Musicians on the Menu

Musicians on the Menu
By Virginia B. Wood
Food Editor
May 12, 2006

“In concert or in the kitchen, these locals have the chops.

“Austin has the well-deserved reputation as a city that fosters creative expression of all kinds: musical, literary, theatrical, culinary and artistic. It only makes sense that in a city with such a wealth of creative energy, genres would tend to overlap. The local connection between live music and dining out is particularly strong, perhaps due to the immediacy of the gratification involved in both endeavors. Live music and good cooking are created to be consumed immediately, to satisfy the senses and nourish the soul. So it’s no wonder that a connection between food and music would flourish here and be recognized by fans and musicians alike. The connections is supported by historical precedent, local-business participation, and a huge talent pool…

“When the Beat Divas perform the Mady Kaye original “Cookin’ in the Kitchen,” it’s not just a catchy tune about lovers cooking Louisiana food set to a swamp-romp rhythm; it also illuminates an important new aspect of their professional collaboration.

“The Beat Divas – Mady Kaye, Beth Ullman, and Dianne Donovan – are all accomplished musicians and singers, as well as passionate home cooks. Now, in addition to performing a delicious mélange of jazz standards, jazzed-up American pop tunes and clever original material, they are cooking together and presenting quarterly classes at the Central Market Cooking School. Each class includes the demonstration of a seasonal dinner menu developed by the trio, served up with side dishes of their music. The lucky guests at the upcoming June 10 class will feast on such items as Cantaloupe and Honeydew Soup, Grilled Peppered Pork Tenderloin with Smoky Sour Cream Sauce, and Peach and White Chocolate Cake, in addition to tunes like “A Little Bit of Chocolate,” “Sweet Potato Jive,” or their newest salute to a hunky pastry chef, “Sweet Treat.”

“The Divas’ culinary collaboration works much the same way as their musical endeavor, with each woman bringing unique talents to the table and to the stage. Donovan, whose rich contralto defines the Divas’ distinctive harmonies, likens her own cooking style to playing jazz, saying, “I’ll add a little lemon or vinegar if something needs a brighter top note, or maybe a little cumin if the dish needs a note farther down the scale.” Ullman confesses she’s still not completely comfortable cooking in front of an audience, “so I use humor to relax the situation.” All three women describe how the breaks in their music rehearsals invariably dissolve into discussions about food and relate how some of their personal cooking experiences inspire the original material for a CD of all food songs. “Beth and I operate on so much the same musical wavelength that it’s easier for us to write material for the group,” explains Kaye, but she’s quick to point out that all three of them choose the material the group performs as well as the recipes for their classes and planned cookbook.

“The Divas hired a videographer to shoot their most recent Central Market class, and clips of the trio cooking and singing for a very receptive crowd can be viewed at or here on this website! Having a DVD of their culinary and musical collaborations to shop around is just part of a serious master plan and professional wish list: They would love to teach the Central Market tour of Texas, they envision a musical cooking show with a companion cookbook called Dishin’ with the Divas, and they’d welcome a guest shot on the Food Network. “I think we’d be a natural to guest on Emeril Live,” Kaye says. We concur.”