Top Chef…Band?

Musicians working in San Diego's service industry take to the stage and rock out for charity

When I hear the words “battle of the bands,” hard as I try, I can’t help but imagine teens with bad skin and braces awkwardly rocking weird-shaped guitars over fumbled Nirvana covers.

The Belly Up might just be changing the way I think though: Thanks to them, now I envision chefs with aprons, knives, and spatulas brandishing microphones and pounding the skins – no, not potato skins – rather, the drumset kind. While not exactly what’s going down in Solana Beach, Jan. 27 promises to be a culinary treat you may not be used to: The Battle of the Chef Bands.
It’s actually the fourth installment in the annual charity event. Hosted by DiningOutSD founder and publisher, Josh Kopelman, and Sam Zien, aka Sam the Cooking Guy, the event brings out service industry professionals from around San Diego -- who also happen to be damned fine musicians, by the way – to compete in a glorified battle of the bands.
"We actually do have some professional musicians performing," Kopelman told us. "I really enjoyed our winners last year -- Nick Bone & the Big Scene -- out of Hodad's [watch the band's recent SoundDiego TV appearance here]. Boulevar Descarga, of Romesco Restaurant, are an amazing eight-piece latin jazz band. Our sentimental favorite, of course, is Chef Matt Gordon of Urban Solace who played in the very first Chef Bands at Voyeur and has played guitar almost every year."
The men and women taking the stage hail from such fine establishments as the aforementioned Urban Solace Restaurant, Jaynes Gastropub, barleymash, Romesco Mexiterranean Bistro, Hodad’s Ocean Beach, Richard Walker’s Pancake House, BO-beau Kitchen & Bar and Gang Kitchen.
Kopelman is thrilled to see what's in store this year: "We have some bands coming back from previous years, there's a ton of talent up there every year with a great range of musical styles. I'm excited to see Chef Katherine Humphus of Bo-Beau play drums, as I've never seen her play before."
And in case you’re worrying you won’t actually get to eat delicious food while watching chefs play their tunes, do not fret: You’ll be able to feast on offerings courtesy of Eclipse Chocolate, Carnitas Snack Shack, Sadie Rose Baking Company, Cupcakes Squared, Toronado San Diego, and the Belly Up’s own Pacific Coast Grill & Wild Note Cafe.
Why are there so many musicians in the kitchen? “Well, because selling drugs and your body is illegal in most states,” laughed local singer/songwriter, and fellow bartender/server, Jesse LaMonaca. “Really though, the quickest and most flexible way for artists to make money is in the service industry. It’s easy to find a job, and once you get one – it’s easy to pick up shifts. It’s not the most stable line of work, with places closing down here and there but it definitely fits into the ‘musician’ lifestyle. The fact is: If you’re a server or a bartender, you’re probably an artist -- a painter, a sculptor, a musician, a dancer, an actor – because art doesn’t pay enough on its own.”
While we’d all like to see artists make the money they deserve, we can’t help but admire the mission of the Jan. 27 show: Proceeds benefit the Center for Community Solutions, which specialize in providing treatment, and helping prevent relationship and sexual violence in the city of San Diego. The nonprofit agency also provides emergency domestic violence shelters, hospital and court accompaniment, as well as legal and counseling services, for victims of rape, domestic violence or elder abuse.
Now that’s something we’re willing to rock out for. Servers and bartenders unite! Bring forth the rock and let the riffs be as delicious as the food!
The Battle of the Chef Bands rocks Belly Up Jan. 27. The event is 21+ and tickets are $30 in advance (available for purchase here), or $48 at the door.

Dustin Lothspeich plays in Old Tiger, Diamond Lakes, Chess Wars and Boy King. Follow his updates on Twitter or contact him directly.

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