Chef Paul Canales and Impresario Rocco Somazzi first met through Cooking it up, a multi disciplinary event organized by the Angel City Jazz Festival at Royal/T in Los Angeles in October of 2010. The idea behind this event was to explore new ways in which cooking can interact with other performing arts.
Description from the Festival Program:
“This collaborative event will illuminate the ways in which improvisation informs music, dance, food preparation and presentation. Before the performance the musicians will provide chef Canales with compositional forms, musical themes and improvisational ideas. The chef will respond with feedback, cues, and sparks from their own creative processes, During the performance, the chef will design and present generous “tastes” of food to be sampled by the audience.”
Here is a review written by esteemed music critic Greg Burk:
“On Monday at Culver City’s Royal-T, a privileged few experienced a multimedia improvisational spectacle — music, video, dance and food — whose ambition and execution couldn’t have been duplicated in the loftiest palaces of world culture. Wringing his hands with trepidation at the beginning, promoter Rocco Somazzi was soon beaming with delight as everything fell together. First, a Nels Cline guitar made into art by Yoshitomo Nara was auctioned off (the event was a fest fund-raiser) for $70,000. Then pianist Myra Melford set the tone with a graceful composition lent even deeper beauty by the sensitive multilogue of bassist Mark Dresser, guitarist Nels Cline, percussionist Alex Cline, keyboardist Yuka Honda and violinist Jeff Gauthier. More remarkable, the ensemble maintained the delicate balance for two hours of the most joyfully grave elevation and psychedelic samadhi blues as butoh dancer Oguri slowly edged between tables channeling fiery ghosts, and Carole Kim’s video projections on a gauze screen provided clean, ever-changing frameworks and instant portraits of the musicians in transport. Chef Paul Canales, meanwhile, struck an ideal counterpoint with multicourse presentations, from infernal peppers to a red-and-brown vegetable melange on a bed of green melon. In Morocco, they have a word for this kind of extended healing conjuration: a lila.”
The overwhelming success of this event left Paul and Rocco with a strong desire to work together. Shortly after returning to Oakland, Paul announced that he had decided to leave Oliveto to open his own restaurant. A few months after that he called Rocco and asked him to come to Oakland and work with him on a new cutting edge restaurant concept.