A formally trained musician paid not just for his ear but his smooth and deep voice—some kind of silky butterscotch sauce comes to mind—you’d half expect Terrance McKnight to keep his fridge stocked with a caviar, crème fraîche and a split of Champagne. But McKnight—WNYC’s weeknight host of the classical program Evening Music—is a much less classical man when it comes to cooking, even if he admittedly follows a similar score most of the time. A native of Ohio, he moved to Brooklyn almost exactly one year ago from Atlanta. As accomplished a pianist as he is a host, he’s not tickling the ivories as much these days: The baby grand wouldn’t fit through the front door of his Fort Greene brownstone basement apartment. Luckily for his friends this spring, however, the massive smoker and grill he brought from Georgia would.
Do you cook?
I cook maybe twice per week. Now, because of my schedule—I work from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m.—that means that I’m not here for dinner. And it also means that most of what I cook is breakfast stuff. Since I’m new to New York I don’t want stay in the house and cook.
In Georgia, you go to a huge grocery store on the corner of your block, and you have cars to load stuff into. When I came here I realized that I could just buy produce on the street.
So, has what you eat changed since you’ve moved here?
Yes. I eat more pizza.
You cooked before you came?
That’s a story in itself. I used to do quite a bit of cooking, and [here] I went through this string of dating these East and West African women who wouldn’t allow me to cook. And so I fell out of practice.
So, breakfast: What does it mean to you?
Breakfast means—so let me tell you, we had a health fair at WNYC, and I learned a few things about myself [he laughs]: That I needed to change my diet a little bit. So breakfast, first of all, it means eating breakfast now. Because you know, there’ll be times when I get home at 11:45 p.m., I’ll eat too late at night, and just kind of skip breakfast. So now, I eat either grits or oatmeal or, like, a bagel.
But this is my favorite, though [he’s pointing to a box of Morningstar Farms Veggie Sausage Patties]. Not the links. The links are bad, but the patties are great.
Do you eat meat?
Yes, but these [patties] are kind of . . . meatless.
You have chilled beer glasses. Is that actually for beer?
Yes, it is. I’ve got some chilled martini glasses in the back, too. And these are plantains that I bought, about 12 of them. I just cooked them all at once and bagged them. And this is my usual lunch right here: ground turkey. I don’t eat beef or pork, so I cook turkey or chicken—for health reasons.
What about the cigarettes in the freezer?
Somebody left these.
And what about the Arnold Health Nut Whole Grain bread and the Scotch bonnet peppers?
I actually try to go with, like, some kind of whole wheat, you know, 13 grain or something that says healthy. I kind of like that brand. So what I’ll do with those [peppers], if I make a tomato-based dish, I’ll just throw that in the sauce with some garlic. If I get sick or have a cold—because I have to use my voice, I try to not get sick, so oftentimes I’ll make soup, like chicken soup, and I’ll use them. I try to drink quite a bit of tea. That’s to kind of coat my voice, I guess.
Those are nice looking lentils, where did you get them? Have you cooked with them yet?
No, I haven’t. In fact, those lentils made it from Georgia.
What’s in your pantry?
Pepper. Salt. Maple syrup, for pancakes or oatmeal. Soy sauce. I got this [a huge $3.99 bag of unopened Tadijah Mahal curry powder] at a Jamaican grocery store in Bed-Stuy. Maybe I’ll put it in a chicken and rice dish. And this [a bag of Japanese dried seaweed], sometimes I’ll break it up and put it in my omelet, or sprinkle it in my salad.
You have a burned sprig of sage in your spoon rest?
I burn it for the smell. Someone showed me how to do it, oh, I don’t know, about 10 years ago?
Do you use your backyard for barbecues?
You know what? I brought this huge grill from Georgia, and I haven’t used it yet …. But I used to cook on it almost every night in Georgia. I have a cat. He likes to go outdoors, so that’s why I have backyard.