Rock and roll biographer Mark Bego is shifting gears with a big, bold and colorful cookbook. But he’s not straying too far from his genre. His latest is “Eat Like a Rock Star,” a compilation of recipes recommended by 46 artists, plus several of his own.
Bego not only wrote the book, he also prepared, tasted and photographed the results. Talk about investigative journalism.
“I wanted to be able to say: ‘I gathered the recipes, then cooked them, and I photographed all of them. If I can make this colorful and beautiful food, so can you!’” he said in an IM interview.
Although he has been cooking all of his life, the idea of combining his love of rock music and food came to him in 2013. Bego solicited recipes from the rock stars and got back 118 incredible culinary creations.
“I have been interviewing rock stars since the 1970s. Whenever I did an interview with someone like Boz Scaggs, or Micky Dolenz, or Marilyn McCoo, the conversation often turned to food.
“It occurred to me that I could create a revealing behind-the-scenes look at what the rock stars cook, eat, and mix to drink,” says Bego.
“I resisted the temptation to have gimmick-laden things like rock star marijuana brownies in the book. Although this is a dramatically fun, colorful rock and roll book, it is also a serious cookbook, with recipes that range from ‘easy’ to ‘challenging,’” he says.
” As it always is with rock stars, even the food in this book is big, bold, and very exciting.”
Bego’s most recent music biography is “Life with My Father: Glen Campbell,” written with the artist’s oldest daughter Debby. The book was a Top Ten best-seller in Nashville daily newspaper The Tennessean.
With Eat Like a Rock Star” (Skyhorse Publishing) set to be released Oct. 17, Bego sat down with IM to discuss his latest work.
TheImproper: After 61 rock oriented memoirs, why a cook book?
Bego: I have been writing rock & roll and show business biographies since the 1970s and I was ready to stretch out a bit. In 2012 I wrote an entire magazine to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of The Supremes, with my dear friend Mary Wilson of The Supremes. While doing it, I came up with the idea of creating a couple of ‘Supreme’ cooking pages. So I asked Mary if she had any recipes. She gave me two of them, and when I saw how great they looked after I photographed them, a light went on in my head, and I thought, ‘That’s the ticket: an all rock star cookbook! That’s what I want to do next.’ She helped me gather recipes for it. She wrote the Introduction, and she has given me several of her best recipes. Her ‘Sweet Potato Pie, “Passionate Bourbon Cocktail” and her “Caviar Omelet” are among her culinary contributions.
IM: You’ve said that during your interviews with rock stars for the books, “the topic of food always came up.” Can you elaborate?
Bego: Well, if the topic didn’t come up naturally, after I started compiling this cookbook, I certainly brought it up! One of the things that I have done in my career is to co-write books with rock stars. Along the way, I have either ended up staying in their homes, or they have come to stay in my house. When that happens, you can’t help but to end up eventually cooking with each other. When Martha Reeves came to Tucson and stayed at my house as a writer’s retreat, I remember her cooking us soul food in my kitchen. I felt like I was in Motown heaven! This is also true of Sarah Dash of LaBelle, Randy Jones of The Village People, Angela Bowie, the late Jimmy Greenspoon of Three Dog Night, and of course Mary Wilson
IM: Boz Scaggs, Richie Sambora, Joey Fatone, Micky Dolenz, and Michael McDonald are among your rock star chefs. Tell us how you captured the recipes.
Bego: When I was first toying with the idea of doing a rock and roll cookbook, I had the opportunity to interview Boz Scaggs for a feature story in TheImproper. I knew that he has his own winery in California, so it seemed like a natural question to ask: Did he have recipes to pair with his wines. It opened up a whole new avenue of conversation. What Boz ultimately gave me was—not one—but three of his favorite variations on spicy Italian chicken. Richie Sambora I know from hanging out with him at The Kentucky Derby, so it is a natural that he has a Derby-themed recipe in the book. Joey Fatone has hosted his own cooking TV show, and he gave me his excellent recipe for ‘Rice Balls.’ I love having cocktails with Micky Dolenz of The Monkees (whose memoir I co-wrote), so I am happy to present his signature drink, the ‘Micky ‘D’ Cocktail. Michael McDonald I first met in the 1976; we were recently on the same flight to Los Angeles. As we stood in the baggage claim area of LAX airport, I told him about this cookbook, and he told me about his favorite pasta dish: ‘Pasta with Ham, Peas and Parmesan Cheese.’
