BY KATHERINE GOLDSTEIN
Normally, when Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, drummer for The Roots, food lover, and man about town has a few friends over at his downtown New York apartment, his go-to dinner strategy is ordering in from Han Dynasty. “I’ve never not witnessed a food orgasm when someone tries the spicy cucumbers.” He’s also a major fan of the dan dan noodles, and dubs the entire meal experience as “tantric.”
However, on this particular September evening, Questlove wasn’t serving his eclectic mix of guests transcendent Chinese takeout. Instead, he was hosting his third food salon, where he’s brought top-notch chefs together to cook for a group of his friends, who [this night] included Padma Lakshmi, Chris Rock, Eugene Mirman, andCarl Bernstein. Questlove describes the concept succinctly as a “high-brow potluck.”
The featured chefs for the evening each prepared a course. Paul Liebrandt from Brooklyn’s The Elm made a complexly flavored king crab–based mousse, where each bite was filled with a different and expected gem. Next, Michael Solomonov of Philadelphia’s Zahav, prepared a divine smoked lamb shoulder with saffron rice, black-eyed peas, and tahini. And the meal was ended on a perfect sweet note by DB Moderne’s pastry chef Ashley Bruze, who managed to highlight the last of the season’s strawberries paired with a frozen sheep’s-milk yogurt, for a light and elegant take on a classic strawberry shortcake. Solomonov, perhaps in a nod to the host’s proclivities, plated his lamb dish in a Chinese-food carryout box.
In terms of guests, Questlove hopes to have to a future salon, his wish list reflects his signature brand of nerd cool. He hopes his new “quasi-BFF” Fran Lebowitz, and Tonight Show colleague Jimmy Fallon will make it to future gatherings. He was shocked when one of his “bucket list” attendees, Bjork, showed up at the last food salon. “She was the first to arrive, and she asked if she could help with setting stuff up. I was like, ‘Bjork, what are you doing at my house?!” And she replied, “You invited me.”
In this video shared exclusively with Vanity Fair, go behind the scenes with the chefs and learn about the influences on their craft, watch them make their dishes, and hear guests’ reactions to the evening.