One of the most oft-commented aspects of dining at La Toque is our eclectic background music. I know of no other Michelin-Starred restaurant that plays Pink Floyd, Steely Dan, Van Morrison, and Neil Young, mixed with jazz instrumentals, classic 40’s swing jazz and bee-bop, and a little Old Skool R&B occasionally thrown into the mix. It’s always interesting to see the looks on the faces of our guests, as they are cutting into their Foie Gras and sipping their Sauternes, when they suddenly realize that the musical accompaniment to their first course is a Grateful Dead tune.
The selections are pretty much put together by Chef, from a monstrous personal collection he has compiled. He does the right thing by the artists and pays ASCAP a yearly fee that allows us to play the CD’s and MP3’s of our choosing.
When Ken was first starting out as a young Chef/Proprietor, it used to irk him as a then-20-something, that he had to play music in his restaurant that was geared toward the age of his base clientele (many of which were in their 50’s or 60’s). So it’s a little ironic now that he is in his 50’s or 60’s (I’ll leave it up to you to guess his actual age…), and playing the music that he likes in his restaurant, he ends up again playing the music that fits his guests’ demographic. We love it when a plan comes together!!
A great scene occurred shortly after we had opened last fall. One of Chef’s and La Toque’s most loyal return guests is Rick Rosas, an excellent studio bass player, currently working with Neil Young. Rick The Bass Player, as he is known to us here at La Toque, was in and had a great meal; and apparently he had mentioned La Toque’s new digs to Mr. Young, who turned up the following week. There were only a couple of staff members on duty that night who were old enough to recognize the guy in the un-buttoned Pendleton with a T-Shirt underneath on Table 7. Peter Downey, now the manager at Bank Bar and Café, was still a waiter at La Toque then; and he runs up to me with this star-struck look on his face and says “That’s f-ing Neil Young! F-ing Neil Young is on 7!”
Just after Mr. Young has ordered, “The Painter”, a tune from his 2005 album Prairie Wind, starts playing on the sound system. Neil looks up from placing his napkin on his lap, looks sheepishly around at his tablemates and the rest of the dining room, most of whom had watched his entrance, and says “Nice music here…”