Late last year, I told anyone who’d listen that I was going to start cooking while on the next tour.
I doubt anyone much believed me, and those who did probably assumed it’d be a short-lived infatuation.
But––as I mentioned in my post about staying healthy while touring––the Road Kitchen is now a reality, and if anything I’m more excited about it than I was when it was just a fanciful idea.
In deciding what to bring along and what to leave at home, it was important to do a little thought experiment:
What dishes I am actually going to cook while on tour?
We all have a stable of go-to dishes that we make regularly at home, but not all of them are feasible for tour bus cooking, and some of them require equipment I’d rather not bring along.
When we’re touring, the venue either provides us both lunch & dinner, or they give us a cash “buyout” so we can secure our own.
The buyout is a glorious option in a town like Raleigh, with its wealth of fantastic eateries (Buku, Poole’s Diner, Beasley’s, The Pit, etc).
But in other places––I’m looking at you, Saginaw––it’s a giant pain in the ass to find food that’s good, healthy, and reasonably close. (We were actually told in Saginaw not to leave the building because it wasn’t safe. Gee thanks.)
Catering can be hit or miss. At places like Westbury, The Greek, and Wolftrap, we look forward to the food as much as we do playing the show.
Other times, a catered lunch is little more than mediocre cold cuts (“flat meat” as one tour bus driver called it) and veggie trays.
So: I wanted to be able to cook breakfast, some lunches, & the occasional late-night snack.
Real Things I Cooked On Tour
Eggs – At home I eat 4 eggs a day, so this was high on my list of road foods.
Oatmeal – On lifting days I eat more complex carbs like steel-cut oats, which generally aren’t feasible or good in the microwave.
Serious Coffee – Most busses have coffeemakers, but not all of them make good coffee. I dig the coffee you can make in a Cuisinart. But the stuff that comes out of a Black & Decker, Mr. Coffee, and most catering is just not up to my level of snobbiness.
Pork Shoulder – At home, I roast a pork shoulder just about every week, and use the meat for breakfasts, in tacos, on salad, for dessert… I love me some pork.
Pot Roast – Another slow-cooked go-to delight. At home I sometimes splurge and make braised short ribs, but on a bus, when you’re potentially sharing your food with everyone else, a pot roast is a much more economical choice.
Chilaquiles – My heuristic for going out to brunch is to always order the chilaquiles, and every single time I do, my dining companions get jealous that I ordered better than they did. Once I figured out how straightforward it is to create this dish at home, it was game on.
Ah, gear. Musicians, cooks, & travelers are obsessed with gear, and this kind of hits on all three. If only I could somehow incorporate golf & triathlons, I’d have a gear obsession five-fecta.
Plastic Storage Tub – This one was $5 at Target.
Knife, Cutting Board, & Sheath – That’s a Wustof 7” Santoku, and I love it to an unreasonable degree. My house is a two-cook household, and my wife has her own badass chef’s knife, so I was given the green light to take this one on the road.
The cutting board is a cheap $5 Bed, Bath, Beyond find. The sheath also came from BB&B––the manager split up a three-piece set and sold me this one for a third of set’s price ($7). Nice guy.
Induction Burner – I picked this up on amazon for about $60. There are nicer ones for more money, but this is too good a deal to pass up.
If you don’t already know, induction burners work via magnetic induction, and only work with ferrous (iron) pans. The upshot of that limitation is that there are no flames and basically no heat outside of the contact patch between the burner and the pan. While boiling water, I can touch the burner right next to the pot and it’s still room temperature.
Induction Cookware & Silicone Spatula – This Cuisinart pot & pan set was a hundred bucks at BB&B. Non-stick pan for eggs, strainer built in to the lid of the pot.
The spatula is a Giada De Laurentiis (“Cooking With Cleavage” as my wife says) from Target. We’ve worn out three of these already, and we’ll keep buying them as long as we can––they’re freaking fantastic.
Bowl & Fork – There’s generally a whole bunch of disposable plates, bowls, & plasticware on the bus, but scrambling eggs with a plastic fork in a styrofoam bowl just plain sucks.
Coconut Oil – At home I use grass-fed butter, but it’s a little inconvenient on the road. Coconut oil is easier and great for eggs.
Slow Cooker – Six-quart model that––judging from the style––is about as old as I am. These things are cheap and wonderful.
