When some metalheads grow up, they cut their hair, step into some sensible trainers, and trade in their Megadeth tapes for something "more meaningful" like Mark Kozelek Spotify playlists. Gormet chef John Hurkes isn't one of those metalheads.
With one foot solidly grounded in the Minneapolis restaurant The Bulldog N.E., and the other likely used to kicking moshers' faces in whilst crowdsurfing, Hurkes creates professional quality dishes inspired by the deadliest punk and metal bands around. From a pentagram-inscribed Slayer Pizza to the pitch-black Danzig Juicy Lucifuge burger, he's contributed a dozen recipes to Rice and Bread Magazine's ongoing series, Perfect Pairings,
Inspired by his brutal take on the culinary medium, The Creators Project spoke to Hurkes about his heavy metal food designs, Black Sabbath's dietary habits, and the dish he wants to make for Metallica.
The Creators Project: What was the first Perfect Pairing you did, and how did it come about?
John Hurkes: The Perfect Pairing series originally started by pairing heavy metal albums and craft beer. However, it changed formats slightly when Rice and Bread Magazine reached out to me about contributing food to the series. The first dish I contributed was inspired by the band Pentagram and featured house-made hop-infused communion wafers, lamb shank rillettes, and goat cheese. Needless to say, the homemade crackers were not made under the code of canon law, but instead to the tune of some old school heavy metal records. This particular dish had been done for a beer dinner some time before, but seemed like a good starting point featured in the Perfect Pairing series.
Where did you first get the idea for the Slayer Pizza?
The Slayer Pizza originally began as an idea to pair a food dish with Slayer’s 1986 album Reign in Blood. It’s a classic headbanger record that everyone should have in their collection. The pizza flour was stone ground from 350 communion wafers, rolled into the shape of a Slayer record and baked until the Eucharistic dough started to burn. The giant communion wafer was then swiftly chopped into a pentagram and finished when it was lying dead in its own blood, the altar wine gastrique. I still have the middle piece in my freezer and someday it will be resurrected.
How did that turn into your ongoing series at Rice and Bread Magazine?
I had been doing food pairings for a little while with Rice and Bread Magazine before the Slayer Pizza. It’s pretty cool, it’s almost like with each pairing we are re-releasing a classic album complete with its own heavy metal food porn.
What aspects of music do you translate into the language of food?
There’s different variables that make a Perfect Pairing whether it’s the region of a specific dish and band, or fusing together similarities between song titles and ingredients. With the Exodus Pork Belly Blood Feast you have a complex dish paired with their album Blood In, Blood Out. The dish features grilled blood sausage on the exterior of the dish, with a thrashed blackberry and pureed blood sausage sauce in the center. It’s a violent album, and the main tracks Salt the Wound and Body Harvest inspire the usage of the pork belly seasoned with black carbon salt harvested from the Dead Sea in Israel. So, there’s a process to it, and making sure the dish truly represents the band and specific album is important. With the Black Sabbath Pizza I actually used a bread recipe written by the miller’s wife of the Mapledurham Watermill from the cover of the 1970 album. So there’s different ways to make the correlations between the music and food.
Was there ever an idea that you came up with that was too over the top or obvious to actually turn into a meal? Maybe 'Lamb of God Chops' for example?
Yeah, there’s a killer occultic metal band called The Devil’s Blood and I had this thought to do a sort of jungle juice from Eden. It’s not exactly a meal, but it’s a house-infused unholy altar wine sangria with triple sec, vodka, and forbidden fruit. When you drink it, it leads you to make bad choices. It would simply be called The Devil’s Blood.
Have you ever served a dish to the band that inspired it?
No. However, I’m a chef de partie at a restaurant called the Bulldog N.E. in Minneapolis, MN. We’ve had a few cool bands like High on Fire and Corrosion of Conformity come in and eat. Most the bands I have done metal-inspired dishes for have not toured through the area yet. So we’ll see in the future!
Which metal gods would you most like to cook for?
Black Sabbath. Most of the band is vegan and follow pretty strict diets in their older age, but I’ve heard that Ozzy still eats dead bats and pasta made from spider webs. So, I think he would definitely enjoy the Black Sabbath Pizza. There’s also a vegan butcher shop here in Minneapolis called The Herbivorous Butcher that claims they can produce delicious vegan English Banger sausages.
Do you know what your next Perfect Pairing will be?
Many ingredients are seasonal and hard to find, so each dish is created as the ingredients become available. I’ve got a Metallica dish I’m working on. It’s a blackened sea bass with death roe and a white currant induction. When the fish “Fades to Black” it’s ready to serve. There might be jumper cables attached to the plate and when you sit down and shove the fork in you’ll "Ride the Lightning."
Have you considered making meals based on non-metal albums? Dishes like Mac n' Cheezus are begging for it.
Sure. There’s so many great artists and albums out there begging to be eaten. I would love to do a Donna Summer dessert dish. There’s this nice song called “Macarthur’s Park” about how Donna baked this cake and left it in the rain and the green icing melted into this horrible slime. It took her so long to bake and she didn’t write the recipe down. I would like to properly craft the legendary disco queen’s cake from some fine dry ingredients and away from the rain.
Do you see your series going beyond the Rice and Bread Magazine collab? Might we see a cookbook in the future?
I’ve been discussing with Jason Schreurs over at Rice and Bread Magazine on a book collaboration in the future. It would probably be a coffee table book featuring each dish and various recipes. I’m sure new metal cooking techniques will be discussed, like how to properly mill flour from communion wafers and safely cook nachos with a flame thrower.