8 food industry insiders on their memories of David Bowie

Writers and chefs on the impact of music on dining, as well as their memories involving Bowie.

Photo by Ira Cohen.
Photo by Ira Cohen.

Like so many across the globe, we are saddened by the passing of David Bowie, knowing what the world will never have new music from him again or have another like him again. So, to commemorate, we asked chefs and food writers for their thoughts on their personal Bowie moments and the importance of music in dining.

Talia Syrie

photo courtesy of Shel Zolkewich.

Not only is Syrie's popular spot a go-to for many Manitobans for brunch, lunch and dinner, but its owner is well known for supporting the local arts community within Talia's (pictured above on the right) space. Sometimes, you may pop in and catch an artist in residence painting away in a corner, other times, it might be a DJ spinning tunes on a Friday night.

A lover of music, through and through, Syrie shares this: "What I remember most is actually having 'Scary Monsters' on repeat for an entire day the first time I ever cooked a proper dinner for people in my first home. We had just bought an old hi-fi record player, which seemed very fancy back then [Laughs]. We played that album for maybe 10 hours straight. My ex-husband was obsessed with David Bowie. Monday was a very sad day."

photo courtesy of Shel Zolkewich

Bob Blumer

Most of us know Bob Blumer as the adventurous food competition challenger from Glutton For Punishment and as the cook with the toaster-mobile from The Surreal Gourmet. But, what you may not know is that Blumer was the manager for Canadian singer-songwriter Jane Siberry prior to becoming a culinary celebrity.

"When I was a kid in Montreal, some friends came back from seeing Bowie at the Montreal Forum on the opening night of his Diamond Dogs tour. They were giddy with excitement. I remember them reporting that the whole show was bathed in white light. I was a sheltered kid at the time, still listening to my mother's Pete Seeger records, and the Bowie show sounded like it came from another planet (which, in retrospect, it did). I've recently been listing to an album called Bowie at the Beeb, which was recorded between 1968 and 1972 at various BBC Radio studios. It's a great way to time travel back to those early days and get a sense of how brilliantly ahead of his time Bowie really was."

Andrew Braithwaite

enRoute writer, Andrew Braithwaite may be based in San Francisco, but spends a good chunk of time in Canada each year, dining from coast-to-coast to decipher which newly opened establishments are truly the best of the best. While food, interiors and service are all part of his focus, music plays a large part too, as the writer always notes the tunes he hears every time he sits down to dine.

"When I was researching Canada's Best New Restaurants in the summer of 2014, I got to hear my favourite Bowie record, start-to-finish, at two different restaurants. One of them was a restaurant in Montreal that ultimately didn't make the Top 10 that year. So let it not be said that I can be pandered to! The other was a week later, at David Gunawan's Farmer's Apprentice in Vancouver. I saw the server walk over to the vinyl collection and pull out a familiar looking album. Gunawan's first dish showed up, like something from outer space and yet totally familiar, and Bowie started singing about the end of the world. Between the food and the music and the entire aesthetic tone of the place, that ended up being of the best meals of my life. The record was The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Yep, it's the best Bowie album. I play it at dinner parties all the time now."

Neil McCue

While there are millions of Bowie fans in Canada, we can't even begin to imagine what it must be like in the UK. So we asked Barnsley-born chef Neil McCue, who was head chef at the Curlew in East Sussex about his special Bowie-memory.

"Tonight will mainly be from the Ziggy period as 1970s defined the glam rock era. It was a big part of my childhood too, as my dad was a massive fan. I guess it wasn't until the 80s did I appreciate it. Bowie had a place on most restaurant playlists where I've worked, certainly in my era as he was huge influence, and a massive part of Britain's music industry. When I achieved my Michelin star, the staff always used to say, 'It's your song, chef' when 'Starman' was playing on the radio. I guess it stuck because it still reminds me of probably the best day in my life."

Elizabeth Chorney-Booth

Elizabeth Chorney-Booth, a former music writer and editor, co-founded Rolling Spoon with Julie Van Rosendaal in 2013 and shares their thoughts on all things food and music. Combing through the site, you'll find music-inspired recipes, interviews and playlist suggestions for different meals and occasions. Clearly, they know a thing or two about the importance of food in the dining experience.

"I listen to music in a very emotional way and I react to food in a very emotional way as well. So for me, music can be a huge part of the dining experience if it's perfect. If it's not perfect (i.e. a very special matching of the emotions brought about by the food and the music) I tend to tune the music out or become annoyed if it's too loud and I can't have a decent dinner conversation. My favourite Bowie song is 'Heroes' just because it's irresistible. My favourite to cook to is 'Suffragette City' because I like something that revs me up a little bit when I'm dancing around in the kitchen."

Renée Lalonde

Being a pianist in addition to one of the main coordinators for Canada's Terroir Symposium, Renée Lalonde has a crystal clear memory of the impression Bowie left on her in her younger years.

"Around the mid-to-late 70s is when I first started paying attention to Bowie. There was something so melodic and meaningful in his songs, coupled with his outrageous theatrics, that drew me in. Then, when I moved to Toronto in 1979, David Bowie resurfaced in the music I listened to and was my comfort. I went to an Iggy Pop concert and Bowie played piano for him. I think it was at the Masonic Temple, a small venue. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him, so cool and elegant."

Lauren Mote

One of Canada's leading mixologists and co-owner of Bittered Sling, Lauren Mote admits she's always been a Bowie fan through-and-through and recalls this cocktail-related memory (naturally) inspired by the musician.

"Back in 2014, Charlotte Voisey (National Portfolio Ambassador, William Grant & Sons USA) and I partnered on an event at Tales of the Cocktail, called "Disco Inferno". Each cocktail was inspired by a different song, an ultra excitable song originating during the era. One of the 6 songs was Suffragette City. A spin on a Mai Tai, this tasty cocktail was just as colourful and indescribable as Bowie. Beyond this, one of my favourite stories/versions of a Bowie song, apart from all the glorious tracks he's created, would be the acapella version of Freddie Mercury and David Bowie doing 'Under Pressure'. A powerful song that really pulls tears right from your eyes, a great reminder on how tough each day is, and that sometimes we need to stop, smell the roses and just be...Music for me is the powerful and artistic reminder that life is beautiful."

Dan Hudson

The chef and owner of Hudson's on First and Top Chef Canada season 3 alumnus may call the town of Duncan on Vancouver Island home these days, but Hudson was born and raised in the United Kingdom. Growing up overseas, it was only natural to be a big fan of Bowie and the chef would happily share his love of music with people around him, even when they were waiting outside in a line-up waiting for some breakfast...

"My best memory was back when I was working at a brunch spot in town here. Every time I had to open up shop, I'd always have his Greatest Hits album playing really loud whilst getting setting up. The thing is, it used to play on the sound system outside of the restaurant too, so everyone could hear Bowie blasting out down the street on a Saturday morning! Ha, ha, ha."