OFFSTAGE: How Zac Brown Was Born Into the Kitchen

(CMT Offstage keeps a 24/7 watch on everything that’s happening with country music artists behind the scenes and out of the spotlight.)

At first, I thought Zac Brown said he was born in the kitchen. And I thought that explained a lot about the way he’s always bringing food and music together. But what he actually said was, “I was born into the kitchen because my whole family spent all their time in kitchen.” He told me last week that that’s how he fell in love with food. And the singing? That came along early, too. “As soon as I could talk, I was singing. And annoying my siblings, singing everything all the time, singing along with cartoons until my brothers were like, ’Just shut up if you don’t know the words,'” he laughed. But now, those two passions are what fuel the way Brown finds harmony in music and meals. If you’ve ever been lucky enough to go to one of the eat-and-greet dinners Brown does before his shows, you know what I mean. There may be some kind of meat covered in this top secret Love Sauce (I’m told coconut milk, ginger and teriyaki are part of it), his freshly-chopped Pocket Knife Cole Slaw and maybe even some sweet tea and pecan pie. Brown’s chef, Rusty Hamlin, uses fresh, local ingredients to prepare the meals for those pre-concert food adventures. But since you never know what will be available, you never really know what the menu will be. Hamlin and Brown will be here in Chicago on Friday (Nov. 18), and I just hope they find some locally-grown peppers to make what is possible my favorite thing to eat: grilled Anaheim peppers stuffed with all good things like black beans, fresh corn, chorizo and cheese. You basically stuff the peppers, close them with a skewer (both of which you can do hours ahead of time), and then grill them about five minutes a side. Brown told me he got the idea for serving these grand meals at his concerts after he sold his Zac’s Place restaurant in Atlanta. “Feeding people always gave me a lot of pleasure. So when I sold my restaurant, I started thinking of ways that I could start feeding the fans,” he said. To anyone going this Friday, I say, “Bon appetit, y’all.”