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For 2 chefs in Detroit, music is a passion they can taste — literally

Vinyl Tasting runs pop-up dinners each month inspired by a different album. Here, guests dined on a meal centered around Frank Ocean's 2012 Channel Orange album.
Shanel Dewalt
Vinyl Tasting runs pop-up dinners each month inspired by a different album. Here, guests dined on a meal centered around Frank Ocean's 2012 Channel Orange album.

Updated February 22, 2023 at 5:48 PM ET

Jermond Booze is a chef. But when he first moved to Detroit after culinary school, he really moved for the music scene.

"I felt like this was the hip hop Mecca," he said.

Now, he's using his love for those beats and culinary talents for a new project called Vinyl Tasting. Once a month, Booze and Chef Amber Beckem host a three-hour, five-course dinner inspired by a favorite album.

Each dish on the menu matches a different song — and for an extra fee, a glass of wine.

"We pick an album that speaks to us," Beckem said. "We don't stick to one genre, we just go all through our playlists."

So far they've covered everything from Frank Ocean's 2012 Channel Orange to Stevie Wonder's 1976 Songs in the Key of Life.

Vinyl Tasting's January menu, based on Frank Ocean's 2012 album Channel Orange. Each of the five courses are based on a different song from the album.
/ Jermond Booze
/
Jermond Booze
Vinyl Tasting's January menu, based on Frank Ocean's 2012 album Channel Orange. Each of the five courses are based on a different song from the album.

"We try to pay homage to whatever artists that we're doing," she said. "So that could be from like their backgrounds, their favorite foods or even like what lyrics they say in the songs."

Sometimes that means taking straight from lyrics. In the song "Big Poppa" from The Notorious B.I.G.'s 1994 album Ready to Die, one line references "A T-bone steak, cheese, eggs and Welch's grape."

"He tells you a whole meal right there," Booze said. "It's like, all right, let's do something a little bit elevated with it. Let's play with it."

That line itself became a dish: a black garlic rub on a strip steak with a Japanese omelet and smoked grape reduction.

Other times, Booze and Beckem draw inspiration from the artist's background, the feelings that music evokes, or the production style.

For Frank Ocean's Channel Orange, their menu paid tribute to the artist's California roots with a spin off of In-n-Out's "animal style" fries.

In a nod to the song "Super Rich Kids," they dressed the dish up with high end ingredients like truffle cheese and braised onion caviar.

Last week, their dinner centered the late hip hop producer J Dilla, and his 2006 album, Donuts. Dilla was known for sampling songs to create new beats and died just three days after the album's release of Lupus complications.

The meal lined up with the city's annual Dilla Day, a festival that honors the Detroit-native.

For Booze, a longtime Dilla fan, it was a special menu.

"He was gifted with a talent that you had to be born with, almost," he said. "And that talent, that music touched me at 15, 16 years old."

Dilla's signature production style played a role in their inspiration for the menu, Booze said. For their first dish, which draws from the song "Gobstopper," they crisped up some chicken-wing-inspired brussel sprouts — a throwback to the nightclub.

"So I'm going to do the Brussels sprout wings, but like Dilla, I'm gonna chop up the Brussels sprouts to find different ways to use them inside the same dish," he said.

The menu also includes dishes inspired by coney dogs, a Detroit staple, and donuts for dessert.

The food might be high end, but they like to keep the energy laid back, Beckem said. A DJ plays special mixes throughout the night.

"I feel like every dinner, it just gets better and better," she said. "We want the dinners to be fine dining, but we didn't want to make them, like, stuffy."

In that way, the dinners are a way of paying tribute to musical icons, but also of connecting with fans and foodies alike. Booze said he's been impressed by the diversity of the turn out.

"We have regulars who come every month now, but definitely people come out for their favorite album," Booze said.

"You realize how deeply music impacts and is tied into people's life, and you just never know what artist is going to connect to what person."

Tickets can be bought in advance via Eventbrite. Beckem said they've gotten requests to know the upcoming albums as much as three months in advance.

They haven't planned that far out, she laughs. But their next menu in March will honor Erykah Badu for Women's History Month.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Carmen Molina Acosta
Carmen Molina Acosta (she/her) is a producer at Morning Edition, where she pitches and produces pieces and two-ways for the air and for the web. In February 2023, she helped produce the network's first bilingual State of the Union special coverage. In a past life, she worked in investigative journalism, where she dug into the use of solitary confinement against ICE detainees and the lack of protections for migrant workers during the pandemic. Her work has been published in The Associated Press and The Washington Post, among other outlets. Molina Acosta is trilingual and spent a year abroad living in central Italy and the south of France. She studied journalism and international development as a Banneker/Key scholar at the University of Maryland.