Eat, Drink & Rock And Roll
What frontier is left to conquer once you've sold millions of records, played massive concerts and won a few GRAMMY Awards? For some musicians, it can be delivering everything from burgers, hot sauce, wine, and tequila to the masses.
And it's becoming serious business.
Best New Artist GRAMMY winner Zac Brown has quite the culinary history. Before becoming a full-time musician, Brown ran Zac's Place with his father in Georgia, developing his hand as a cook. He recently released Southern Ground, a cookbook containing 27 of his favorite recipes including Southern Fried Chicken, Hearty Brunswick Stew, Farmer's Fried Green Tomatoes, and Revival Peach Cobbler. "The cooking part of my life has been happening as long as my music," he says.
Shock-rock legend Alice Cooper opened his family-friendly Alice Cooper'stown restaurant in Phoenix in 1998 and designed it to mix rock and roll and sports, with memorabilia and dishes inspired by both (try the Zappa Zukes, Nightmare Nachos or the Home Run Wings & Ribs).
Cooper credits his "foodie" manager Shep Gordon, who helped launch the careers of celebrity chefs such as Roger Verge and Wolfgang Puck, with getting him into the business. The singer feels his restaurant is homey and comfortable — employees wear his signature eye makeup and Cooper is approachable to customers.
"I walk into the restaurant, go over to a table and ask, 'What are you having?'" Cooper says. "If they're having barbecue, I'll stand there and take a piece of it and taste it and say, 'This is great.' When I am there I am very approachable. I take pictures with everybody. If it's somebody's birthday, I make sure to get something out of the merchandise [case] and take it over to them."
He says he likes the intimacy of his one location, as opposed to a large chain: "I would like to have one gem rather than a bunch of rhinestones out there."
Chickenfoot frontman Sammy Hagar serves up Mexican cuisine at his three Cabo Wabo Cantinas in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico; Lake Tahoe, Nev.; and Las Vegas. Hagar has also grown his Sammy's Beach Bar & Grill chain, with locations in Maui, St. Louis, Las Vegas, and soon New York and Los Angeles. The fare spans burgers and fries, hot dogs, quesadillas, and shrimp salads. It also stocks plenty of bandmate Michael Anthony's hot sauce. "It's really, really good," praises Hagar. "It's no gimmick. You put it on eggs, on pizza, on your burger, on your dog. It is slammin'."
Anthony admits he just fell into the hot sauce business. While on tour with his former band Van Halen in the '90s, fans learned about Anthony's love for spicy foods and hot sauces and would bring him homemade hot sauce and chilies. He was encouraged to make his own brand, and following careful research, he introduced his line of Mad Anthony's hot sauce.
For Anthony, it's been quite a learning experience. "I'm finding out [about] all the rules and regulations as far as even making a hot sauce," he says. "To get everything passed with the FDA, there's a long list of requirements that you have to go through to make this thing happen."
Anthony enjoys the challenge and is seeking to expand his brand and consumer base. He sells his products to specialty stores in the United States and Europe and through his Web site.
Two other rockers whipping up hot sauces are Aerosmith's Joe Perry, whose Rock Your World hot sauce offerings include Boneyard Brew and Mango Peach Tango, and Offspring frontman Dexter Holland, who is marketing his Gringo Bandito Mexican-style hot sauce.
Mouth watering yet? How about a refreshment?
In 1996, Hagar started bottling and selling his Cabo Wabo Tequila brand. Competition accolades and swelling sales soon followed, especially once he began selling it at his original Cabo Wabo Cantina and after a Napa Valley importer started distributing it in 1999. In order to gain worldwide distribution through Skyy Spirits (a subsidiary of Gruppo Campari, one of the largest spirits company in the world), Hagar sold 80 percent of his interest in the company in 2007 for a reported $80 million.
Journey's Jonathan Cain, Tool's Maynard James Keenan and Queensrÿche's Geoff Tate have taken to the wine business.
Cain, whose family has a history in the winemaking business, bottles his brands of Pinot Noir and Cabernet Savignon via his delaCain Vineyards. Keenan's Caduceus Cellars will be featured in a new documentary film detailing Northern Arizona's growing wine industry, Blood Into Wine, which will premiere in Scottsdale, Ariz., on Feb. 19.
A longtime wine connoisseur, Tate found himself expanding his palette through his travels and wanting to try making his own. He teamed up with Three Rivers Winery and developed his Insania brand — a sold-out 2007 red vintage released in 2008 and a 2008 white vintage due soon — that he plans on expanding in the near future. "This particular wine Insania, the red especially, is designed to be cellared for 10 years," explains Tate. "It's already really good, but in 10 years it's going to be just phenomenal."
For Tate, music and wine are similar to the senses. "You start with grapes, and they're somewhat like musical notes," the singer muses. "You blend them together to form a chord. You're trying to paint a picture, whether using audio or the sense of taste and smell. So you construct this thing that's hopefully very pleasing to the senses, and how people take that is so subjective and varied."
Others have learned new lessons through these non-musical endeavors.
"Tequila is one more thing that reassured me that quality and passion is the best combination you can have," reflects Hagar. "If you have a great idea and have passion for it, you can see it through. And quality is a special, special thing."
"Right off the bat, manufacturers told me I wouldn't become a millionaire by doing hot sauce unless I'm like a Paul Newman or someone like that," says Anthony. "I just love making it."
"I get to the restaurant here in Phoenix at least once a week when I'm home," reveals Cooper. "They never know when I'm coming in, which is kind of neat because I come in and check the ribs. I'm proud of our barbecue. That's what people revolve around, and for 13 years I've never been able to catch them when the ribs weren't exactly right. It's great. It's nice to know that we're consistent. I think what every restaurant wants is consistency."
Tate concurs on the point of consistency, something he strives for in all aspects of his life, and draws a parallel between winemaking and a successful career in the music industry. "You don't go from making your first vintage to hanging out with Robert Mondavi," he says.
"Just like anything, it doesn't happen overnight. It's a building process."
(Regular GRAMMY.com contributor Bryan Reesman was told by Alice Cooper that he has a new mission: Convince Meat Loaf to open up an exclusive meat loaf restaurant, not the chicken place he once thought of. It just makes sense, doesn't it?)