Pan Savers – Even when you’re not doing it in a tour bus sink or hotel room bathtub, cleaning after slow cooking is for chumps. You can cook right inside these bags, and afterward pick the bag up and toss it right in the trash. Little to no clean-up required. Tim Ferriss (see below) hipped me to these, and I’m forever grateful.
Ziplock Bags & Aluminum Foil – Two things. One, the space in a tour bus fridge is pretty limited, so ziplock storage bags are a better choice than anything else that might leak when jostled or reorganized.
Two, keep these things handy for when everyone’s done with catering so you can snag a bunch of leftover fruit, veggies, & chicken breasts. The aluminum foil is handy when you find a grill on your day off…
Grill Spatula, Basting Brush, & Bamboo Skewers – If your tour manager is as cool as ours, for your day off he’ll rent a big house through AirBnB instead of getting a couple of hotel rooms. Which means BBQ! We picked these up at a Walmart in Tallahassee, for the first of many day-off grilling & jamming sessions.
Can Opener & Wine Key – If you get one of the new-fangled can openers that unseals a can instead of cutting it open, you can put the lid back on and store whatever you don’t use in the fridge.
Also, this style of wine key is my favorite––it has a stepped lever for stubborn corks, and you can open a beer without unfolding it.
Aeropress – Mmmm coffee. The Aeropress is sort of like a cross between a French press, a super soaker, and a bong, and every bit as awesome as that sounds.
Seasonings, Condiments, & Things Not In Danger Of Spoiling – Salt, pepper, cumin, cinnamon, & ground red pepper, plus mustard and (not pictured) Sriracha, Tabasco, & ketchup. Oh, and Bob’s Red Mill steel-cut oats.
Dish Soap, Sponges, & Paper Towels – Keep your shit clean, people.
Guidance – I’ve written before about my love for Ruhlman’s Twenty and commented on super-learner Tim Ferriss’s crash course in drumming. These gents are largely responsible for the recent (ish) uptick in my interest in, and talent for, cooking. Small wonder then that these two joined us on the road (if only in book form).
Ferriss is just the sort of guy who would do something crazy like cook on a tour bus––in the Four Hour Chef, he sous vides a salmon fillet in a hotel room sink! Plus a few of the guys in the band follow his Slow Carb style of eating, and this tome is stuffed with SC-compliant recipes, so this was an obvious choice.
Ruhlman’s Twenty is, IMO, the best cookbook ever written for someone who wants to go from novice cook to complete cooking badass. No mere collection of recipes, this book is a thoughtful, logical sequence of knowledge and skills that help you think (and cook) like a chef.
I take a lot of inspiration from his approach when I teach guitar.
Is It Worth It?
From a financial standpoint, the Road Kitchen quickly paid for itself.
From a health perspective, it made it much easier to eat real food on the road.
It brought some much-needed comforts to tour bus life.
And the bonding-over-shared-meals aspect was (is) so undeniably positive that I implore you to cook a meal with your friends as soon as humanly possible.
Something I absolutely love about both Ruhlman’s Twenty and The Four Hour Chef is their emphasis on a well thought-out logical sequence for learning something that can be complicated and daunting.
Something magical happens when the knowledge & skills necessary to master complex things are laid out in the right order, split into portions that can be consumed in one sitting.
If your experience of trying to move from intermediate to advanced guitarist has been anything like mine, it’s been a string of false starts, dead ends, confusion, & frustration––an ad hoc assemblage of non-interconnected tidbits served up lukewarm by well-meaning-but-under-equipped teachers, websites, books, magazine articles, YouTube videos, and DVDs.
This bothers the shit out of me, and I’ve decided to do something about it.
I’m making a course that takes the average intermediate guitarist (maybe that’s you?) on a journey through all the things a professional musician should know, one logical step at a time.
I wasted YEARS of my life struggling to figure out what these things are. And when I did (and as I continue to do), my playing improved & my opportunities flourished.
Almost none of it is excruciatingly difficult.
The two hardest parts are showing up everyday, and knowing what to work on next. I can help you with both.
We’re talking about building you a system for practicing consistently, then putting you through my system for understanding enough practical music theory to play better music with better musicians.
We’re talking about a daily 15 minute lesson, each one reviewing what you learned yesterday and then building upon it.
We’re talking about a year-and-a-half long process that methodically transforms you and your playing, brick by tiny brick.
And we’re talking about doing it in a way that taps into your creativity, not stifles it.
If this sounds at all interesting to you, sign up for our free two-week Metronome Boot Camp course.