Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Interesting article on Former Grateful Dead Chef- Now Artist: Rick Begneaud clicky here
Here's an excerpt:
“I met Weir in a little club in Mill Valley called Sweetwater. I went out to see Jorma Kaukonen [of Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna]. I just happened to be standing next to Weir in the crowd. And then we just happened to walk outside together at the break. I just walked up to him and introduced myself and said, ‘Hey, do you like Cajun food?’ He said, ‘I love it.’ I said, ‘Well if you’d ever like someone to cook you Cajun food, that’s what I do.’ He said, ‘What are you doing Thursday night?’ I said, ‘Like, uh, nothing.’ So I gave him a card.”

Begneaud never expected that Weir would call him the next day. “We figured out this menu. I had my mom fly out some venison. I believe I made crawfish etouffee. I cooked all kinds of stuff that night. It was kind of a blowout. And it was an evening with [comparative mythology scholar] Joseph Campbell. That was the first time I met Garcia and the whole rest of the band. And it was just fairly surreal. The thing that blew me out was I have all the food set, it’s time to eat, then Weir turns to me and says, ‘Here’s my friend Rick from Louisiana, he’s going to tell you about the food.’ And I turn around, it’s dead silent in this room, I’m looking at Garcia, Joseph Campbell. I really couldn’t even honestly tell you what I said. It was the beginning of 1986. I was 28.”

Begneaud and Weir hit it off and hung out practically every day. Begneaud was a frequent visitor to the Dead’s Front Street recording studio in San Francisco, where he fed the band and collaborators like Bob Dylan during rehearsals. “When they were recording the [album] with “Touch of Grey” on it, we were just sitting there with the technicians, me and Weir and Garcia. And I had only met Garcia a couple of times before that. And he said, “Weir, get Rick some headphones,” and so Weir goes over and does the vocals for “Hell in a Bucket.” It was really kind of amazing for me to be sitting there in the studio, me and Garcia, just the two of us, after having been a fairly big fan for a while.” In all, before Garcia’s death in 1995, Begneaud says he attended between 355 to 400 Grateful Dead concerts.

“Jerry was pretty interesting to hang around,” he says. “I’ve never been around anybody who was so comfortable and seemingly knew something about everything. No matter what the subject was, the guy could speak intelligently about it. He was a sweet guy. ... I remember him being sick a couple of times, and I’d call him up and say ‘I’m bringing you gumbo, man.’ It’s sad he’s gone. He was certainly a bright light when he was here.”

Neither the über artworld of Rauschenberg nor the trippy days with the Dead could erase the Cajun in Begneaud. “I remember one time I was at Muir Beach and Weir and I were going to get together for dinner, and I was driving home. Right in the middle of the road there was a squirrel. His tail was still going, wagging like that. He had just fallen out of a tree or something. I stopped, I had a newspaper and I rolled him up. He was fresh you know. So I call Weir on the phone. I say, ‘I got a squirrel for dinner.’ He said ‘What?’ I said, ‘Go to Mill Valley Market and pick up a rabbit, we’ll cook them together because one squirrel for two people’s not really a lot.’ He goes ‘OK, man, but don’t clean it till I get there. I want to help you clean it.’ We ended up cleaning the squirrel and having a rabbit-squirrel dinner that night.”

At times, Begneaud, Rauschenberg and Weir found their way to Lafayette. Last year his parents’ 50-year anniversary party grew into a belated birthday party for Rauschenberg as well. “Some friends were coming down in a private jet from California,” Begneaud says, “and Weir jumped on because he knew Bob was going to be here, and Weir wound up bringing an amp and a guitar down and playing at my mom’s party. I think Michael Doucet was in there, and Dickie Landry was in there. It was at City Club. Here we were dancing to Grateful Dead tunes at City Club.”