What was your first concert?
In 1983 I saw The Who at Shea Stadium. David Johansen and the New York Dolls and The Clash opened. I started playing guitar when I was young and was a huge Pete Townshend fan. He was one of my heroes growing up and during the show, of course, broke a couple guitars. I was pretty impressed. That year was good musically for me because later I saw The Grateful Dead play Madison Square Garden and that changed everything.
So you’re a fan?
I spent my senior year of high school running all over the place to catch as many shows as possible. And then when I got to college it was full on, be it New Year’s in San Francisco or traveling around.
OK, then, what is your Grateful Dead–inspired dish?
The black sea bass dish that we do, with the multicolored beets and the green oil and the beet juice on the plate, is somewhat psychedelic. There is a green arugula pesto underneath the bass and a red-and-white quinoa salad seasoned with shallots, parsley and hazelnut oil, which is all a color contrast. Plus it’s playful and fun, like the Dead’s music.
When you worked with Jean-Georges, did you guys talk about music?
I think he likes music. A funny story, we were in Germany driving to his hometown outside Strasbourg and I had a couple of Dead tapes with my, like two shows from ’68, and Wylie [Dufresne] was sitting in the back seat of this tiny car we rented and we popped in those tapes and listened to them the entire way. It’s funny to think we were listening to the Boys on the way to Jean-Georges’ home in France.
Have musicians ever found their way into your kitchen?
When I was working at Dune in the Bahamas I sat down and had a beer with The Edge and Bono for like 20 minutes. I don’t think music came up once. It was all food. The Edge was talking about a pasta dish he had the night before and some of the pasta dishes he has at the places he owns. We were just banging ideas.
What do you play in the front of the house?
We have an iPod, which makes it so much easier than CDs. We broke the playlist up into different shifts, like 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. and 9 p.m. to midnight, so things will change over the evening. And then I will pop on a funky Friday-night mix and a late-night mix. There’s a lot of Allman Brothers in there, some Stevie Ray Vaughn with Albert King and The Beatles. I tried to get a lot of good live stuff in there. For dining, the bass line is really important, because if you have a good bass line your foot will start tapping, and I think rhythm is important on every level, especially in the dining room where people are settling into the meal.
How do you determine if a song is right for 6 p.m. and a song is right for 1 a.m.?
You get a lot of ballads out early, as well as the Miles and Dylan songs. Also, we play a lot of low-key reggae like Toots, Bob Marley and Israel Vibration, all the roots stuff.
And about the back of the house. Josh Eden, what is playing on your Kitchen Radio?
We have the iPod going in the kitchen as well as some CD mixes. It’s such a wide range of stuff and really depends who is closest to the controls. But the kitchen staff is really into music, which can be bizarre. There will be guys singing along to Pearl Jam or Nirvana, people you never would had thought would be into it. And when the Beasties come on, everybody gets excited. We don’t play music during service, but during prep time we play music with rhythm. I love throwing on “Welcome to the Jungle” right before service to pump everybody up.
If you could hire any band—dead or alive—to play your restaurant’s opening party, who would it be?
I would have to say Gov’t Mule. My neighbors would kill, but it would be great. I have never met them before, only at album signings but not really. That would be really cool.
Photo by Melissa Hom