From Chefs to Musicians

It’s a remarkably short journey, going from a story about chefs to a story about musicians. Going from the frenetic, high-pressured world of a professional kitchen during rush in Chef’s Table to the seemingly more laid back, ivory-tinkling life of an itinerant pianist in Black Dust might feel like an odd leap, but let’s look at what makes these types of people tick.

It’s shockingly similar, and I thank a blog post on Harvest America Ventures that helped mesh this idea together better than I am probably capable. Let me take some of their thoughts and put them into play with my books Chef’s Table and Black Dust.

As an easy and obvious start, both professions require some kind of innate ability: the musician requires an ear for harmonic sound and the chef, an acute palate. Both can be honed and perfected, but without those core skills, being successful without them would be virtually impossible.

piano-801707_1280Their dedication to their craft can run along the lines of obsession. In Chef’s Table we often see Evan at home, fussing and stewing (I should apologize for the pun) over old recipes from his youth or new ones he is perfecting. And in Black Dust you will witness our itinerant pianist sitting down to his keyboard at every chance, to deepen a conversation, to manipulate the man he loves, to find the places in his heart that have been hidden away. And all the while, he’s whittling down to the core of the music that is inside of him.

They both rely on the combination of improvisation and organization to make their art sing. A chef must know what ingredients work well together, yet the constant repeat of those well-matched flavors will quickly run stale. So, he must improvise, test out new combinations, and rely on the science of cooking as a foundation to his creative mind. It was all Evan ached to do in Chef’s Table and was blocked at every turn by his closed-minded boss. And music is where we most think of the word improvisation, but without the frestaurant-922878_1280oundations of rhythm, harmony and melody, those improvisational trials would end up in cacophony. Even in his improvisational way of life in Black Dust, Toby has to learn to rely on the realities around him and of his past to improv his way back into Emmett’s life. It’s a theme of the book: Toby prefers to improvise; Emmett needs a script and a score. Emmett is organization of sound and Toby is the creative soar of art and together… well, you’ll have to read the book to find out.

And while there are so many other comparisons of these two dynamic personalities that make these professions successful, the most interesting to me is the parallel of rhythm. To prove my point, I actually went through my two manuscripts and found that in Chef’s Table, while speaking of the rhythm of the kitchen, of the sounds therein, of the movements needed to get the job done, I used the word 21 times. And in Black Dust, a book about two musicians finding their way back to one another, where we see performances and rehearsals, we see a man wracked with the need to get the music in his heart out onto the page, a story where the word “rhythm” probably could have worked in the title, I used it 24 times. On a page average, the importance of the word was virtually identical.

Rhythm, harmony and melody—you expect it on the musical stage. You’ll definitely find it in the heart of a good meal.

Chef’s Table is now available for purchase through Interlude Press and wherever books are sold. Black Dust will hit stores on April 7, 2016. Keep an eye out here for pre-sale information.

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