Thomas Pisha-Duffly is the mastermind behind Family Feast. He is also a chef at Grace Restaurant in Portland, Maine and a really big Grateful Dead fan. He is pictured here with a Michelada. You can check out Family Feast on Facebook here.
So you're wearing a Grateful Dead hat and you have a Grateful Dead tattoo.
I never wanted to be pegged as the Grateful Dead guy but here I am.
No one is a passive Grateful Dead fan, right? Grateful Dead fans are full on. And knowing what I do about you, I never in a million years would I have guessed that you were so hardcore about the Dead.
[Laughs] In the food industry, especially in cooking, there was kind of a stigma about the Grateful Dead. This was about 7 or 8 years ago. Kitchens are kind of traditionally punk rock—or at the very least classic rock—and the Deadhead is seen as a hippie. I would get picked if I said I liked the Dead.
Now—and maybe it is because I have moved to Maine—the older I get I find more and more people coming out of the closet as Dead fans. I can list a number of prominent chefs that identify as Deadheads and when I find out, I want to geek out with them about it.
Can you out some chefs for us?
But, I mean, just look at them. [Laughs]
[Laughs] Yes, just look at them. And the Joe Beef boys in Montreal are constantly posting concert footage online. To me, one of the coolest things—and this is something only totally obsessed and nerdy people will do—is to know these other people like the same thing... And then you assume that because we have that in common that we are totally like best friends.
It's like if Barack Obama came out about loving Dungeons and Dragons. That would be huge for a lot of D&D people. That is what it is like for me to find out that [Joe Beef's] David McMillan loves the Grateful Dead.
Did you ever have the thing where… I used to work in restaurants where everyone in the kitchen got a shot at playing their own music. There was always the Bob Marley guy and the ex-convict who played hardcore…
The Blood for Blood guy.
Yeah! Yeah! Absolutely. Blood for Blood is the band for kitchens in the late 90s / early 2000s.
This is totally off topic, but I recently saw a 2010 car with a [90s Boston hardcore band] Sam Black Church sticker on it. I was like, "Holy shit. Have you been holding on to that sticker for 10 years to slap on your new Accord?" Can you even buy a Sam Black Church sticker anymore? I used to have a Sam Black Church baseball cap that I stole from my sister because I thought it was really edgy.
On that note, what are you drinking?
It is a Michelada. John Myers makes me one every Sunday morning at Eventide. His is different because it is beer accompanied with a shot of tequila. He also adds all of these great umami ingredients to make it refreshing and delicious. A Michelada is kind of like bloody mary mix and beer, traditionally served in a salt and chili rimmed glass. He adds maggi seasoning, which is this MSG liquid seasoning. He adds fish sauce, oyster brine... Jesus, what else is in there? He adds some ramp juice. He has added some Dashi, which is a Japanese seasoning. I don't even know what else is in there. Certainly some lime juice.
It is just this awesome amalgamation of ingredients. I love that it can be composed per the flavor of the guest. For mine, he makes it a little extra funky. I don't think tequila originally went in there, but it went hand-in-hand with what I am looking for in the drink. Ramp juice went in there because they have a lot on hand right now. You would think that it would be weird, but it adds this really pleasant bite to the drink. It adds a grassy note that wasn't there before. The drink is really refeshing and really boozy, which is perfect for me on a Sunday morning.
NOTE: This interview originally ran in the Spring of 2014.