Touring musicians have a great gig. Rock and roll! It’s doubly great when they’re interested in exploring the international culinary world. We do realize some bands subsist solely on Taco Bell and Coke Zero. Shame on them! There’s Hatch chile to sample in New Mexico. Pappy Van Winkle in Kentucky. Doppelbock outside Hamburg. Tortas on the California-Mexico border.
In Good Food, Rocks, we track down a band member serious about their grub—and who has held a job in the food industry too. See Wavves, Real Estate, Theophilus London and Far East Movemment in other installments of Good Food, Rocks
“I don’t want my food to travel more than a 100 miles,” admits Gym Class Heroes bassist Eric Roberts with the passion of a young Michael Pollan. And he walks the walk. As a member of the globe-circling rock-hop band, he’s been given the opportunity to sample locavore fare from places like Japan, Australia and Austin, Texas.
While a strong culinary background (his dad was a chef) got him to appreciate the finer things on the plate, it doesn’t mean he’s a snob—his only tour rider request is salt and vinegar potato chips. We talked to him about his favorite brand, as well as scrubbing pots and “eating weird shit” in Japan.
What is your food industry past?
I’ve actually covered most jobs in the food industry. My dad owned a restaurant equipment repair company and I was his little apprentice. We were mostly defrosting walk-in coolers and freezers. He also ran restaurants in Cooperstown, New York.
What’s your earliest food memory?
I remember being really young, like not even school, and I would go visit my dad in the restaurant. My mom would stay at home and make desserts for the restaurant, so when she came for deliveries I would come in and help him put things on the plates. When I got older, just like any other good chef, I started as a dishwasher.
Was your dad tough in the kitchen?
Oh hell yeah. There was a separate washing station for all the hot skillets. And when there were no skillets ready, I had my hands in 100-degree, greasy-ass water and he’s barking at me. But it was good. I have a good work ethic because of it.
So why did you become a musician and not a chef?
Well, Matt McGinley is what happened. He’s our drummer. I was actually going to college for culinary arts. I was going full blown. The college I was at had a Cordon Bleu curriculum. And for a community college, it has really awesome facilities. I was in my second semester doing that when I got a call from our drummer Matt. I said to myself college isn’t going anywhere, so I hopped onto the opportunity.
Do you find yourself in the kitchen?
Yeah, I try to cook for myself as much as I can. Actually, when we had some down time between our two records, I started working again in the kitchen at a blues cafe down in Pennsylvania. Honestly, it’s a great job to fall back on.
Do you have a favorite food city to hit while on tour?
I’m a huge fan of Portland. Portland is one of my favorite cities. (Edit: Ours too!). What I really like about the West Coast is the farm-to-table movement. I’m a huge fan of farm to table and food that is super organic and super fresh. I don’t want my food to travel more than 100 miles. I think the West Coast is way beyond where we are here on the East Coast.
What about some Portland spots?
Off the top of my head, there is this place The Shanghai Tunnel. There is this place where they only specialize in turkey, which is awesome.
Some other cities?
Austin, TX has some really, really rad restaurants. They are not fancy but they’ve got Frank’s, which is a hot dog place. Casino el Camino is an awesome burger joint. They’ve got heavy metal pizza there. Austin is a really rad city to get dirty comfort food. I was sort of seeing this girl in Minneapolis. Her neighborhood was really cool. There is this place called the Bulldog Burger and right down the street from that there is this French bakery place. It’s very farm to table.
Do you have any specific tour rider requests?
We just go for what’s fun to eat. We have gummy bears and beef jerky. But what I can’t live without is salt and vinegar potato chips. I need to have them every single day. That is my contribution to the list.
OK, this is important. What salt and vinegar brand do you stand by?
It’s often between these two brands: Miss Vickie’s and the Kettle brand. And Kettle wins by far.
What is the fanciest dinner you’ve ever been taken out to by your label or somebody trying to impress you?
We were out in Japan and there is a really huge language barrier there. There are no English menus or anything like that. Which is cool, but we had our record rep and some translators and we all went to this totally Japanese restaurant, where you sit down on the floor. We didn’t know what anything meant, so we left it up to our label reps and it was like a rodeo, man.
What did you eat?
They just kept on coming in with giant trays of weird shit. I was eating weird, raw squid. I was sucking the brains out of some shrimp. I pretty much eat anything that’s put in front of me. There is actually a rule we’ve established in the band: I will eat pretty much anything on a menu as long as it’s paid for by the band. And because of that I’ve had some weird, weird food.
I’ve had frog legs, ostrich, kangaroo. I’ve eaten a whole soft shell crab. I had some bugs. Bugs are good. Yeah man.
When you’re recording is there any food or drink that you need to at the studio?
When we were recording our latest record we spent a lot of time in Boonton, New Jersey, and right up the street from where the studio there’s this place called Don’s Sandwich Shop. They have this monstrous roast beef sandwich and let me tell you I got that sandwich every single day. It’s just like a monster. It’s got really fresh roast beef, horseradish sauce, tomatoes, onions. But there’s something about the bread they use. They make this homemade garlic bread where they stuff whole cloves of garlic, and it’s so good. I had one every day.