For 2 chefs in Detroit, music is a passion they can taste — literally
Updated February 22, 2023 at 5:48 PM ET
Jermond Booze is a chef. But when he first moved to Detroit after culinary school, he really moved for the music scene.
"I felt like this was the hip hop Mecca," he said.
Now, he's using his love for those beats and culinary talents for a new project called Vinyl Tasting. Once a month, Booze and Chef Amber Beckem host a three-hour, five-course dinner inspired by a favorite album.
Each dish on the menu matches a different song — and for an extra fee, a glass of wine.
"We pick an album that speaks to us," Beckem said. "We don't stick to one genre, we just go all through our playlists."
So far they've covered everything from Frank Ocean's 2012 Channel Orange to Stevie Wonder's 1976 Songs in the Key of Life.
"We try to pay homage to whatever artists that we're doing," she said. "So that could be from like their backgrounds, their favorite foods or even like what lyrics they say in the songs."
Sometimes that means taking straight from lyrics. In the song "Big Poppa" from The Notorious B.I.G.'s 1994 album Ready to Die, one line references "A T-bone steak, cheese, eggs and Welch's grape."
"He tells you a whole meal right there," Booze said. "It's like, all right, let's do something a little bit elevated with it. Let's play with it."
That line itself became a dish: a black garlic rub on a strip steak with a Japanese omelet and smoked grape reduction.
Other times, Booze and Beckem draw inspiration from the artist's background, the feelings that music evokes, or the production style.
For Frank Ocean's Channel Orange, their menu paid tribute to the artist's California roots with a spin off of In-n-Out's "animal style" fries.
In a nod to the song "Super Rich Kids," they dressed the dish up with high end ingredients like truffle cheese and braised onion caviar.
Last week, their dinner centered the late hip hop producer J Dilla, and his 2006 album, Donuts. Dilla was known for sampling songs to create new beats and died just three days after the album's release of Lupus complications.
The meal lined up with the city's annual Dilla Day, a festival that honors the Detroit-native.
For Booze, a longtime Dilla fan, it was a special menu.
"He was gifted with a talent that you had to be born with, almost," he said. "And that talent, that music touched me at 15, 16 years old."
Dilla's signature production style played a role in their inspiration for the menu, Booze said. For their first dish, which draws from the song "Gobstopper," they crisped up some chicken-wing-inspired brussel sprouts — a throwback to the nightclub.
"So I'm going to do the Brussels sprout wings, but like Dilla, I'm gonna chop up the Brussels sprouts to find different ways to use them inside the same dish," he said.
The menu also includes dishes inspired by coney dogs, a Detroit staple, and donuts for dessert.
The food might be high end, but they like to keep the energy laid back, Beckem said. A DJ plays special mixes throughout the night.
"I feel like every dinner, it just gets better and better," she said. "We want the dinners to be fine dining, but we didn't want to make them, like, stuffy."
In that way, the dinners are a way of paying tribute to musical icons, but also of connecting with fans and foodies alike. Booze said he's been impressed by the diversity of the turn out.
"We have regulars who come every month now, but definitely people come out for their favorite album," Booze said.
"You realize how deeply music impacts and is tied into people's life, and you just never know what artist is going to connect to what person."
Tickets can be bought in advance via Eventbrite. Beckem said they've gotten requests to know the upcoming albums as much as three months in advance.
They haven't planned that far out, she laughs. But their next menu in March will honor Erykah Badu for Women's History Month.
Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.