Francis Lam is a journalist and judge on Top Chef Masters. Photo: Pableaux Johnson
What was the food highlight of your year?
One of the things that makes me feel incredibly grateful is that any time anyone asks me this question, my first reaction is always, “Man, there are so many! How can I pick one?” That said, in 2013 it was probably returning to Alinea, where Grant Achatz and his team continually make me see the whole experience of dining in new ways. Or it may have been going to Noma for the first time, where Rene Redzepi showed me what food tastes like on a different planet that happens to still be Earth. But am I giving short shrift to the giant scarlet shrimp I ate with my wife on our first trip to Portugal, her family’s homeland? I mean, really, it was probably the fact that her mom - my mother in law! - made 300 of her Portuguese shrimp dumplings for our wedding. But then again, two days before that, my three best friends took me out for an old-man’s bachelor party at Mission Chinese Food, so that has to be in the running, right? The short answer is: Life is fucking awesome.
What was the music highlight of your year?
Speaking of being an Old Man, I hate to admit that I almost never go out to shows anymore. Every new year I make a resolution to go to shows again, but here we are, in December, and I can count on the shows I saw this year on one hand. But I guess by sheer force, I’d have to say listening to the Los Campesinos! album “Hold On Now, Youngster” has to be the highlight of the year, because I put it on once like three weeks ago and have purposely not listened to it again but EVERY SONG IS STUCK IN MY HEAD all at once forever and ever, I’m afraid.
Was there a moment when food and music came together in a memorable way?
This is pretty esoteric, but the restaurant Koks in the Faroe Islands has the most amazing soundtrack. There’s a lot of backstory, but basically the Faroes are a tiny, tiny country way, way, way in the North Atlantic. Maybe the best quick way to describe it is that they are really proud of the fact that their language is the closest thing there is to old Viking Norse. Anyway, the chef of Koks, Leif Sorensen, commissioned a composer to make a 7-hour piece—the whole length of service—that uses recordings from the boats the fish are caught on, undersea mics, sounds from the kitchen, beats from hitting an oil tank, sea gulls, and traditional instruments to make a piece of music that tells an aural version of the story that the kitchen tries to tell through its food.