Out of the Kitchen: Local Chefs Playing a Different Tune

There’s a natural music in the kitchen—the rhythm of knives, the hum of the meat slicer, the sizzle of the grill. Some chefs keep rocking out after their shifts. These four are just as comfortable playing music as they are wielding a boning knife.

Vikram Sunderam

Chef at Rasika and Rasika West End

Photograph by Jeff Elkins.

Instrument: Tabla, an Indian-style pair of

His learning process: “If I hear something
often enough, I can play it.”

Tip for tabla mastery: “You play with your
hands, so you have to have skillful fingers.”

Influences: Indian tabla maestros Zakir
Hussain and Alla Rakha.

Where he plays now: “I have a tabla set and a
drum kit at home, so I definitely keep the neighbors up.”

What he listens to in the kitchen: Pop, rock,
Bollywood tunes, Hindi music.

Aaron McCloud

Chef at Cedar

Photograph by Jeff Elkins.

Instrument: Violin.

First restaurant job: Playing violin during
Sunday brunch at the Gandy Dancer in Ann Arbor as a teenager.

Pay at the time: $100 an hour.

Training: At McCloud’s peak, he was practicing
up to ten hours a day and spending summers at Michigan’s Interlochen

How performing informed his cooking philosophy:
“A lot of chefs have this idea that they cook for themselves. If
guests like it, that’s great; if not, screw ’em. I’m the opposite because
I cook for other people.”

Career high: Taking a class with violin
virtuoso Itzhak Perlman.

Victor Albisu

Chef/owner of soon-to-open Taco Bamba and Del Campo

Photograph by Jeff Elkins.

Instrument: Guitar.

Why he started strumming: “The first time I
heard Guns N’ Roses’ Appetite for Destruction, I knew I wanted to make
noise like that.”

Band: Spoiled Rotten (1990-92).

Band’s look: “Leather pants and cowboy boots
with chains. I looked like Ian Astbury.”

Sample song title: “Choking on

Career high: “We headlined the Fairfax High
battle of the bands, and Dave Grohl introduced us.”

Eric Brannon

Executive chef and general manager at Ted’s Bulletin

Photograph by Jeff Elkins.

Instrument: Drums.

Band: The Borderless Puzzle

Style: “We did a lot of genre-hopping, but
there were jam-band elements.”

Career high: “From parties in hotel rooms to
super-late nights to X-rated activities, it was the life of the rock

Opened for: Parliament Funkadelic and rapper

Where to hear the band: “You can download a
few concerts on”

What he listens to in the kitchen: When
prepping food, he listens to Wu-Tang Clan.

This article appears in the April 2013 issue of The Washingtonian.

Parenting writer

Nevin Martell is a parenting, food, and travel writer whose work has appeared in the Washington Post, New York Times, Saveur, Men’s Journal, Fortune, Travel + Leisure, Runner’s World, and many other publications. He is author of eight books, including It’s So Good: 100 Real Food Recipes for Kids, Red Truck Bakery Cookbook: Gold-Standard Recipes from America’s Favorite Rural Bakery, and the small-press smash Looking for Calvin and Hobbes: The Unconventional Story of Bill Watterson and His Revolutionary Comic Strip. When he isn’t working, he loves spending time with his wife and their six-year-old son, who already runs faster than he does.