Enjoy a plate of Clásico ceviche with an ice-cold Chicha Morada at Ceviche. Photograph courtesy of Ceviche
We asked three DJs-turned-restaurateurs why musicians are raving their way from the clubs to the kitchens.
Food and music have played central parts in cultures across the world from the year dot, with the former providing rich inspiration to artists of all stripes. But more recently there has been a tangible, bricks-and-mortar link between the two with a trend for DJs giving up their turntables to turn tables in their own restaurants.
It’s dovetailed with a broader cultural shift. The cult status of different cuisines and the chefs behind them has taken off as food becomes better understood as an art form. Whether it’s the popularity of TV chefs and their spin-off series or the ubiquity of pop-ups, food trucks and supper clubs, our culinary creators no longer languish in basements, with the rise of the open kitchen putting them front and centre in many modern restaurants and elevating their status to that of performer. More of us are talking about and tracking the movements of celebrity chefs and food entrepreneurs, and the scrum to get into new openings mimics the buzz associated with hot new bands.
So what about when the two scenes meet? There’s a rich pedigree of musical mavericks turning their skills to food and drink, from techno titan Mr Richie Hawtin training as a sake master and LCD Soundsystem’s Mr James Murphy opening a Brooklyn wine bar to the likes of Mr Paul Oakenfold, Moby and Questlove all opening their own establishments. Perhaps it’s the pressure-cooker environment, the pleasing of patrons or the attention to craft and technique that each trade entails, which leads to musical tastemakers trying their hand in the kitchen. Of course, not all work out.
We grilled three top DJs who also run successful restaurants on the pressure, the glamour and – of course – the soundtrack.
Mr Martin Morales, Ceviche and Andina
“The minute we open our restaurant, the performance starts,” says Ceviche founder Mr Martin Morales, of his open kitchens. The London-based Peruvian is a world-music DJ and founder of Tiger’s Milk Records, and has worked with everyone from Mr Lee “Scratch” Perry to The White Stripes to The Muppets.
Photograph courtesy of Ceviche
Having now transferred his keen eye to both of his critically acclaimed London kitchens, Ceviche and Andina, Mr Morales sees a link between the work of musicians and chefs. “Be it chopping, sizzling, steaming or frying, all have different sounds, techniques and risk,” he says. “Being up close and feeling that energy makes it exciting to watch. There’s a lot of rhythm in what we do and the best kitchens have a real groove to them.”
Mr Morales grew up in Peru, where food was “even more important than politics, sex and love” – a way of life that accompanied him when he relocated to the UK and travelled the world as a DJ. Launching Ceviche in 2012 gave Morales the chance to showcase Peru’s trademark dishes and he claims that witnessing these colours, tastes and smells can be just as exciting as seeing a guitar solo.
Pato Estilo el Cántaro (Naranjilla and panca chilli braised duck leg, Peruvian purple potatoes, sweet potato puree, red vine sorrel). Photograph courtesy of Ceviche
Having recently collaborated with Mr Gilles Peterson and dubstep producer Mala on Peruvian-inspired album Mirrors, Morales likens the creation of menus to compiling a record. “It’s putting together a series of songs to tell a story,” he says. “The guys on the grill, the pastry chefs and those on the veg section all have to work harmoniously to create a flavour together and they’ve all got to season that song in some way and get it sizzling. In the studio when a song’s really hot, we say that it’s cooking – there’s a lot of crossover in terminology.”
In a former life, he held senior roles at iTunes Europe and Disney and helped up the careers of Ms Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers.
Seth Troxler, Smokey Tails
After three years of hosting pop-ups and perfecting his recipes, US techno DJ Mr Seth Troxler launched his Smokey Tails barbecue restaurant in London in April. The Hoxton hotspot serves Midwestern modern cuisine, recalling his grandfather’s barbecues where the whole family would bring a dish and taste, talk and eat. “I’m a fat kid in recovery – I love to eat,” says Mr Troxler. “Food and music are soul-feeding – no matter what background you have, they both connect you.”
Photograph by Mr Mark Whitfield. Mr Seth Troxler (above), photograph by Mr Will Calcutt
His eye for hosting stems from a career as one of the world’s most bankable DJs (he topped Resident Advisor’s DJ poll in 2012 and now runs three record labels), which has seen him travel from city to city making a point of trying local dishes. “It left a mark on my soul,” says Mr Troxler. “Now I see myself as a curator – be that putting on events and parties, designing menus and deciding on set lists. I see this venture as an expression of how an artist lives his life.”
For Mr Troxler, the best dining experiences include good food as a central element, but also depend on other factors. “So much is down to how great a time you’re having: who you’re with, whether you’ve had a few drinks and are feeling comfortable and yourself,” he says. “It’s fun to host and make people feel good – that’s why I love DJing so much.”
Smoked lamb ribs with asparagus and anchovy butter. Photograph by Mr Whitfield
Having amassed a cult following as a DJ, it will come as no surprise that his music policy is carefully considered. “It’s one record at a time, played in full and on vinyl. And no dance music,” he says. “I don’t like the idea of constant hit after hit after hit. Music should be in the background, soft and barely there – it’s not the point of the dining experience.”
Mr Layo Paskin, The Palomar
Having DJed from the age of 16, Mr Layo Paskin gained notoriety co-founding London nightclub The End in 1995, performing tech-house and breakbeat as its resident DJ and – as half of Layo & Bushwacka! – touring the world. In 2014, he pivoted into restaurants with The Palomar in Soho, a Jerusalem-inspired dining room with a long, 19-seater bar right in front of the kitchen that he opened with his sister. “We wanted to open a restaurant that combined great food and a very easy and hospitable atmosphere with a cool aesthetic,” he says. “It was born out of thinking about cooking in an integral way, with recipes passed down through generations that have real soul to them.”
Yemeni pot-baked Kubaneh bread with tahini and velvet tomatoes. Photograph by Ms Helen Cathcart
For Mr Paskin, it seemed a natural progression. His early passion stemmed from learning to cook with his grandmother and developed when he started DJing. “While running The End, hospitality was always central,” he says. “Then as a DJ, it grew to being something I could enjoy all round the world as I toured, which – by the end – became DJing on the side and with food the first priority.”
Photograph by Ms Helen Cathcart