For years we’ve said that chefs are the new rock stars. Now, two high-profile local chefs—Duff Goldman, from Charm City Cakes West and Food Network’s Ace of Cakes, and Bruce Kalman, from Union and soon-to-open Knead and Co Pasta Bar—are putting that theory to the test. They’re trying to be actual rock stars—like, with guitars and bright lights and everything. The two started “LA’s #1 chef-led alternative rock cover band,” and it’s called Foie Grock. Because of course it is.
“We tossed around a lot of names,” Kalman says. “Bread Zeppelin. Meatshop Boys. A Flock of Meatballs. Oreo Speedwagon. Limp Brisket.” The food-music puns are endless.
It makes sense, really. A kitchen crew is like a band on so many levels; words like rhythm, harmony, lead, and backup can be used for both. People need to gel in the kitchen, flavors meld on the plate, and it all has to come out pleasing the general public. “I think the bass is like the salt in any dish. The bass brings all the other sounds together. The bass is bridge between rhythm and harmony. It’s the midway point between the drums and the guitar,” says Goldman, who plays bass in the group. He goes on to equate the drums with the protein, the piece everything else is built upon, and the guitar is the sauce. “The bass and the drums make the meat of the dish taste meaty, the guitar gives it the FLAVOR.”
Foie Grock came together rather, um, organically. Kalman and Goldman were standing next to each other at an event, and someone told them they looked like they were in a band. “Well I do sing and play guitar,” Kalman said. “And I play bass,” Goldman replied. And there you have it—magic.
Along with Kalman on lead guitar and vocals and Goldman on bass, the rest of the band includes a few others in the local food world, even if tangentially. Drummer Francis Castagnetti is general manager at Union in Pasadena, and guitarist Ben Offenberg works for Resy, the reservation app. Only Jeff Liffman, who plays keyboards and sings back up vocals, is the professional musician. But he’s a “serious eater” the others say.
Before, or most likely while, the two chefs were coming up in the ranks, both have played instruments for years, even publicly. “I played in a Jersey rock band for awhile,” Kalman says. “We opened for Meatloaf!” Goldman has a more storied past on stage with several Baltimore bands: Big Mama Cotton Crotch; the “post-rock” soihadto; Danger Ice, a psychobilly Elvis cover band; and Two Day Romance, an Emo band that “almost got signed by Sony,” he says. “Thank God we didn’t or I wouldn’t be cooking today.” Two of Goldman’s bands included other chefs he worked with at the time.
“Kitchens and bands are just groups of talented sociopathic individuals all trying to coexist and work towards a common goal. If one guy isn’t doing their job, then the whole group is affected,” Goldman says. “Also, they’re both jobs that you don’t make a lot of money doing, they both have long hours and require years and years of training, and they are both incredibly difficult to get right. They are both jobs that you have to love with deepest part of your soul in order to succeed.”
The group performs hits from bands like Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, Animals, Foo Fighters, and Black Crows. “Covers, so everyone can sing along, and mostly stuff we listened to in high school and college,” Goldman adds. “The band really wants to play “Lighting Crashes” by Live, but I kinda hate that song.”
You can catch Foie Grock’s first public appearance this week, on Thursday, October 1, at Room 5 in West Hollywood. Tickets are $10 (get them here), which is cheaper than anything you’ll eat at either chef’s spots. Proceeds from this performance will help a friend and fellow Union manager recently diagnosed with cancer cover medical costs for her treatment (find more info on their Gofundme page). As for when they’ll play next, Kalman says as much as they can. “It just all depends on our busy schedules.” Rock and roll, people. Rock. And. Roll.