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What It’s Like to Cook for Pop Stars On Tour

After cooking on tour for pop stars and bands like Katy Perry, Paul McCartney, and Supertramp, I've dealt with a lot of crazy situations.

When I was 23 years old, I was working as a chef in London. One of my best friends at the time—who was also a chef—went on tour with Madonna to cook for the crew. After three months, he came home with the craziest stories, and I instantly knew that I had to follow in his footsteps. I quit my restaurant job and registered with a company that enlisted chefs to go on tour with musicians.

Katy Perry ate brussels sprouts on a daily basis.

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My first gig wasn't very rock 'n' roll: My first two weeks on the job were on tour with opera singer Andrea Bocelli. I didn't know much about him aside from the fact that he's blind. A week later, I was sent on tour with Crowded House for a month and a half. My parents used to listen to them back in the day and I appreciated their music. Even though the tour went beyond the UK border, I had the time of my life. The rumors are true: the British, Irish, Scottish, and Welsh can drink more than anyone I have ever met. The more rural the area, the more alcohol people consume and the less teeth they have left for it.

I had a really great time with the crew. On top of that, singer Neil Finn's son and his band were the opening act. These guys were all my age and we smoked a lot of weed together behind the tour bus.

Crowded House was a fun band to work for. The band members were genuinely interested in what I cooked for them and gave me a lot of freedom to do my thing. They weren't on a diet, and there weren't any foods they disliked. Unfortunately, many artists aren't like this. Most musicians don't like to consume anything greasy, salty, or sweet. On other tours after this one, I usually cooked two meals: one for the crew and one for the artist or the band. Back then, superfoods weren't a big thing, although many artists were already keen on meals that consisted of nuts, seeds, steamed vegetables, and quinoa. I did enjoy the fact that Katy Perry ate brussels sprouts on a daily basis. The bigger the crew, the more food I could make, so sometimes there was an opportunity to prepare a pig roast. Or space cakes.

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My first European tour was with Supertramp. Their music can best be described as one of my musical nightmares, and the band members weren't easy to be around. At that time, Supertramp wasn't that popular anymore, and it seemed like they wanted to do one more big tour to rake in the big bucks. After every show, they immediately got into a cab to their private jet. I've never even seen people like Katy Perry or Paul McCartney do that.

Where I cooked my meals was always a surprise. I've prepared food in the dressing room, behind the stage, and even in a hallway. If I was lucky, there was a separate space that already had a stove in it. The third stop of the Supertramp tour was an amphitheatre in Verona, Italy. I had to set up my kitchen against one of the walls of this insanely beautiful building, and then an hour after dinner, they began their set. As soon as the show started, it started pouring rain outside. It might sound mean, but I still enjoy thinking about that moment. Every night I had to endure their horrible music. To this day, my hands start shaking when I hear the song "Dreamer." I do have to admit I admired their rock 'n' roll way of living: they flew around the world in a private jet and were driven in stretch limos flowing with champagne.

As soon as the show started, it started pouring rain outside. It might sound mean, but I still enjoy thinking about that moment. Every night I had to endure their horrible music.

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When I first started out as a road cook, I loved the tour bus. It features everything one could possibly need: alcohol, multiple TVs with gaming consoles, food, movies, and all of it of the highest quality. Sleeping happened on a very irregular basis, and people fought iPod wars. By the end of the tour, the bus looked like Mötley Crüe had been on board for months. The bathroom was probably the cleanest space in the whole vehicle, since doing a number two on board was strictly prohibited. When you're all stuck together in a small space, the smell of shit isn't very pleasant, to say the least.

There was one instance when I almost set the bus on fire with a bottle of absinthe. If you drink it properly, you put a sugar cube on a special spoon that balances on a glass, pour the liquor (alcohol content 80 percent) over it, and set the sugar on fire before stirring it into the drink. Apparently, I had spilled a good amount of liquor on the table because it caught fire after I had prepared one too many cocktails. I was luckily able to put the flames out quickly using a towel. Drugs were always around in large quantities. Every location had its own runner, a local who knew where specific things could be found: food items and narcotics. The runner was simply given a shopping list that featured any desired drugs.

I'm by no means holier than thou, but my drug days were behind me at the point that I got on tour. The only thing I would occasionally do was smoke weed. This also might be the reason why I stopped going on tour. Don't get me wrong; the artists weren't spending every waking hour smoking or snorting, but most people who were responsible for catering on tour liked to go nuts. It is a well-known fact that chefs love drugs and booze, and touring chefs take that notion to the next level. While the legends of rock 'n' roll quietly eat their quinoa, the crew is high as a kite.

It wasn't all fun and games, though. I worked 18 hours a day and only got to rest when we were driving to our next destination. My days off were great, but lonely. I saw the same faces every day in arenas, tour buses, and concert venues, so when I had a day off, I tried to avoid the crew. The production company always gave us a nice amount of pocket cash on top of our regular wages and I used that money to go to Michelin-starred restaurants. These days, I don't make as much money and I can't afford to just walk into a Michelin establishment anymore. I doubt I will ever make that much money as a chef again.

In his book, Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain wrote: "Your body is not a temple, it's an amusement park. Enjoy the ride." Many crew members on tour took that advice way too literally. It's a lifestyle that easily sucks you in, but it's also very unhealthy. After two years, I decided that I'd done and seen enough. I didn't want to turn into some of the people I had met. I'd rather be the boring guy who wants a normal life, or as much as that is possible for a chef.