'Tonight Show' Drummer Connects Music and Food

Questlove Gomez, co-founder and drummer of The Roots and bandleader for “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” highlighted the connections between cooking and music in a Tuesday discussion with New Yorker writer Ben Greenman and two chefs.

Questlove, the bandleader for “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” participates in a talk hosted by the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences about creativity and innovative chefs.

The event was part of the public lecture series organized for “Science and Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to the Science of Soft Matter,” a Gen Ed course that fulfills the Science of the Physical Universe requirement. Although the talks are usually held in the fall, the event was hosted to coincide with the release of Gomez’s new book, somethingtofoodabout, according to course preceptor Pia Sorensen.

“The purpose of the talks in general is to connect cooking with science,” Sorensen said. “Often what comes up in these talks is creativity. The creativity of how chefs think, the creativity of science… how they’re similar and how they’re different.”

The talk mirrored the structure of Gomez’s book, which details spontaneous conversations with ten chefs about their imaginative cooking.


In front of a packed Science Center audience, the author highlighted many connections between his experiences of making music and the chefs’ creative culinary processes. Both chefs said they shared Gomez’s frustration of pleasing the audience while pursuing innovations.

“One of the things I found is that sweet spot, which was within my taste, which expressed my creativity, but was constrained a little,” said chef Daniel Patterson.

Gomez also discussed his perception of a social stratification in the food world because only relatively few people have access to high-end food. He lauded Patterson for opening Locol, a healthy fast-food restaurant in Watts, Los Angeles.

“You come from this high-end, high-class food world, and you decided to pay it forward by literally coming... in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in America, to open up a restaurant so that everybody in the community could have access to that food,” he said.

Patterson, who is also a food writer, said he was inspired to open his restaurant because of his experience teaching children how to cook.

“I went as far as I could go and learned as much as I could from the high end, then turned around and realized some kids have no taste memory for real food,” he said. “There are two Americas, and we are going to the America that no one else is going to.”

Chef Ludo Lefebvre also noted the impact of his childhood on his decision to pursue a culinary career when an eleven-year-old audience member asked him, in French, about his inspiration.

“It’s simple: at school, I was a very bad student. My dad came to me one day and said you’re getting kicked out of this school, so you can be a hairdresser, a mechanician, or a cook,” he said. “It was second grade, so I thought, well, that’s it.”


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