Photo by Dominick Mastrangelo
When Dave Chaitt moved into a first-floor Williamsburg apartment with a grapevine-filled gazebo out back, he knew it was only a matter of time before he came up with some crazy idea as to how to take advantage of it. He was working in the music industry and had been hosting weekly pizza dinners as a sort of informal networking event at his previous apartment, and that connection between people and food set the groundwork for what’s now the Backyard Brunch Sessions. Starting in April 2010, Chaitt began inviting bands to come over and cook brunch with him, then play a short, intimate set outside to about 15-20 people. He found a partner to take care of the film work, and also befriended Dan Lynch of nyctaper, who now records audio of the performances.
I was invited to a session in the middle of this summer’s heat wave; where Chaitt cooked huevos rancheros with Johnny Ollsin, guitarist for the awesome Family Band (who happen to be eMusic Selects alums!), pictured above. Chaitt’s were made with fresh mozzarella, caramelized shallots and balsamic-soaked strawberries; Ollsin’s were with cotija cheese, cilantro, and broiled tomatillos, onions and jalapenos. And all of that was accompanied by McClure’s bloody marys, and amaaazing ice cream from Adirondack Creamery (my favorite was carrot cake spice). We watched XVSK and Family Band while we ate and tried not to melt (it was definitely worth braving the heat).
I caught up with Dave a couple weeks ago to chat a bit more about his cooking history and what goes into each session.
DID YOU START COOKING EARLY ON?
On Sunday afternoons after my parents would pick up my sister and I from Hebrew school we would either be going to a museum or doing something else cultural, so in a lot of cases it was cooking something from scratch, whether it was pizza, pasta, ice cream, cakes, cookies…something we would make, and it would be this kind of experience for us [with family].
HOW DID COOKING WITH THE BANDS COME TOGETHER?
I run a music technology organization called SoundCtrl…and one of these sort of insights I gained was I’d seen a trend that music had been a complement to something else. So it was “music and…”: music and art, music and fashion, music and food, music and religion. It’s part of an experience with something else; it’s not necessarily just some guy sitting in a living room listening to an old vinyl. So with that in mind I thought, what’s my “music and”? My “music and” is food.
HOW DO YOU DECIDE WHAT FOOD TO MAKE WITH THE BANDS?
Sometimes they’re sort of too busy to think about it, or don’t know what they like to eat, don’t have much cooking experience. And then there are ones who are like, “This is what I grew up eating.” For example, with Teletextile, she goes, “I’m really into raw food. I’m not vegetarian, but I’ve been really into it.” So I made white gazpacho. For Family Band, it was “I love huevos rancheros,” so that’s what we made. But on the other hand I’ve had to come up with this on the fly.
HOW MANY PEOPLE DO YOU USUALLY HAVE? HOW DO YOU KEEP IT SMALL?
I have a large mailing list; just friends and people I meet. I try to make sure they’re all good people and they can all connect through music, through food, through life experiences, whatever it may be. It’s kind of just like who hasn’t been to one in a while, who did I just meet who’d really enjoy this, and who’s been telling me they want to bring someone.