Who are you?
Chef, Percussionist, Writer, Reprobate and Lover of all things beautiful & delicious. A loyal, outspoken, left-of-center, fair-minded, heart on sleeve kinda guy. Mensch-“ish” with a side of sarcasm.
What do you do?
Currently, I’m shopping my manuscript of a series of personal profiles I’ve written called Home Cookin’— The stories behind the food. It documents the lives of ordinary people, often in times of extraordinary circumstances, with the common thread being that they’re all great cooks. Think Studs Terkel meets Julia Child. Everyone has a good story and it’s just up to you to find it, which can be quite a challenge. I’ve partnered with the Chicago Community Trust to publish them quarterly. Here’s the first installment, a profile on Zaheena Aziz—maid, mother and Ethiopian refugee. Here’s another link to recipes.
I’ve been a musician my entire life and play around 60 percussion instruments. I was a session guy in Los Angeles and have worked with world-class talents such as Madonna and Bryan Ferry. I’ve written songs forever, and in 2000 started writing nonfiction, including over 40 feature articles and an E-book on the history of garlic called The Garlic Manifesto.
I started cooking professionally in the early 80’s to subsidize my music, eventually garnering a 4 diamond award and a 3-star food rating from California Food Writers Association. Between music and food, I’ve played or worked in Chicago, Japan, Zurich, Dublin, Mumbai, Côte d’Azur, Toronto, Maui, LA, Phoenix, Miami, Palm Beach, and Vegas.
For the last nine years, I volunteer to teach drums and percussion at an after-school mentoring program for at-risk kids in Albany Park called Asian Youth Services. I’ve also been cooking Christmas dinner for 200+ at the Salvation Army Harbor Light Mission Freedom Center with a few of my friends for at least as long.
I’m not good at things I don’t love, so I go back and forth between these three things that I do love, which can be quite tricky when it comes to paying bills. Early on, I was taught that we are here not just to consume, but to contribute. My parents were adamant about justice and (hopeful) of karma, as am I. They led by example and taught me well.
Where would I be? Traveling the world doing what I do: playing music, cooking and writing/researching what will end up on the page.
How do you collaborate with others to realize your vision?
I work with talented people that I respect, and that makes my work better with their contributions. Let them do their thing while guiding gently.
What are up to ten milestones that you’d like to achieve?
There’s very little value in content these days, and monetizing it is quite difficult when most everything you want (content wise) can be found free on the internet (there’s a generation that’s never bought music, and who reads books these days?) so outside of cooking, earning a decent living from my talents would be nice. It’s a constant hustle and unfortunately, you can’t pay the rent with “likes” from Facebook or Twitter.
There are many causes I’d support, be it with time or money. For instance, besides teaching there, funding Asian Youth Services would top my list. The work done in that crowded storefront changes lives, I’ve seen it firsthand, but their shoestring budget keeps them in constant fear of closing… the internet gets turned off or the hot meals provided become sandwiches. An angel is definitely in need.
Not that I alone could achieve this, but I’d help repeal/eliminate Citizens United, which to me is the worst Supreme Court decision of my lifetime. Taking the big (and hidden) $ out of politics would help give the government back to the people while taking it out of the hands of the special interest groups currently running the show.
I don’t believe corporations should be accorded the same rights as people, or that being rich gives you better judgment. The current oligarchy is repugnant to me, with the orchestrated war on facts one of the biggest dangers we face as a nation. An informed electorate is paramount to a functioning democracy. See what the founding fathers had to say about it if there’s any question.
And then, there’s sensible gun control…
Who inspires you?
My fiancé, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Studs Terkel, Salomon Rushdie, Escoffier, Elmore Leonard, Lynd Ward, Tony Bourdain, John Lennon, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, any journalist uncovering hidden truths like Louise Mensch or David Farenthold, and every person that goes out of their way to help someone else.
Judging by the list, you could say I’m an old hippy (and you’d be right). To quote a favorite song “What’s so funny about peace, love, and understanding?” I’d prefer that over what we’ve got today.
If you are interested in more info on donating to this cause, click here.
Also,, check out the first Dent in the World post.