A classic invitation to ‘play with your food’



The jump from the culinary arts to the musical arts isn’t as broad as one might think at first blush (or merlot).

A well-trained chef can pull together the individual notes of ingredients and create a symphony for the palate (if you mix your metaphors in a blender).

So, the combination of chefs and musicians at the Bushnell in Hartford easily fits into the cookbook of “Why not?”

On May 21, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra sidles up to the stove once again with “Playing with Food 4: Food Fight.”

Conducted by HSO Music Director Carolyn Kuan and emceed by Hartford playwright and personality Jacques Lamarre, the evening will find chefs from m & m bistro, the Connecticut Convention Center, and Concorde’s Restaurant competing before three guest chefs.

For Lamarre, interviewed via email, the nexus of food and music is an appetizing one.

“When we were younger, my brother used to hum and sway if he liked what he was eating. He may still do this. I’m not sure; he is weird,” said Lamarre. “The point is, music and food go together beautifully. Think about a candlelight, romantic dinner: what would it be without mood music? What would it be like to go to a ball game and not have music with your hot dog? I like the concept of ‘Playing with Food’ because it takes the chef and the musicians out of the background and gives the artists their due.”

And Lamarre also finds mixing chefs and musicians on the same stage tasty.

“I think anytime you can mix art forms, it makes you appreciate each of the forms even more,” said Lamarre. “People who are fans of the Food Network or Food TV may have never been to a classical music concert. I’m hoping that a lot of foodies will discover the joy that you can only experience at a symphony show.”

The evening finds “the chefs from the Waterford Group… competing head-to-head in three areas: appetizer, entree, and dessert,” explained Lamarre. “This year, we’ve flipped the script. In previous ‘Playing with Food’ concerts, Maestra Kuan selected a piece of music to inspire the chefs. This year, she has sampled all the dishes in advance and has selected music to pair with their dishes. The chefs will be cooking live while the orchestra is performing.”

Lamarre has worn a number of creative hats over the years, including a career as a playwright and humorist in the Hartford area. Asked of his own culinary tastes, Lamarre said, “I love a wide variety of foods, which accounts for why personally I am so wide. I lived in Italy for over a year, so I have a passion for Italian food. If it comes out of a fryolator, I’m pretty much sold.”

And his musical taste? “In terms of classical music, I love British composer Ralph Vaughn Williams. Does that make me sound smart? I hope so.”

Although Kuan has drawn up the evening’s repertoire, if he had his druthers and could come up with his own combination of food and music, Lamaree said, “As an appetizer, I would say that the theme from ‘Silence of the Lambs’ would pair nicely with some fava beans and a nice bottle of chianti. For an entree, maybe something from ‘The Sound of Music’ alongside doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles. To finish off, I would do ‘A Night on Bald Mountain’ with a chocolate lava cake.”

With chefs and musicians performing their artistic choreography, Lamarre said, as emcee, he has yet to be filled in one little tidbit.

“First, no one has informed that I get to eat,” quipped Lamarre, adding, in terms of music, “no one wants to hear me play the clarinet.”

“My role is strictly as the Master of Ceremonies,” said Lamarre. “I will be interviewing the chefs and Maestra Kuan.”

That said, Lamarre explained, “I had a hand in selecting the judges. We have Nikki Woolfolk, a steampunk chocolatier; Giulia Melucci, New York foodie and author of ‘I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti,’ and one surprise judge.”

“We’re still working on a fun way to involve the audience, as well,” said Lamarre.

For audiences looking for an excuse to get out of the house, Lamarre said, “It will be a fun night out that has everything. Delicious food, gorgeous music, and me.”

“What could be better?”

The Hartford Symphony Orchestra presents “Playing with Food 4—Food Fight!” on Saturday, May 21 at 7:30 p.m. at the Mortensen Hall, The Bushnell, 166 Capitol Ave., Hartford.

Tickets are $19 to $66. Student tickets are $10 and $25 tickets are available for patrons age 40 and under.

For tickets, call (860) 987-5900 or visit www.hartfordsymphony.org.

Jacques Lamarre will serve as Master of Ceremonies’ when the Hartford Symphony Orchestra presents ‘Playing with Food 4-Food Fight!’ on Saturday.

Jacques Lamarre will serve as Master of Ceremonies’ when the Hartford Symphony Orchestra presents ‘Playing with Food 4-Food Fight!’ on Saturday.

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