Gelinaz goes musical with NAH BGM: 3 questions for Andrea Petrini

Andrea Petrini, the God of Food, as named by the media, is the legendary food journalist who “eats chefs for breakfast” as another media called him. A super well-traveled foodie who ate everywhere and everything and a dear friend to many of us, the founder of the Gelinaz collective that provokes and connects chefs, is creating another Gelinaz series where chefs will connect with musicians to create crazy wonderful events. Like in most Gelinaz events, there are not many hard rules, there is a lot of freedom instead, so each event will be different. No space for boredom and routine, just lots of excitement and creativity.

We suggest you read this interview while listening to the music chosen by Andrea Petrini.

So what does food mean to Andrea Petrini?

Food is a necessity throughout our entire life. But besides looking at it as a necessity, I see it also as a lexicon that can be pleasant, interesting, progressive, retrograde. It has its own grammar with a wealth of linguistic possibilities which gives us a way to express ourselves. There are foods that I find really interesting and others that are reactionary. I have always been interested in the progressive cooking. Also at home, when I cook, without pretending to be Robuchon or Redzepi, I use the ingredients in an intelligent way with respect towards the produce, nutritional values and hygiene. The situation in the restaurants is more complicated – there is also a commercial factor, the image of the chef etc. but if you can afford it, food becomes a space of freedom, freedom of expression and choice – at the restaurants as well as at home. Sadly, very often I find the approach to food in the restaurants even more routine than the one of me cooking at home.


And music?

Music is for me a necessity as well. Putting on some music is one of the first things I do when I wake up. It accompanies me through the day in whatever I do – when I read, write, cook and also when I am unsuccessful in putting the dishes into the dishwasher. It will be different based on my mood and also based on my activity. Of course, I will not listen to Napalm Death if I need to write an important article. It needs to conciliate with the mental and physical activity of the moment, but  I am not limiting myself to a particular genre. I could start the day listening to chamber music moving then to some good old electronic and while working I may hear the news of the new album of The National which will make me jump on it immediately. With the streaming, the possibilities are limitless so I may then move to Blur’s Magic Whip which is perfect for when I cook something non-demanding. If I start cleaning peas I will put some ethereal music like the one by Hildur Guðnadóttir or it could be Max Richter. Then there are new things that you keep in your mind for months like music by the British musician Tirzah. Her last album Trip9love is spectacular, so far above most of the music we find today. She is a real Gelinaz and if one day we could do something with her, I would be the happiest man on the Earth.


What about music and food? What provoked the idea of NAH BGM?

The chefs are pretty predictable, they often lack fantasy, creativity and auto-reinvention. You have a small or middle-sized restaurant and everything has to work in a certain way – from the position of the seats to the lighting. There is a way of plating the dishes and the storytelling. Everything is planned and copied like a script. There is less and less space for improvisation and unexpected. Today practically all fine dining restaurants work with this f*****g tasting menu which keeps you at the table for hours and which puts those who cook it every day for three or more months in a situation where they need to do always the same movements, same portions. Already in the morning, they know how many people will come to dine with them and how many times they will have to reproduce every single dish. We always talk about contemporary cuisine as a creative cuisine but to me, it seems that there is less and less creativity, more repetition, like walking on fixed trails. Practically all top chefs are control freaks who want to have everything under control. And there is one thing that all of them have in common – From the United Kingdom to the USA, from Japan to Denmark, from Spain to Slovenia no chef really cares about music because nobody ever seriously thought about it. They are not aware of the profession of a sound designer who can design the sound and add a new dimension to your fashion shop, art gallery or restaurant. The music used in most restaurants is the same as the one used in a lift. Or if you go to one of the classic French three Michelin-starred restaurants it can happen to you to dine listening to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, like it happened to me. Or if you go to eat in a trendy restaurant in New York you may end up leaving a restaurant half deaf because of the powerful basses. What you get to listen to is not well-studied music but just a random Spotify playlist of the chef or a team member just to fill the void. If you go to Momofuku, where Chang is interested in music or if you go to Sillon by Mathieu Rostaing Tayard who is also into music, the playlist may be a bit more interesting, but nobody, with all the opportunities they have, has thought of music seriously. When a football player, actor or a top model visits their restaurant, they will publish a selfie on Instagram, but with all the musicians that dined in their place, they have never thought of asking a musician who frequently visits their restaurant and knows well their food and guests, to create a soundtrack interpreting the restaurant as they do for the fashion shows where an avant-garde fashion designer will use a completely different music than for example Gucci. I am not talking about music that would be composed to accompany a menu with single dishes but music that is created as an accompaniment to the functionality of a restaurant. Working with the rhythm of the service or contrasting it to modify the choreography of the restaurant. Music shouldn’t be figurative, it should be a linguistic element that adds to the whole experience.

So I got this idea because this is something that I am missing and I believe it needs to happen. There are many chefs who have a great culture and are well read but they lack musical understanding. They understand the concept but don’t have enough knowledge to choose a musician and engage him within their restaurant. On the other side, if you talk to the musicians who frequent their restaurants, they all suffer from the lack of music in restaurants or, even worse, suffer from terrible musical choices. The same chefs who are ignorant about the importance of music in the restaurant may even work with a perfume designer to create a scent for their restaurant for example. So I wanted to be a bit of a troublemaker getting the chefs to acknowledge the importance of music in the restaurant. Even Eric Satie, who was a bit of an inventor of ambient music, said that his music should be accompanied by the sounds of knives and forks at the table.

This event will be different from the previous Gelinaz events – each of the NAH BGM events will be as different as the participating restaurants. For example, Narisawa engaged in his performance a group of Japanese classical musicians with acoustic instruments as a celebration of Japan returning to normal life after the long Covid restrictions which have for two years isolated Japan from the rest of the world. This was like a ritual performance. At Le Palegrié de Guillaume Monjuréit there was a very classic intimate and pleasant performance with electro-acoustic guitars with a natural wine called Sunset sipped at the sunset while in Biarritz we expect an avant-garde performance which even will not happen at Sillon but in an open space in the countryside. It will not be structured as a dinner but as a long space to walk through with sounds created with the synthesizer in syntony with whatever Mathieu Rostaing Tayard will do. I don’t know what exactly will be happening, but it will not be your usual dinner with a classic menu. There will be nibbles, liquids, and spoons to taste different flavours and textures. There will be fifty shades of different ingredients served in different ways and using different techniques with the finish at the fire where the chef and his team will prepare meat. It will be a long performance in which guests will get earphones to listen to music while moving through the event which will start at around 4 pm and finish at around 9 pm. It will not be a dinner but a culinary and musical happening with zero compromise. David and Matthieu decided to forget all the stereotypes of music and cooking and create something unique. David Chalmin is a genius in music – he masterfully moves between a classical virtuoso and a rock star, and Mathieu is impossible to label as well  – his cuisine is not part of a fine dining scene and also not bistronomy, so we have here a chef and a musician who wonderfully play with the cutting edge. It will be an exciting event.

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