DJ Cookbook Dinner Vol. 8

The eighth edition of The DJ Cookbook dinner series was co-hosted by another husband and wife duo: musician Mikkel C. Hess and Chef Nira Kehar. The event took place at Black Flamingo in March amongst the budding of spring, to celebrate and welcome the release of Kehar’s new cookbook on Dovetail press, OJAS: Modern Recipes and Ancient Wisdom for Everyday Ayurveda. Together, husband and wife brought to life the sounds and flavors of Ojas – the vital life force that guides body and mind.

For those that don’t know, Kehar is a Canadian boss-lady who’s Indian roots took her from Montreal to New Dehli, amongst other things, to open Chez Nini, a French Brasserie with Indian spice. In 2014 she was invited to do a dinner at the James Beard House, where in addition to the elaborate meal she also put together a self-published art book specifically for the event titled Eating Stories. Hess, is a Danish musician, drummer, composer and producer who truly embodies all four. He is best known for his band Hess is More but has many other ongoing projects including music for film, theater and dance. In 2016 his music was featured for a ballet piece titled UROPA premiering at The Royal Theatre in Denmark.

As you might remember the goal of the dinners is to bring a Chef and DJ together to collaborate on an original concept that speaks to both of them by merging music and a five course vegetarian meal. For this dinner the couple explored the six Ayurvedic tastes (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent) and given the intimate and particularly celebratory nature, the evening took on the life of a performance, more than just a dinner. All those working the event wore white-hazmat suits (including chef and musician) to symbolize stars in the cosmos, all working in unison to adorn a bright night-sky. While the DJ setup was replaced by a live soundscape and lighting installation created by Kristian Kirk, both setup in a circle in the center of the room.

The dinner began with a welcome cocktail of an umeboshi elixir with fresh aloe juice and tequila, followed by passed hors d’oeuvres of breaded mushrooms and corn-buttermilk cream for the pungent course. A bountiful crudité plate with delicate chamomile hummus followed for the bitter course. Then came a healing french onion soup khichdi as the sweet course, an outstanding coconut-crusted avocado with curry leaf and pine nut pesto as the sour course, then a fun black bean grape succotash in an airy phyllo nest for the salty course and last but not least these beautifully astringent tasting spiced-poached-pears with rose honey cream that hunt our dreams.

Hess’ musical spaceship included drums, bass, synthesizers, percussion and vocals, each with corresponding colored lights representing the five elements that form the tastes: earth, water, fire, wind and ether. As each course came out, the two lights representing the elements of its’ taste illuminated, and Hess played the adjacent instruments. Rather than songs, the sounds resembled meditative chants that activated the chakras related to each taste, creating an elevated awareness of the food being ingested.

After the meal we hosted a fundraiser for Wellness In The Schools, an organization that promotes healthy eating in New York public schools, DJed by Hess and DJ Cookbook co-founder Eli Goldstein. All sales of the cookbook that night were also donated to Wellness In The Schools.

This memorable evening brought together two lovers to showcase a meeting point of their crafts, and showed us how seamlessly food and music can align and complement one another. It also connected an array of friends, family and spectators to experience the ethos of Ojas and Ayurveda in a purposeful evening of tasting, hearing and seeing to raise consciousness and awareness about what we put into our bodies. Big thanks to everyone that helped make it happen and enjoyed it with us.

Left to Right (Top): Kim Strouse, Alana Baldassari, Carolina Portillo, Kristian Kirk, Ojas (the pup), Lucia Neamtu, Eli Goldstein, Andrea Lubrano, Chris Davies, Maurizio Mascetti. Left to Right (Bottom): Mikkel E. Hess, Nira Kehar. Photo courtesy of Nick Sethi.