At 17, Joshua Bell played Carnegie hall. At 34, he won a Grammy. He plays a 302-year-old Stradivarius and the classical world considers him one of greatest living violinists (as well as a gifted conductor). It's hard to imagine that he could have a hidden talent, but he does: Bell throws amazing dinner parties at his Gramercy townhouse, events featuring celebrity chef friends, Oscar winners and insanely great food. He recently teamed up with Krug Champagne and chef David Bouley to create the ultimate triple pairing: food, wine and music. After the party, we asked him about the one dish he's mastered, which South American country has shockingly good Japanese food, and how to pair Champagne and Bach.
Top Food Destinations
The restaurant scene in Lima is incredible. And surprisingly, there is great Japanese there. I was there during a food festival and tried so many different ceviches. I love eating in Japan, especially Tokyo—strangely, there is Italian there. But I also love speaking and eating Italian in Italy.
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Classic NYC Restaurants
I live in Gramercy, so I usually grab a seat at the bar at Gramercy Tavern. Or a seat at the sushi bar at Sushi of Gari. I like to be near the food I am being served, so the sushi bar is best for that. The omasake at Sushi of Gari is some of the best I have ever had. If I need a steak, I go to Wolfgang's on 34th.
The Talent in His Kitchen
I usually am cooking with someone, like my girlfriend, [opera singer Larisa Martinez]. My frequent collaborator and pianist, Alessio Bax, is a great chef. He usually comes over with his wife Lucille. For our next dinner he found a kobe beef supplier and will be cooking it. The other night he made this appetizer pasta with uni, one of my favorite things on earth. I have some great chef friends, as well, who come over to cook, like Todd English and Ming Tsai.
On Pairing Wine and Music
At the dinner with Krug and David Bouley, we paired Clos du Mesnil 2003 with a solo performance of Bach’s Chaconne movement from Partita in D, since the Champagne draws from a single-walled plot of Chardonnay grapes—sort of a single note. I thought that the exquisite Chaconne, which conjures up a whole universe of sound on a single instrument was the perfect pairing. We continued through the night with several vintages and various musical numbers.
Once you get to know music really dig deep, you get so much more enjoyment from it. I am not at that point with wine, but I feel like I'm there with food. I understand the nuances, and love the way food and music goes together.
His Charity Work
I did some work with Glenn Close where they auctioned off a dinner with her and I would play a private concert. A charity close to my heart is Education Through Music, where they bring music education to inner-city schools with enormous results. A good friend of mine, Paul Haggis, has got me involved in his charitable work in Haiti and I am hoping to start my own music foundation to help kids. I believe music is not only important, but essential — it is food for the soul.
Favorite Fast Food
When I'm on the West Coast, I always head to In-N-Out; it's like a ritual. It’s the first thing I do. Even before concerts, I have pulled up in a stretch limo to the drive-through. One time I made the limo driver order the burgers while I ran across the street to get McDonald's fries. It was ridiculous.
The One Dish He's Mastered