What musicians have visited Red Cat?
Probably the biggest name was Paul McCartney. Somebody called me and asked what was on the menu and I was like, “I don’t know, it’s a small restaurant what do you want?” They were like, “We have a very important person who would like to have lunch, but he is a vegetarian.” I was like, “Yeah, so…”
Did you accommodate his needs?
I told them that rest assured I will make that person whatever they wanted, so stop on by. They wouldn’t tell me who it was, so when he walked in it was pretty great. I made him some vegetable risotto, which I think he liked. Joni Mitchell was really fun. She ended up staying here for, like, three hours, just talking to anybody who wanted to come up. Just sitting around drinking and telling stories. Can I tell you any of them? Not really.
There must be more celebrity dish…
I used to be a chef at this fabulous restaurant, and Madonna used to come in all the time. One time she told me that she didn’t like anything on the menu and asked for me to make her something different. I was fine with it as long as it was me telling her what to eat. No problem. I made her this dish, and she loved it. Two days later Scottie Pippen came in and said he didn’t like anything on the menu and asked for the dish I made Madonna. I was like, that’s cool. People are talking. Scottie Pippen is talking to Madonna.
Ah, that was probably during her Dennis Rodman days. Brutal. What was this fabulous dish?
It was the same dish I made for Bill Clinton, who as you know has weight issues, so he couldn’t eat everything. But I respected that he didn’t want to take anything apart, so I made him this pasta dish, which actually has a very little bit of pasta in it. It’s simple: salmon, garlic, broccoli rabe, olive oil and lemon zest.
What was your first concert?
Queen in 1974 at the Philadelphia Spectrum. I started going to a lot of shows when I was seven or eight. I love the way loud music feels. When you can feel the reverb and bass of the percussion in your chest, there is nothing like that.
What rock star did you want to be?
I was in the Kiss Army. But Peter Frampton was pretty good, too.
What was the last concert?
I saw the Red Hot Chili Peppers recently. I usually go to shows with friends or employees. I saw this great band called The Mosquitoes at Arlene’s Grocery. They mix samba and rock, which is pretty interesting.
What music do you play at Red Cat?
We have a number of playlists in our touch screen computer, which was made by one of our longtime bartenders. We have over 20,000 songs to pick from and a lot of playlists, so we will do anything from Coltrane and Genesis to “Candyman” by Hot Tuna. Where are you going to hear that in a restaurant?
What about in the kitchen?
The Clash, old Rod Stewart, Led Zeppelin. I’ll throw on “Exile On Main Street” if I really want to jam.
If there was a band that represented your cooking, who would it be?
The Rolling Stones. If you trace the Stones’ lineage, from blues to rock to pop and ballads, they really are all over the place. “Some Girls” has disco beats. “Start Me Up” was pop. They really have the ability to stay current, which is what I want to be in the restaurant business. I would like to grow with the customers and the neighborhood.
So what is your Rolling Stones dish?
The thing that interests me the most is brevity because it’s much easier to add an ingredient then take one away. I am into things that are pure, which is how the Stones play music. Charlie Watts is one of the simpler drummers. He rarely uses fills, which is how I cook. Our sautéed zucchini is a good example. People normally want a bang for their buck with foie gras, lobster or scallops, so they don’t think of ordering zucchini. But when people do order it, they think it’s a great dish—and it’s made out of four ingredients. It’s a statement of my purity and straightforward, simple nature.
What are the four ingredients?
Zucchini, almonds, pecorino cheese and olive oil. On their own, they could be great. Could be lackluster. But when you put it together, it is unmistakable. And unmistakable who made it.
Photo by Melissa Hom