for years. Oh, and he co-produced the soundtrack for a little musical called Hamilton– ever heard of it?
Today, he appeared in The New York Times– and not in its music section. For the last few years, Questlove has been quietly and slowly moving toward into the culinary world. Those of us who have followed his Instagram account for a long time, he was photographing and writing about his food at the very beginnings of the #foodporn craze. When he went to Jiro Ono’s restaurant, he enthusiastically posted a stream of photos documenting the experience:
In case you’re wondering: Yes! The food absolutely glistens just like it looks in the movie. I didn’t want to be “that guy” Who Instagram’s every bite… but by this point he understood our enthusiasm. So with his permission we respectfully took shots of our food before consuming. This is the semi fatty tuna, the 5th out of 19 pieces he made for us one at a time. #questtojiro
At one point, he decided to get into the restaurant game himself, and along with Stephen Starr (Morimoto, Upland, The Clocktower) who, like Questlove, is from Philadelphia, he opened Hybird in Chelsea Market. The restaurant served fried chicken drumsticks, and though reviews were favorable, it closed relatively quickly because it was losing money.
Today, The Times wrote about his most successful food endeavor to date: salons in his apartment that bring together chefs and “enough famous actors, writers and musicians to make a TMZ reporter weep.” He started doing them after Hybird closed, and they emerged from a concept he had started back in Philadelphia during The Roots’ beginnings. He used to bring Philadelphia chefs together with musicians. The chefs would cook, and the musicians would write music. Out of these gatherings emerged “Things Fall Apart,” the band’s breakthrough album that came out in 1999 and is still celebrated today.
It’s Questlove’s authenticity that separated him from the hoards of other celebrities who have tried to make the crossover into the food world. While others’ efforts are clunky, he rises above the fray because he’s genuine and cautious. He told the newspaper, “I’m very leery of my entry into the fraternity or sorority of these people.”
Chefs are eager to offer him a bid into their group. Included among the chefs at the last salon were Marcus Samuelsson, Danny Bowien, and Bill Telepan. Anthony Bourdain told The Times that Questlove is “a fully made member of the chef mafia.”
What’s next for him? He has a book called “Something to Food About: Exploring Creativity With Innovative Chefs,” which will be released in April.
Anyone know a way for us to get into the next food salon?
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