#MondayMotivation: A Chef By Any Other Name
May 15, 2017
As told to Priya Krishna by Chef Todd Pulsinelli
When I was a teenager growing up in Ohio, I was into skateboarding.
At that time—it was the ’90s—skateboarding was super influenced by hip-hop. All skateboarding videos featured songs by groups like Black Moon and Gang Starr. So it was inevitable that I was going to get into that type of music.
One day, my friends and I started messing around, playing the guitar, banging on drums, and rapping to the beat. We’d record ourselves on 4-track cassette recorders. As we did it more and more, we got progressively better. We upgraded our equipment, moved our studio to a bunkhouse next to my friend’s family country house, and gave our rap group the name “Dekline.” When I went to culinary school, rapping took a backseat to my cooking career. But my friends still lived in Ohio, so whenever I’d go back home to see my family, we’d meet up and make music, just like we used to.
I eventually moved to New Orleans for a restaurant job and on a whim bought a digital 8-track recorder so I could start making beats at my house. I started writing rap lyrics and eventually, I made my own single, adopting the name “Warbucks.” One single turned into a second single that I made with my friend, Chuck, and put on Apple Music and iTunes, even selling some hard copies. My style evolved into this 90s East Coast hip-hop inspired by MF Doom, Wu-Tang Clan, and The Pharcyde, with tons of kitchen and family references in the lyrics. I have a song called “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” that’s all about my wife, and it samples the actual movie, Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
Rapping has remained such a satisfying outlet for me. It’s amazing to be able to listen back to a track and be like, Oh man, that sounds really dope, and for other people to listen and have the same feeling. Similar to cooking, you are bringing all these ideas together, and when the finished product comes out, you feel so proud that you have created something. The freestyle aspect of rapping has made me better at being creative in the kitchen.
I’m about to release my second album. My first one was called Soup & A Sandwich, and I’m calling this next one Side Dishes because each song is short, with no hooks and just really pure rapping. I’m recording on a computer now, so the sound quality is amazing. We made one song last night called “Red Bean,” and it’s about cooking in your backyard. There’s a line—“Hillbillies turn critters into fritters, winners into sinners”—that I’m really proud of. I’m super excited for it to come out.
I don’t think I’d ever go into rapping full time. I’m not really into performing live; I’m actually a pretty quiet guy. If I did perform, I’d probably do that thing where you put pantyhose over your head.