“BE CAREFUL, CUPCAKKE!”
The majority of the crowd was cheering, but a few concerned shouts rang out from those worried that the rapper would accidentally slice her hand with an oyster shucker. She’d never tried an oyster, let alone shucked one, but on Saturday (Aug. 10), CupcakKe, with the help of Bon Appetit’s Andy Baraghani, succeeded in popping open a bivalve before a live audience.
This was the first of CupcakKe’s two performances at Outside Lands: in addition to the standard set she would later bring to the Twin Peaks stage, she flexed her culinary skills with Bon Appetit’s Andy Baraghani at Gastro Magic, the festival’s destination for food and beverage programming.
In the past, this stage has hosted everything from beignet brunches with Big Freedia and New Orleans’ best bounce artists to various cooking demos where musicians throw on an apron and get their hands dirty. It’s where rock stars collaborate with rock stars of a snackable persuasion, and this year, Bon Appetit’s Molly Baz and Andy Baraghani ditched their sleek test kitchen in New York for live collaborations at Gastro Magic with Ella Mai and CupcakKe.
Both artists confessed that they weren’t exactly as skilled in the kitchen as they are in the studio, but Baz and Baraghani took that into account when they planned the menu. Baz and Mai set out to recreate the format of Bon Appetit’s Back to Back Chef series while frying up a from-scratch batch of fresh fried calamari. (Really, really fresh — Mai had to skin the squid herself before dicing it into rings.) The catch was that Mai couldn’t see Baz preparing the dish through the screen that separated them, which resulted in Mai concocting a “calamari doughnut” that earned Baz’s whole-hearted approval.
Baraghani and CupcakKe followed them and had an unfiltered blast: they served up highly slurpable oysters (she wasn’t a fan) and spaghetti (she approved) inspired by her fans, who she lovingly refers to as Slurpers. Raunchy jokes were flying between Baraghani and CupcakKe throughout, and she wrapped their collaboration with a brief performance that served as a sneak preview of her later set.
Below, Baz and Baraghani talk about how they prepared for their first foray at a live music festival, what makes a musician an ideal partner in the kitchen and what they took away from the experience.
I know you’re pros and can handle the unexpected challenges that pop up in a busy kitchen, but this is a whole new deal: you’re outside, it’s in the middle of the day at a music festival and you’re working with musicians you’ve never met before. What were some things that made this Outside Lands experience new challenge, and how did you prepare for that?
Molly Baz: I sort of feel like we didn’t prepare, if I’m being honest. That’s kind of what you have to do otherwise we’ll psych ourselves out about it. We don’t typically do live performances, but we have done a bunch of live podcasts, where there will be a crowd of like, 300 people. I think Adam (Rappaport, Bon Appetit’s Editor in Chief)’ ethos is to not overthink it and go up there and do our thing, and be ourselves and not try and plan out every minute of everything. He likes to keep it really real. The same goes podcasts: we don’t talk about what we’re going to talk about until we’re there because he wants everything to feel really real.
Andy Baraghani: I think it makes sense because we have our personalities, and we’re a chaotic family, in many ways. That natural energy comes out when we don’t over-analyze what’s going to be happening and plan things out. I do think this is a little bit different because there’s food and cooking involved, so there’s more room for error, but we’re definitely out of our elements — out of the test kitchen, out of New York.
Ella seemed like she was super down for anything — it wasn’t in her comfort zone, necessarily, but she definitely got into that squid.
MB: Literally five seconds before Adam called me up onstage, I think it was her manager, they said, “Ella’s not gonna touch the squid. She’s not gonna cut the squid; she’s not gonna clean the squid; she doesn’t want anything to do with the squid.” I was like, “We’re going onstage in five minutes, and that is what this performance is about!” They were like, “We prepped an entire second batch of squid, it’s sitting under her station so she doesn’t have to touch it at all, she can throw it right into the dredge and right into the deep fryer.” Then we got onstage, and that’s why I was like, “Ella, are you prepared to clean the squid?” and she was like “I never have, but I will!” She rose to the occasion, which was amazing. I think she felt the energy.
AB: With food and cooking, whether they’re a musician or an artist or a home cook, they can get wary and nervous. But hopefully, whether it’s this live performance or the videos or the recipes, people are able to have the confidence to just go with it. Even if it’s not exactly the way it looks in the magazine or on the website or YouTube, it’s still good practice, and really, cooking, we’re all cooking and refining our skills.
I mean, hey, a musician gets that practice makes perfect.
So why squid? Why was fried calamari a solid recipe for this performance with Ella Mai in mind?
MB: I had to think about a recipe that could be done in less than 30 minutes and one that had a lot of active time within those 30 minutes, so it’s not like something where you throw the chicken in a pan and let it cook for 10 minutes undisturbed because it’s not fun for the audience to watch something inactive. I thought about calamari, and was like, “What’s another super active thing they can do while the calamari is frying or after we make the dredge?” Another tricky thing to wrap your head around is aioli, and that’ll take 3 to 4 minutes — just thinking about how to really jam-pack the energy into the segment with the way the recipe flows. It’s not a recipe that’s on the site’ it’s more something that I created for the stage.
I love that we got calamari donuts out of that.
MB: I’m here for it!
AB: A giant fritter.
MB: It worked out, I knew it would — I was like, if she put that much cornmeal and flour into one cup of buttermilk, it’s going to be shaggy-ish, and it’s gonna fry, so let’s just roll with it.
You’ve had musicians come through the test kitchen before — both Shangela and Troye Sivan have appeared on Back to Back Chef. What is it about a musician that makes them an ideal cook?
AB: I would hope with any artist in any field, there’s this openness, so I would hope they have that same openness in the kitchen.
MB: That’s kind of what I was noticing onstage. I made it clear to Ella that she had kind of gone awry in the recipe, but she took it in stride and created her own thing out of it. That’s so classic artist to me, just being like, “I’m going to turn this around and create something else out of it.” That sort of openness and creativity that artists have is exactly the same as a cook in the kitchen, where a recipe can start one way, and you anticipate it’ll turn out one way, and halfway through, you’re like, “You know what, I feel like I actually wanna go this way with it,” and you can steer. We all have that same approach to our art, that flexibility.