Questlove On Curating Food Salons, Anthony Bourdain, and Re-Mixing Hamilton

The Roots bandleader dishes on what it takes to make a “culinary jam session.”

The Roots drummer Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson doesn’t just slow-jam the news with Jimmy Fallon, back up musical legends, tour with his band, write books and host celeb-filled food salons in his downtown Manhattan apartment. Nope, the crazy busy Thompson is packing even more epicurean action into his schedule by curating a series of chef-driven parties around the country.  

Thompson, whose band backs Tribe Called Quest’s 25th anniversary reunion set on Fallon tonight, tells Maxim that he’s been “trading ideas”with Anthony Bourdain about opening another pop-up eatery (Thompson had a short-lived  fried chicken joint, Hybird) and is working on spinning off more albums from the zeitgeisty Broadway hip-hop musical,Hamilton.

In the meantime, he’s curating the Martell cognac-sponsored Vanguard Series, which comes to Atlanta and Chicago this month, as a way to expand upon the culinary jam sessions he’s long been hosting in his Manhattan pad.

“The whole goal of the night is to get these James Beard-caliber chefs to do collaborations with each other,” Thompson says. “People like Dominique Ansel, Danny Bowien, April Bloomfield. I’m curating the night, and I provide the deejaying and the music. The chefs decide what the tasting menus will be. It’s like a jam session for the culinary world.”

Besides hatching plans with Bourdain (“I can’t divulge what it is yet”) Thompson is writing his next book, Something to Food About, which “shows the parallels between chefs and musicians.” He’s also overseeing spin-offs to the soundtrack of Hamilton, which Thompson and fellow Roots co-founder and vocalist Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter executive produced.

“We just released the cast album in September, and now we’re starting on the ‘Hamilton Mix Tape’, sort of like the cast album re-done with a bunch of MCs,” Thompson says. “Then a ‘Hamilton Remix Project’. There’s gonna be like two or three more cast albums. It’s very much on fire.”

While you probably can’t score an invite to one of Thompson’s VIP food jams in his apartment, getting into one of his bigger Martell events, which are coming to Miami’s Art Basel and the Grammys in Los Angeles, should be considerably easier. Cognac is perhaps best enjoyed straight or on the rocks, but for those craving a cocktail, here’s Martell’s recipe for the classic Sidecar served at its soirees:


1 part Martell VSOP

1/2 part lemon juice

1/2 part triple sec

Orange peel



Add a few ice cubes, cognac, lemon juice and triple sec into shaker. Shake and strain into glass. Garnish with orange peel.


Chris Wilson