If The Recipe Project is like no cookbook you’ve ever seen, that’s because it’s primarily intended to be heard. Its recipes—including Tom Colicchio’s Creamless Creamed Corn and David Chang’s Maine Jonah Crab Claws with Yuzu Mayonnaise—do come in printed form, but that’s just the appetizer. The main course is a CD of 12 recipes set to song, and it’s a feast for the ears.
One Ring Zero—a Brooklyn band led by Park Slope composer Michael Hearst—didn’t just ask chefs to contribute a recipe, which he and bandmate, Joshua Camp, used as lyrics. They also asked the cooks what style of music their recipe should be set to. So Michael Symon’s Octopus Salad with Black-Eyed Peas got the hardcore heavy metal treatment; New Orleans’s John Besh went with zydeco for his Shrimp Remoulade (natch); Chris Cosentino envisioned his Brains and Eggs recipe as white-boy rap, and the result could be a Beastie Boys B-side. And that crab claws song sounds just like the indie rock band Magnetic Fields, per Chang’s direction. Hearst even enlisted their singer, fellow Brooklynite Claudia Gonson. (“Four pounds frozen Jonah crab claws,” he and Gonson sweetly sing, “one cup Kewpie mayonnaise.”)
Aaron Sanchez threw Hearst for a loop when he asked that his Duck Breast with Dulce de Leche Ancho Chile Glaze sound like Mexican banda, which typically includes tuba, trumpet, clarinet and sax. “We’re basically a duo,” says Hearst, “and we don’t play brass,” but the track turned out hot as a habanero. Easier was the classic rock interpretation of Colicchio’s creamed corn—the chef, who plays guitar, liked it so well he’s agreed to co-perform it.
Only in one case did the band use an existing song: “A Night in Tunisia” by Art Blakey became the backing track for “Tunisian-Tinged Drumsticks” created by our very own photo editor, Michael Harlan Turkell.
The book includes interviews with chefs on the relationship between playlist and pantry, plus essays by famous food writers like Melissa Clark and John T. Edge. A piece by Mark Kurlansky poetically explains how to eat a peach.
How did Hearst score so many members of the culinary nobility? “The fact that I was asking them to set a recipe to music that I would then sing was just weird enough,” guesses Hearst, “that they were like, ‘yeah, I want to do this.’”
One Ring Zero’s work is unconventional: The band—which also includes musicians Ian Riggs, Ben Holmes and Timothy Quigley—has done albums about literary figures, ice cream truck jingles and the planetary system. Each allowed Hearst to dig deep into a topic, but this is likely the only one to improve the musician’s ability to make dinner: He now has 12 recipes committed to memory, verbatim.
“I woke up singing Mario Batali’s ‘Spaghetti with Sweet 100 Tomatoes,’ ” says Hearst, and I was, like, ‘Oh, I know how to make it!’”
To hear our photo editor’s interview with Michael Hearst, go to his weekly show The Food Seen at HeritageRadioNetwork.com