Complaining that busy lives preclude shopping for fresh ingredients and making home-cooked meals, most people rely on shortcuts that include fast food, prepared meals, or bowls of cereal for dinner.
Imagine how you would eat if you were living the life of a rock star, traveling from city to city, performing for hours before thousands of screaming, out-of-their-minds fans.
For big-name musical groups, sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll don’t cut it anymore. Healthy, freshly prepared meals are the order of the day.
To see just how it’s done, I hooked up with Green Day in the fall when they were performing south of Los Angeles at the Irvine Amphitheater.
Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt and Tré Cool like to tour. Preferring one-night performances in each city, they are continually on the move. In the last two years, they traveled throughout Europe, Southeast Asia, Japan, the United States and Latin America. On show nights, they always eat at the same place, in the tents set up behind the stage, and they always eat food prepared by caterers Sean Stone, who is the head chef, and Steve Jenkins, the chef, from the London catering company, Eat Your Hearts Out, and served to them by runner, Steve Ricalis, a Toronto native.
On show night, a 14-hour day is typical for the catering crew. When they’re moving from town to town, after the concert, instead of heading to a motel, the crew loads into the bus. Before Irvine, the last concert was in Arizona. “We drove all night and slept on the bus,” Stone said. “When we arrived at 10 a.m. in Irvine, we went shopping at Whole Foods and H Mart, a Korean-Chinese supermarket. Then we started cooking.”
While Stone and Jenkins were shopping, Ricalis set up the kitchen.
Whether the band is performing in Lisbon, Bangkok, Dallas, Los Angeles, Rio de Janeiro or Lima, the chefs shop locally, use the freshest ingredients, and prepare each meal to order.
They do all this in less-than-hospitable circumstances.
Makeshift kitchen, fresh ingredients
“We have to adapt,” Stone said. “We’ve cooked in a bullfight arena where they slaughter the bulls in Spain.” In Irvine, the setting was less colorful but nonetheless inventive. They set up their kitchen behind the stage in a parking lot with half a dozen portable butane stoves, a convection oven, and one small refrigerator, all wedged between the tractor-trailer trucks that carry the lighting gear and the band’s dressing rooms.
Their situation might be makeshift, but the food is anything but. Served on good china and well plated, each dish is cooked with an attention to detail. The band cares about what they eat. So do Stone and Jenkins.
For every concert, the caterers prepare two meals — a light menu after the sound check at 7 p.m. and a protein-rich meal after the performance, about 11 p.m. While an outside caterer feeds the crew, the chefs feed the band, their close friends and family members.
Variety on the road
Like any family, the band wants a lot of variety. Nobody wants to eat the same thing everyday. “Thursdays are taco night,” Stone said. “Everyone loves taco night.”
They make a lot of Thai-themed dishes because Jenkins, a Brit, lives in Thailand. Mexican, Korean, Italian, Chinese and Japanese dishes are favorites, as are grilled meats and fish and plenty of fresh salads.
The band knows that what they eat affects their performances. With concerts lasting two or three hours without a break, they burn up calories. They avoid junk food because, as Stone says with a smile, “They’re superstars on stage, but they want to stay thin.”
The band has specific requirements. As Ricalis explains, when they arrive, “an egg burrito is waiting for them, if they want.” There’s always a vegetable crudités platter, cheese, fresh fruit and a selection of fresh berries.
“The platters have a lot of protein, like beef and chicken breasts.” Coolers are kept filled in the catering area, in the dressing rooms, and on stage: one cooler for beer — only Miller Lite and Stella Artois — another for sodas and a third for waters, including coconut water — a big favorite — juices and Muscle Milk. Ricalis will keep a good supply of wine too, “choice stuff from everywhere,” and, when they are in Europe, a selection of local wines and beers.
‘There’s a lot of pyro’
Their preferences extend to the cups the band uses. “They only drink out of Solo cups, 18 ounce, and black is the ideal color. Those cups are available only in Philadelphia. Whenever we go back there, I order one to three boxes,” Ricalis said. To match the black cups, they also prefer black straws and tiki umbrellas, “because, with the umbrella up, none of the stuff from the pyro will get in their drinks and there’s a lot of pyro, especially with Tré.”
While the band performs in front of tens of thousands, the chefs work behind the stage cooking under work lights. They know the shows so well their work is choreographed to the band’s performance. They know when to press their fingers in their ears just before the special-effect explosions go off on stage. From the chorus of the last medley, they calculate when to fire up the last sauté.
The night in Irvine, the menu consisted of char-grilled chicken with brown rice, broccoli and asparagus, veal escalope with crispy Parma ham and lemon butter, Asian baked trout with brown rice, and pumpkin sage ravioli with herb oil. Head of security, Eddie Mendoza, who frequently helps out, prepared an after-concert meal of Korean barbecued meats and kimchi salads.
The ravioli were especially impressive for their ease of preparation. Taking only 10 minutes, the time it took to boil the ravioli, with the addition of fresh tomatoes and parsley, the meal was light, refreshing and full of flavor.
For any home chef who has complained about the paucity of good ingredients or the size of their kitchen, Stone and Jenkins offer a good lesson on how to quickly prepare home-cooked meals using fresh ingredients.
So when you’re cooking at home, put on a Green Day CD, rock out like you are backstage at one of their concerts and before you know it, dinner will be on the table
Fresh Ravioli With Tomatoes and Butter
- Heat to boiling, 5-6 quarts of water salted with kosher salt. Drop in the fresh pasta, being careful to separate the ravioli. Cook 4-5 minutes until al dente. When you drain the ravioli, capture 1 cup of the salted pasta water. Set both aside.
- Heat the butter and olive oil in a sauté pan, add the cooked ravioli, tomato pieces and garlic. Season with sea salt and pepper. Toss and stir 5 minutes.
- Raise the heat, add ¼ cup pasta water. Simmer and reduce the sauce.
- Serve on a plate, topped with a sprinkle of Italian parsley and grated cheese.
Zester Daily contributor David Latt is a television writer/producer with a passion for food. His new book, “10 Delicious Holiday Recipes” is available from Amazon. In addition to writing about food for his own site, Men Who Like to Cook, he has contributed to Mark Bittman’s New York Times food blog, Bitten, One for the Table and Traveling Mom. He continues to develop for television but recently has taken his passion for food on the road and is now a contributor to Peter Greenberg’s travel site and the New York Daily News online.
Photos, from top:
Sean Stone and Steve Jenkins of Eat Your Hearts catering company.
Stone and Jenkins at work in their kitchen behind the Irvine Amphitheater stage.
Ravioli stuffed with pumpkin sage puree, topped with parsley, tomatoes and grated parmesan.
Credits: David Latt.