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Feb 18 / Josh

Emotionalism with Joe Kwon


Today’s interview is with Joe Kwon, the cellist for the Avett Brothers. Their first major label release, I and Love and You, produced by Rick Rubin, has received critical acclaim and is worth many-a-listen.

Relationship with Food

“I grew up around cooking. My mom is a phenomenal cook. She cooks lots of Korean food, and that’s pretty much how I learned, just watching her. She’d make dinner for the entire family every night of the week. We probably went out to eat only twice a month.”

Local Restaurant of Choice

“In Durham, North Carolina, this place I go to serves Chinese and Korean food, its called China Palace. Its an extremely generic name, but its one of the few places that will serve authentic Korean food at a Chinese restaurant. [Korean food] is defined by the flavors in it, the types of seafood they use, the spices they use. Compared to Chinese food, it doesn’t have as many spices. Chinese food, to some people, can be offensive with odd spices like anise and ginger. Koreans will use ginger, but it will be a little bit more masked. It’s not the featured ingredient in the dish.”

Thoughts on Szechwan Cuisine

JOE: You run into those issues where it’s so spicy that it makes your mouth numb.

EM: I just saw that on a recent Anthony Bourdain episode, when he went to a Szechwan restaurant in Australia. It looked light a foot-high pile of peppers on your plate!

JOE: It’s the peppers with the chicken bits in it? There’s a really good Szechwan place in Manhattan, you’ve got to check it out. It’s called Grand Szechwan on the Upper East Side, its next to a Pinkberry. This is one place that we frequent when we are in New York. My cousin took us there, and they have that dish there. It definitely shocks your senses, I’ll put it that way. You come out of there a different man.


“Different levels of emotion in food for me…You can express a childhood memory in your food. You can make the most bangin grilled cheese sandwich ever, and it will still remind you of that white bread with American cheese and Campbell’s Tomato Soup that you had when you were a kid. Every time you have that it will bring you right back there. It’ll bring you happiness in a small little way. That’s how food is, it’s a way to reminisce. A flavor will bring back a memory in your mind. A certain dish could have significance to a wedding, a funeral, etc.”

The most cello-ish food

“Butter. Fat… its so smooth. It’s a very good extension of a human being. ”

Favorite food related tune

“A song by Menage and its called “Tomatoes Right off the Vine.”

Editor’s note: This song was recently featured on a ketchup commercial (Your favorite #2 ketchup, Hunt’s).

Favorite food related band

“It doesn’t have food in the name, but the one that pops into my head first is Bombadil. For a while they were branding themselves [using] pickles. It was like pickles dropping out of an airplane.”

Favorite Dessert

Crème brulee

[Related - The Avetts were featured on Ace of Cakes! Check the photo]

Favorite hot dog topping

“The onions at Gray’s Papaya. That stuffs amazing!”

Last supper

“This Korean dish, Champon. It’s a spicy, seafood noodle dish.”

Current Recipe of Note

“One of the recipes on there right now is a fried chicken recipe which has quickly become one of my mainstays, one of my favorites. It’s quick, it’s easy and its super tasty. It took a couple of tries to get it right, which batter to use, dry without better, dredge, no dredge.”

The Avett’s recently announced some of their summer tour, where they will be hitting the Coachella, Bonnaroo and High Sierra music festivals, to name a few. Click here for the entire tour schedule. Be sure to check out Joe’s food blog, Taste On Tour, where he goes through the places they eat on the road.

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