Alex Guarnaschelli is a Food Network star and executive chef at Butter in New York City. She represents kitchen camaraderie with a Van Halen track, selects a sexy food song courtesy of Prince and compares her own far reaching career to Dr. Dre. Alex appears as a judge on the primetime show Chopped and is working on opening a new location of Butter in Miami.
For More: http://alexguarnaschelli.com/
- Dr. Dre - "The Watcher"
- Aerosmith - "Love in an Elevator"
- Van Halen - "Happy Trails"
- Prince - "Starfish and Coffee"
- Lauren Hill and Nas - "If I Ruled the World"
Aaron Byrd: Hi I’m Aaron Byrd, and I’m here with Alex Guarnaschelli. She’s a Food Network star and executive chef at Butter in New York City. She’s also the second woman to be crowned Iron Chef and appears as a judge on the primetime show Chopped. She also hosts the show Alex’s Day Off. We are here with Alex to talk about some of the songs that have inspired her throughout her life as part of KCRW’s Guest DJ Project. Alex, what did you bring in for us today?
Alex Guarnaschelli: The first song that I picked was Dr. Dre’s “The Watcher”. I just consider Dr. Dre an OG in every sense, because anybody who makes music that I/we/the public wants to listen to, but also produces a lot of other great music and is just, to me, a general curator of all things good in music and all senses, it just increases the likeability factor of his songs.
It’s a doer and a teacher.
To some extent, I like to consider myself some of the same. You know, I’ve been cooking professionally for years in kitchens and I also teach other people how to cook. I both judge and cook competitively. So, I guess I like to think that, in a fantasy universe, I’m somewhat like Dr. Dre.
AB: This is the first time in Guest DJ Project history that we’ve heard someone say OG.
AG: Well, I mean he is though, I mean there’s like pretty like no other way to describe him, I think.
He kind of knows it, to say the very least, and I’m glad he does. That also, I think, is an important part of kind of growing in your own field and becoming your own person -- both admitting what you’re weak at or not good at and also acknowledging when you know you are good at something.
And I think this song is kind of about that. I also think it’s a song that’s about people that think it’s easy to be Dr. Dre and he kind of, very coldly, invites people to investigate whether that’s easy or not. There’s one part where he says “I got a lot more to lose than you, remember that when you come and fill these shoes.”
Like I’ve practically said the equivalent of that, you know..."You want my job for a day? You think it’s so easy? Let’s do this."
Song: Dr. Dre – “The Watcher”
AB: That was “The Watcher” by the OG Dr. Dre. What do you have next for us?
AG: There aren’t a lot of groups or musicians that, because I see them live, I love their music even more. Aerosmith is one of those exceptions.
I just think that when Steven Tyler is singing and the band is playing and he’s moving around on stage, it’s like a lightning bolt of music goes through him and he’s not responsible for what happens because he’s having an out of body experience.
And I think that’s a lot like cooking, for me. You know, I get into the kitchen and I just get lost in the food.
I mean, I walk into a kitchen and I immediately go over and taste the soup, I immediately go over make a salad, there’s a magnetism or a magnetic relationship between me and food and I feel that same kind of magnetic electricity when I see Aerosmith.
“Love in an Elevator,” is it the best Aerosmith song? Is it the most iconic? I mean, I could have picked “Dream On,” I could have picked so many other more die hard rock and roll classics, but I think “Love in an Elevator” is one of those songs that you just can’t help it -- when you listen to it, your foot is tapping your knee is moving, you’re slapping your hand on your leg to the beat and it gets you pumped up.
It’s gotten me through a few dinner services where I needed to find energy external to myself to get through those 80 chicken breasts.
AB: Alright, let’s take a listen to “Love in an Elevator" by Aerosmith.
Song: Aerosmith – “Love in an Elevator”
AB: That was Aerosmith with “Love in an Elevator” What do you have next for us?
AG: Van Halen’s “Happy Trails”. I like a good short song sometimes, it’s like an hors d'oeuvre, you know, a couple bites and you’re happy.
This song to me just sounds like what a kitchen is like behind the scenes. When a bunch of people are kind of laughing and getting through a dinner or lunch service together, there’s a collaborative energy. The voices in this song kind of come together and break off and fall apart and they come back together. It’s just whimsical, it’s mischievous. It also sounds like a really good party at your neighbor’s house that you want to go to. All things that, for me, are what make up a great song.
Song: Van Halen – “Happy Trails”
AB: So that was “Happy Trails”, by Van Halen. I’m here with Alex Guarnaschelli, she’s sharing some of the songs that have inspired her throughout her life here on KCRW’s Guest DJ Project. So up next we have something from Prince.
AG: I hear so much music and I just think, "Wow, whoever is singing this listened to a few Prince albums before they hit the studio." I think his influence on other musicians is undeniable and very prolific.
He has that way of kind of singing a song and nothing about the song particularly makes sense when you actually sing it out loud along with him, yet it totally does make sense and he talks a lot about food.
He uses a lot of ingredients in his songs. I think he looks at food and ingredients, particularly beautiful ones -- raspberries, coffee -- and celebrates both the word, the singing it but also just the ingredient itself.
The whole song has a lot of images -- maple syrup and jam, butterscotch cloud and a side order of ham. That’s sort of the random connection of things that I think he’s just singing out loud and it feels very steam of consciousness, I think a lot of cooking is like that. You know what this needs salt and now I’m going to add pepper, you know what now I think it needs a little sugar, you know what now I want garlic and I feel like that’s how he puts together his songs a little bit…like a good recipe.
AB: You know hearing you talk about your passion for food and referencing this particular Prince song does that work together?
AG: Definitely. I mean if you don’t hear erotic energy in Prince’s music I can’t help you. I mean, let’s face it, eating and sex are two of the great pleasures and they certainly I think share a lot.
Aaron: Alright, a sexy and sensual song courtesy of Prince, this is “Starfish and Coffee”.
Song: Prince - “Starfish and Coffee”
AB: And that was Prince of course with “Starfish and Coffee”. And for your last pick what do you have for us?
AG: I picked Lauryn Hill and Nas, “If I Ruled the World.”
It builds and then it kind of mellows out again and then it builds and mellows out again. There’s a talky quality to it that is often how I feel when I watch something cook.
There are moments when you are basting and you’re moving the ingredient around and you’re seasoning it and then there are moments where you just have to let it cook and you have to hold yourself back from doing anything, and just let that ingredient do some of the work and kind meet you halfway.
I think this song kind of represents that pace, that give and take. The give and take in the song is a lot for me like the give and take in cooking.
Song: Lauryn Hill and Nas - “If I Ruled the World”
AB: And that was Lauryn Hill and Nas of course, with the classic “If I Ruled the World”.
Alex, thanks so much for joining us at KCRW.com for KCRW's Guest DJ Project.
AG: Super fun, I unfortunately or fortunately for you I have 400 other songs, so if any commitments fall through just give me a call. I’ll bust out my list.
AB: Ok, great!