IM: What was the most unexpected recipe, and from whom?
Bego: It would have to be Martha Reeves. When she very enthusiastically announced that the recipe that she wanted to give to me, it was for ‘Smoked Turkey Necks and Lima Beans.’ I immediately thought to myself: ‘Now that is a recipe I would never have predicted!’ Martha proceeded to tell me, ‘I cooked this for Eddie Kendricks before he died. Honey, this is real soul food!’ One of the things that can be done with ‘Eat Like a Rock Star’ is that you can plan several thematic menus with it. For instance you could make Martha Reeves’ recipe for “Smoked Turkey Necks and Lima Beans,” and pair it with Marilyn McCoo’s “Grits Caserole” and Rita Coolidge’s “Kale and Collard Greens.” Desert could be Mary Wilson’s “Sweet Potato Pie” or Sarah Dash’s “Sugar Cookie Peach Cobbler.” It would be the perfect personification of the Fifth Dimension hit “Stoned Soul Picnic!”
IM: So, there are foodies in the rock world! Whose recipes are among your favorites?”
Bego: A lot of rock stars take their food very seriously. Michelle Phillips of The Mamas & The Papas was very specific about her ‘Organic Lemon Chicken.’ Tiffany gave me a recipe for ‘Lebanese Cinnamon Chicken’ served over couscous that is amazingly good. Marilyn McCoo gave some really incredible recipes, including her ‘Cheesy Grits Casarole’ and her ‘Polynesian Chicken.’ Thelma Houston’s ‘Red Velvet Cake’ is the ultimate version of that famed dessert. And, both Tanya Tucker’s ‘Chocolate Chip and Peanut Butter Chip Cookies’ and Angela Bowie’s ‘Cowboy Cookies’ are truly ‘rock star worthy.’ Every time I bake them, I am asked by my guests if they can have some to take home.
IM: Curious, is there anyone who played hard to get or would not divulge?
Bego: There were only a handful of rockers I really wanted to be “guest chefs” in this book, and for some, it didn’t work out. But for the most part I was happily surprised with the recipes that I was given. The rock stars I known for years, or who I have personally worked with, gladly gave me some of their most incredible recipes. This list included Mary Wilson, Randy Jones, Tanya Tucker, Freda Payne, Sarah Dash, Melanie, Martha Reeves, Michael McDonald, Marilyn McCoo, Freddy Cannon, Joey Fatone, and Debbie Gibson were all super-cooperative in sharing their culinary creations.
IM: So, are you eating like a rock star these days?
Bego: When I first launched the food blog that became ‘Eat Like a Rock Star’ in 2013, I had to prove that was able to cook as well. So, the cookbook has several of my own recipes as well. As I was stepping up my culinary game, I began to challenge myself to make new things that where never in my own cooking repertoire, like ‘French Macarons,’ ‘Lobster Egg Rolls,’ ‘Detroit Style Coney Dogs,’ ‘Indian Chicken Vindaloo,” Spaghetti with Tuna Fish,’ and ‘Green Tea Cake.’ I love experimenting in the kitchen, and I really got into concocting unique things for this cookbook like ‘Key Lime Coconut Donuts’ and ‘Cherry, Almond and Pineapple Scones.’
IM: What is the next book you are working on?
Bego: I am hoping that this book will become so successful there will be an “Eat Like a Rock Star, Volume 2.” In addition to that, Mary Wilson and I are putting together a book, and two of my additional rock star chefs and I are working on memoirs. I also have a fascinating old Hollywood book I have been researching and I am putting the finishing touches on a memoir for one of the world’s most successful hoteliers. I am also in the development stage with Emmy Award winning Producer Dave Marken on a TV version of “Eat Like a Rock Star.”