VH1 Save the Music Foundation’s latest venture was a perfect melding of two worlds, says Paul Cothran, the program’s vice president and executive director.  “Many chefs are themselves rock stars and many rock stars become chefs,” he says. “Whether it’s cooking or putting music together. They’re both very, very creative. We wanted to bring them together.”

The foundation’s “Musically Mastered Menu” series has done just that, pairing celebrated chefs with musical acts in some of the country’s premiere dining destinations. So far, the program has stopped in Nashville, where Chef Trevor Moran of The Catbird Seat prepared a sit-down dinner for guests, as blues style-singer Elle King provided acoustic entertainment.

Famed Chicago Chef Stephanie Izard, a Top Chef and the 2013 James Beard Best Chef: Great Lakes winner, hosted the second event on the roof of her Little Goat Diner. Up-and-coming artist Zella Day, who released her debut album, Kicker, in June, serenaded guests.

“What’s great about the chefs we’re working with this year is that each chef has wanted to do an event that represents them, and represents their restaurant in a special way,” Cothran says. “In Nashville, for example, it was a sit-down dinner that mirrored very much Trevor’s style and restaurant. In Chicago, Stephanie wanted all of the guests to feel like they were at a party at her home. So it was a lot of passed foods and hors d'oeuvres.” Local brewery Goose Island also supplied beverages for the meal.

Cothran says the chefs have had a say in picking the musical backdrop. “They were able to communicate that to us. That’s a big bonus right there. When you can stand with the chef and the chef says, ‘Well I would love to have this type of artist in my restaurant,’ that’s great. They all had a strong appreciation of the music.”

The final event will take place November 11 with New York City Chef Marc Murphy, the owner of the Landmarc, Ditch Plains, and Kingside concepts, as well as a frequent judge on Food Network’s Chopped. A musical act hasn’t been announced.

Cothran says the first two events sold out, and he expects the Big Apple rendition to be the largest yet.

“Each event has gotten bigger and bigger as we’ve done them, and I’m expecting New York to be really tremendous,” he says. “One, because it’s our home base, and also because we’ve done so much work here in the New York area, and it’s such a food city. People are going to love it.”

The VH1 Save the Music Foundation is a non-profit organization that’s been promoting music instruction in education since 1997. Cothran says they’ve partnered with more 1,900 schools in 231 districts and have supplied more than $51 million for instruments.

Cothran isn’t sure if the “Musically Mastered Series” will return next year, although he’s already had more than a few requests. “It’s been great,” he says. “The chefs have been 100 percent behind it and thrilled to do it. I think it’s a way to shine some light on them and what they do, but its also an opportunity for the chefs to give back to an issue that’s very important in their community, and that’s restoring music education programs and insuring that all kids have access to a comprehensive education. So this was their way to be a part of all that.”

Danny Klein

Chef Profiles, Industry News, Philanthropy