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1993.02.03 - Greensboro News & Record - Chef Mark on the road with Guns N' Roses

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1993.02.03 - Greensboro News & Record - Chef Mark on the road with Guns N' Roses Empty 1993.02.03 - Greensboro News & Record - Chef Mark on the road with Guns N' Roses

Post by Blackstar on Tue May 21, 2019 2:10 am


Special to the News & Record

Keeping a touring band well-fed isn't just a job - it's an adventure.

I wanna travel. I wanna see the world.

We've got just the job for you.

Can I listen to loud music?

Sure, kid. Every night.

Can I cook?

Sure can.

These were the perks I enjoyed as catering coordinator for the heavy metal bands Guns N' Roses and Metallica. It was the roller coaster ride of my life.

The Guns N' Roses tour, which also featured Faith No More, began in July and covered all the large stadiums in the U.S. and Canada.

I've never seen anything like it: 22 semi-tractor-trailers to carry equipment, 11 tour buses to carry personnel to assemble equipment, and one guy, me, to try to make sure everyone was fed decent, well-balanced meals.

Easier said than done. Two hundred to 300 meals per sitting, three times a day, plus food in the dressing rooms and (this was the lemon in my tea) after-show theme parties for Axl Rose, lead singer for Guns N' Roses. Too fun!

Oh, I almost forgot - food for munching while on the buses.

I've learned a lot of lessons in the past six months, but the one that stands out is "You can't please everyone." Believe me, I've tried.

There are a lot of misconceptions about rock tours. In my view, these people work harder than any group of folks I've seen. The organization required was mind-boggling. In each city, an entire office was unloaded and set up. Fax machines, copiers, phones, and tons of very technical equipment were assembled.

The production managers, assistant production managers, lighting crews, carpenters and so on were true professionals. I tip my chef's hat to them.

The Guns N' Roses tour lasted three months; every three days, the band spent $20,000 to $30,000 for catering.

The after-show shindig for Rose ran from $8,000 in smaller cities to $50,000 at the New Jersey Meadowlands, where the promoter and a local caterer set up an entire gambling casino in the back of the stadium.

Part of my job was to plan menus with local caterers and advance details for dressing rooms. Naturally, everyone I talked to assured me that everything would be great.

Usually, it was; the meals were on time, there was plenty of good food, the dressing rooms were perfect.
When things didn't go well, I experienced some of the worst days of my life. You don't know stress until the caterer runs out of food and you've still got 100 people on your crew that need to eat. When you question him about this, he gives you an "I'm in the ozone" stare and says something profound like, "Do you want me to send out for chicken or something?" In the meantime, the 100 who haven't eaten are growing happier by the second.

On a more pleasant note, it was great to see what cooks in other cities were doing with food. The most interesting stuff was on the West Coast. Some of the menus by the California caterers were just too neat. Grilled corn with chili lime butter. Smoked garlic and Gruyere souffle with roasted tomato croutons. Get outta here!

From taking a volcanic mud bath in Calistoga, Calif., to witnessing riots in Montreal, this was quite an experience. I left that leg of the tour a few shows early. Stress can kill.

Now for the fun part. I came home and rested up, then went to Europe for seven weeks as the personal chef for Metallica. I had gotten to know these fellows on the Guns N' Roses tour.

Our first stop was Ghent, Belgium. From there we had two nights at Wembly Arena, London.

The ferry from Belgium to London was awesome. I felt like I was seeing everything I'd ever seen in any movie about Europe.

But it wasn't all fun and games.

When we would arrive at a destination on the bus (12 bunks, two lounges, television, stereo, etc.), I'd wake up, get my bearings and, if time allowed, find the showers at the concert hall.

Then I'd locate the room designated "band chef." All my equipment - stoves, pots, spices, etc. - was in rolling road cases.

Assuming the cases fit down the hallway, I'd finally get set up, then ... oops! No power. (That was one of the most frustrating things about Europe.) I'd try to find an electrician, who, ten to one, didn't know a bit of English.

Many of the concerts were in state-of-the-art halls with ample space and technology not only for the sound and lights, but also for setting up a small mobile kitchen. But a lot of them were in 6,000- to 9,000-seat bicycle racing arenas or ice rinks, where you could blow a circuit by looking at it sideways.
Once I got set up, I had to find food. Sometimes I needed interpreters to help me shop. I got in trouble in one city because the spices were labeled in Flemish and I had to open them to figure out what they were.

One day I bought what looked like a roasting chicken. When I unwrapped it, the head and legs were intact.

European shopping carts are designed for racing and ramming. They even roll sideways for greater maneuverability. Most Europeans are quite kind, but do not - I repeat, do not - get in their way when they're shopping.

One thing's for sure, the people over there are big on butter and cream. You can get single cream and double cream, and the butter's fat content is industrial strength.

Metallica consists of three Americans and one Dane. We tried to keep the food kind of American.
Three hours on stage doing that heavy metal thing made for some very hungry dudes. We'd set up a dining table, and they'd all sit down to a home-style supper.

The road crews were fed by a very talented group of English caterers called Snack Attack.

Sometimes during the concerts, while my food simmered, I would go down to the barricade that keeps the fans from destroying the stage.

The kids go berserk. In the center of the stage is an area called the snake pit. Fans are allowed here to "mosh" as the band performs around them. To mosh is to dance and thrash about, ramming, butting and gyrating with fellow music lovers. It's similar to slam dancing.

In Barcelona, I was robbed. The guy ran by as I was buying fresh fruit and grabbed at my wallet. He didn't get the wallet, but he did get $1,000 I had in an envelope sticking out of my wallet. Big lesson there.

In Rome, my first sightseeing stop was the Vatican. I barely managed to catch a glimpse of the Pope.
The organ music, the sculptures, the sense of history and the emotions I felt during Mass were overwhelming and unforgettable.

At another Roman landmark, the Colosseum, I pretended I could hear crowds roaring, chariots rumbling and gladiators' swords clanking. But the ruins were actually dead calm - a bit spooky.

In addition to the sightseeing, I ate some incredible food ... Indian, Thai, German and French. When a fast-food attack hit, there was Euro Burger King and McDonald's.

In Barcelona, I got food poisoning. Beware of room-service bacon.

In Rome, such antipasto! A waiter brought dish after dish to the table: buffalo-milk mozzarella, frittata, grilled eggplant, balsamic marinated zucchini, meatballs, broccoli and cauliflower, olives, roasted peppers, crusty bread. I ate slowly, savoring each combination of simple, pure flavors. The antipasto was followed by fresh vermicelli with shrimp sauce, then fresh spaghetti with clams and pepper-infused oil.
I thought I'd had enough. Wrong! I hadn't counted on the dessert cart. My selection was layered sponge cake doused with fruit brandy and filled with the richest cream filling this side of the moon! I topped that off with a piping hot cappuccino.

In many German cities, we were surrounded by World War II history. Once again, I saw things that I'd only seen in movies.

After Germany, I flew home. As I changed planes in Atlanta, a woman in first class said, "There's Chef Mark." I really needed to hear that. It is so good to be home.


Mark Dalgarn, former owner of Serious Bread, is currently marketing Exceptional Sauce and is involved in catering. Coming soon, more bread. He also does freelance television and radio work.

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