Choice Cuts: Chef Kurt Wewer dishes out the jams

In Choice Cuts we explore the space where music and food commingle. That’s why Kurt Wewer – chef at The Garlic Poet and Grain + Verse in New Cumberland and guitarist for the jam band Husky Pants & the Rail – is the perfect choice. He’s been playing guitar since he was five and cooking for almost as long.

Wewer sees a lot of similarities between creating music and food, especially when it comes to keeping his skills sharp, finding inspiration and his ability to improvise – whether on stage or in the kitchen.

Kurt Wewer The Garlic Poet“You’re always trying to create the most original music and the most original food,” says Wewer. “Improvisation with other musicians and listening to new music inspires me to create, and fresh seasonal produce inspires me to create. Fans of Husky Pants & the Rail expect it, and anyone that comes for the dining experience at The Garlic Poet knows they’re in for a unique food experience.” [Editor’s note: Speaking of fresh, seasonal ingredients, check out the new menu launching at Grain + Verse on July 22.]

The entire experience – not just the menu – at The Garlic Poet and Grain + Verse is curated, including the playlists. The music is carefully considered to enhance the dining experience. In fact, recent studies have shown that music can affect the way people taste food. Wewer himself chooses the playlists for each of the restaurants. He does his DJ thing in the kitchen, too, where he is constantly making playlists to keep his staff upbeat. Anyone who has worked in a kitchen knows there’s a rhythm to the work. Prepping food and service may require music with a little more energy. After service, the vibe might need to be a little more mellow.

“You kind of go through different phases. I’ll turn my cooks on to different music,” says Wewer. “We got into Jack White for one week and it was like Dead Weather, Jack White, White Stripes, everything you could imagine, and then that morphed into Queens of the Stone Age and we listened to that for awhile.”

Wewer – who is a huge Grateful Dead fan and even attended the band’s recent farewell concerts in Chicago while Grain + Verse streamed the shows – does listen to the Dead in the kitchen but likes to switch things up, too.

“My favorite playlist for our kitchen actually has no Dead on it at all. It’s Rage Against the Machine, the Oysterhead album, three or four Dead Weather albums, three or four Queens of the Stone Age albums and then an old-school Derek Trucks album where he’s just ripping it up the whole time. It’s all high-energy,” says Wewer. “We just let that go for hours and hours when we are really prepping hard and everybody is running around sweating bullets to get ready for service.”

We asked Wewer to prepare a special playlist of songs that get him pumped to get in the kitchen and create some symphonies for your taste buds. It wasn’t an easy task.

“If you press play on my iTunes library it plays for two months,” says Wewer. “I could pick 30 songs and it still wouldn’t be enough to represent what we love here in the kitchen.”

While a two-month trip through Wewer’s music library sounds like a great time, we instead asked him to whittle it down to six choice cuts.

*******

People Say – Portugal. The Man

“We all know the words. Unique band. Great sound. We’re running around wielding knives and singing this one.”

In the Fade – Queens of the Stone Age

“So many great songs to pick from with these guys. This one is a little different for them. Gets us pumped for service.”

Reba – Phish

“Live at Madison Square Garden on New Year’s Eve 1995. We are always “bagging and tagging” food in the kitchen.”

El Machete – Antibalas

“Afro-Cuban amazingness! Beat keeps going and going! Horn solos and section arrangements keep you on your toes! Great for groovin’ through the kitchen. I turned my entire kitchen on to Afro-Cuban music. It’s killer stuff.”

Hottentot – John Scofield with Medeski, Martin & Wood

“Killer jazz funk and we need that funk in the kitchen.”

Inca Roads – Frank Zappa

“11 minutes of pure Zappa bliss.” [Speaking of Zappa… Wewer’s band Husky Pants & the Rail are playing at “Conceptual Continuity – a tribute to the genius of Frank Zappa.” on August 8 at Tellus360 in Lancaster.]

 


 

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Mike Andrelczyk is a features editor for Fly Magazine. He is a graduate of Penn State University and currently lives with his wife Stacey in Strasburg. Interests include tennis, playing bad guitar, poetry (poems have appeared in Modern Haiku, The Inquisitive Eater and other journals) and oneirology – the study of dreams – mostly in the form of afternoon naps. His name appears in the title screen of Major League 2.

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