Quick & Dirty with Chris Santos

I am absolutely STOKED to bring you my biggest interview yet! Right here on Journey of a Frontman, here is my interview with Chopped judge, accomplished chef, restaurant owner, AND metalhead, Chris Santos.

What does the term “Rock n’ Roll Chef” mean to you and how does it represent your lifestyle?
For me, I don’t really love the label. I mean it’s fine, I am a chef, and I do identify closely with rock n roll culture and am a big part of the local rock scene here in NYC, and have become friends with some rock stars, so I guess it fits. But also, they are separate….it’s not as if my diners are eating foie gras and headbanging to Slayer you know? But with the tattoos and the associations to that culture I share, I guess it fits. But I don’t really see the two intertwining too much, I go to work, its serious work, and after work, or on nights off it’s rock n roll. Sometimes I DJ at a metal bar but again that’s not when I’m cooking! Though I do have dreams to open a rock/metal/ burger/bar/pool table & video game dive of sorts someday.

How does music play a role at your restaurants, The Stanton Social and Beauty & Essex?
Music plays a huge role in our restaurants, and certainly there is some rock weaved in and out, but usually at the restaurants its some 70’s & 80’s retro stuff, more like Bowie, Iggy Pop, Blondie – my favorite is when the hold music is ‘hanging on the telephone’ by her!

What is your opinion of the New York City music scene?
I think we are having a real resurgence in the NYC rock and metal scene after a flat period, and once look in the village voice reveals how many bands are out there working. I’m a huge fan of the gritty rock band The Dirty Pearls (who’s frontman Tommy London should be added to my list of favorite frontmen, alongside Jasin Cadic of the industrial/goth Star Killer) as well as of Doom Metal band Eyes of the Sun, Killcode, and Crooked Man among others. Lots of good stuff happening out there.

Do you have any memorable experiences talking to Chopped contestants who were also musicians?
We encourage contestants to tell us about themselves, and we have had quite a few musicians or former musicians on, and so it helps break the ice with them for a minute I think to acknowledge when you appreciate something (“you play drums in a metal band? Right on, I have too”) but ultimately we keep that stuff to a minimum because the only thing that matters is the food they cook in that moment.

What, in your opinion, are five of the all-time best concerts that you have been to?
This is a tough one. I’d have to say when I saw King Diamond on the Abigail tour in 1987 – that was just so unreal. Amazing. He is just a master performer. Seeing Anthrax at CBGB – a secret show / first show with John Bush was insane. Faith No More on the Brooklyn Waterfront a few years ago after that decade long sabbatical they took was really special – goosebumps all night. I got to see Pantera while standing on the side of the stage once and that was ridiculous. And I’m a huge Dax Riggs fan so the first time I saw him – really any time I see him – it’s a religious experience. And that’s 5, but I just saw Deftones a few days ago, who I’ve seen at least a dozen times, and they were better then ever. So good.

Tell me about the bands that you’ve been in and the style of music that those bands played.
None of the bands I have played in have really amounted to anything, lol, but I’ve had the pleasure to play with some really talented guys. Usually it’s been kind of a stoner / groove kind of thing . Down/entombed/ stuff like that.

Who are some of the rock/metal musicians that have dined at your restaurants?
It’s always a thrill when my favorite bands come by my restaurants. I’m fortunate in that my restaurants are wildly busy and attract a “who’s who” of pop-culture A-listers, but it’s particularly cool when a band, or someone from a band I love or grew up with comes by. I can’t possibly hope to list them all but it’s been particularly a thrill to cook for Chino and members of the Deftones, who have since become friends as they would be my all time favorite band. I also have had Kerry King in, and can’t articulate how cool that was. When I was a 15 year old washing dishes and learning how to peel potatoes in the back of the kitchen, Reign in Blood was my soundtrack. So that was amazing, and we have kept in touch. It’s cool having a job where you can not only take care of people but have access to them and build friendships! Other cool band experiences I’ve had have been with Jerry Cantrell of Alice in Chains, The guys from Mastodon, Queens of the Stone Age, This Will Destroy You, Dave Navarro who’s such a great guy, Robert from Metallica, Green Day, Testament, the list is endless!

Who are some of your favorite frontmen?
I love all styles of Rock & Metal and love the concert experience, and the frontman generally is the focus of attention. So I really respect the courage to be that Master of Ceremonies and the hard work and dedication that takes. I’d list Chino Moreno from the Deftones, Mike Patton from Faith No More, Josh Todd from Buckcherry, Neil Fallon from Clutch and you can’t deny Marilyn Manson. Or the guy from Steel Panther. Ha. I grew up in the hair metal era, so it was all about the front man. Too many from the 80’s to mention. Dying to see this band Avatar from Sweden, their singer Johannes Eckerström puts on quite a show.

I read that your first concert experience was at 13 years old, seeing Bon Jovi one night and Alice Cooper the next, all in one weekend. Tell me about what that first concert experience meant to you and how it impacted your life.
It was actually RATT with special guest openers Bon-Jovi if you can imagine that, in an arena. And then it was Alice Cooper with Megadeth. I had to sneak out to those, and got caught, so it impacted me with being grounded at the time. But those first concert experiences (my first concert ever was actually Loudness & Keel in a small club, my brother took me) forged my love not just for heavy music, but the purity and power of the live performance. I can’t imagine how many live shows I’ve seen in my life, but it’s my favorite thing in the world, and that was born of those early concert experiences. The artists were larger then life on stage , and still are.

If you had to take all of your fellow Chopped judges (and Chopped host, Ted Allen) to a metal concert, which band would you take them to see?

HA! That’s tough. I’m the only metal head on that panel that’s for sure. I’d probably take them to see Slayer or Lamb of God and position them right in the center of the pit just to watch them scatter. Ha! I kid, I kid.

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