Private touring chefs on the road: a well-travelled insider's perspective.
It is well known that music is food for the soul, but what is the fuel that gets musicians going and, most importantly, who are the rock star roadie chefs at the stoves?
Rolling on the road cheek-to-cheek with your favorite rock idols may be a dream come true but it is most certainly no picnic.
If every day a chef faces countless challenges, immersed in a very hectic environment, the personal chef of a rock star must face the impossible.
A personal chef on the road is in fact no ordinary person but someone who embraces adversity and ‘jams’ to the last-minute hitch with promptness and creativity. In order to have a first-hand experience of what cooking for the rock stars on our walls sounds like, I went straight to the source and asked the award winning celebrity chef John Quigley to give us a taste of his spicy tournees.
After managing several restaurants, today, together with his wife Gillian, Chef John Quigley is the successful restaurateur/patron of the well-established Red Onion, which opened its doors in the heart of Glasgow in 2005. However, he made his way from the bottom, first as a waiter in soho and later, at the very young age of 22, as the manager of the wine bar “Andrew Edmunds”. Since the beginning of his career, he has toured the world as a private chef for rock stars and celebrities like Bryan Adams, always channeling his passion for art into his casual but elegant dishes.
CGC: Why did you decide to go on tour with rock stars?
JQ: I wanted to travel and broaden my horizons and cooking knowledge.
CGC: How many times did you have this kind of experience? Was each time different from the other?
JQ: Absolutely, I toured for 10 years and each tour was completely different from the previous one. Different countries mean different food, different people as well as different diets.
CGC: What are the challenges a chef has to face on the road?
JQ: I believe that the main challenges are cooking and working out of your comfort zone. Each gig comes with different hurdles. For instance, one never knows whether there is electricity, running hot water, shops nearby to buy products to, and you always ask yourself if these will stock everything you need etc.
CGC: How do you bring all the things you need to prepare a meal with you?
JQ: Each tour has rig-flight cases with a mobile kitchen and basic dry store goods that will not spoil, as pasta, rice and tinned food.
CGC: How does travelling constrain your ability to choose what dishes to prepare?
JQ: You have to think on your feet and be flexible . Example: you decide to make a roast chicken dish for 60 persons or even one, then you go shopping and they have no chicken, as a consequence, you are forced to change the menu on the spot.
CGC How many people would you feed at a time?
JQ: As private chef to Bryan Adams only him and his band after the show but on a tour between 40 and 150 people.
CGC: Did you ever receive any bizarre request?
JQ: Yes, the Guns and Roses wanted 6 cans of pressurized cream and 12 barbecued reindeers.
CGC: Has any musician ever asked you to cook according to your feelings of the moment?
JQ: Mostly we cook what we are asked to but I like to cook according to where I am. Therefore, in Paris I would go to the market and make dishes like coq au vin or in Bologna I would prepare a fresh pasta.
CGC: What are the ingredients that ‘rock’ the most for you?
JQ: Fresh herbs, seafood and citrus fruits.
CGC: With which food would you personally pump a rock star up and with which would you calm them down?
JQ: Chilli spiced thai or Mexican food to pump them up and traditional comfort food like mash potatoes to calm down.
CGC: Did you ever have a special connection to the music played by the musicians you cooked for?
JQ: I definitely loved the music of Paul McCartney and hearing old Beatles tunes was magical.
CGC: What inspired you on the road?
JQ: Different countries, different ingredients and people.
CGC: What changes when you cook ‘in movement’ in respect to when you are in your own kitchen?
JQ: What changes on tour is that every day is different from the other, every day you have to start from the beginning as you cannot prepare ahead and refrigerate the food.
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