July 31, 2002
Photo by Gary Wiviott
Alan Lake, 48
Chef, percussionist and photographer
Alan Lake is a chef and a musician, but not in that order.
“It just depends on when you meet me,” said Lake, 48. “I’m either a musician who cooks, or a chef who plays.”
I guess you could say the music was first, that it led him to the world of cooking as a means of supporting himself.
Yet the love of food was always there, too, as a part of the Chicago culture he was born and raised in.
“It was such a rich place to grow up in, with a great mix of cultures – Japanese, Puerto Rican, Italian, German, everything,” he said. “The smells of all the different types of food would pour from the windows. I was so down for that. I would make the rounds from house to house, get a taste of it all.”
The lifestyle of his parents also helped to educate his palate.
“My dad was in the clothing business, so we were always traveling to New York,” he said. “While my dad was working, my mom and I would eat at places like 21 and The Rainbow Room – the best places in the city.”
But before he even thought of a career in the culinary arts, he packed all his belongings and drove to San Francisco with a dream of playing music.
“I graduated early from high school and left the next day. I had planned on going to, and graduating from Berkeley, but it didn’t work out that way,” said the percussionist. “The school was set in such a free-thinking atmosphere, perfect for a musician like me. I got a gig with the Berkeley Film Archives, was doing sound tracks for student films, performing in restaurants and clubs and playing jazz dates.”
After seven years in California, Lake spent a year playing in various clubs, bars and restaurants in London, then went back to Chicago where his need for a supplemental income led to his first cooking job.
“I needed to make more money in order to continue playing my music, so I talked my way into a job as a chef,” he said. “I had always tried to re-create the food I grew up around, anyway. I ended up getting great reviews, and that started my future in cooking.”
He ended his Chicago cooking career as a head chef for the East Bank Club, a popular health club that featured three restaurants, and headed to Los Angeles.
“I went out there to work with a friend who I had played with years earlier, had now made it big and had started his own studio,” Lake said. “Through him I got to work with such artists as Madonna.”
His friend soon left L.A. and Lake took a job as a chef at the Sunset Marquis.
“They also let me play drums on certain nights. It was an incredible experience. It was an infamous, notorious, rock and roll hotel,” he said. “On any night you could walk out on the patio and see people like Tina Turner or Bono and the Edge of U2.”
After being shaken up by an earthquake, Lake left California and made his move to Delray Beach. Since then he’s opened the Sundy House as head chef as well as Etre, a club formerly in West Palm Beach. But all the while he’s continued to play with different bands and solo.
“You get burnt out at one and can do the other, it’s the great thing about being a chef and being a musician,” he said. “I’ve written many songs and recorded a CD with a band we had for a while called Simple Truth. Mostly, you just play different gigs with people you’re familiar with and admire. I do my projects and help others with theirs.”
He’s also found time to travel to Japan and Europe getting firsthand experience at cooking the cuisines.
His latest accomplishments include being named Garlic Chef at last year’s Garlic Fest in Delray Beach, a title that has opened the door for future projects such as a Garlic Chef cookbook.
He’s also recently taken up the art of photography.
“After helping a friend to open a nightclub in Zurich, I traveled throughout Europe and ended up in Venice during Carnivale,” he said. “It was like being in a freaky movie – all the costumes, the buildings, it was amazing. I’m not by any means a professional photographer, but I knew I had to document it all.”
His friends encouraged him to exhibit his work and taking their advice, he’s recently been featured in three exhibits.
“I had no idea the images would be so successful,” Lake said. “People just love them. I’m putting together a coffee table book of about 120 different photos.”
That’s after he gets back from California where he will be participating in the Gilroy Garlic Festival, the event which inspired Garlic Fest.
Byline: Katie Mee, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
COPYRIGHT 2002 The Palm Beach Post