AC­TION BRON­SON

The Observer Magazine - - THIS WEEK'S ISSUE -

Ac­tion Bron­son is big, bearded and very sweary. He’s also on a mis­sion to tell you about great food. By Ed Cum­ming

Speak­ing to Ac­tion Bron­son, the thick-bearded, 300lb tat­tooed Al­ba­nian-Amer­i­can rap­per who has forged a sec­ond ca­reer as a gour­mand TV pre­sen­ter, it seems sur­pris­ing that more mu­si­cians aren’t food­ies. Surf­ing from city to city on ex­pense ac­counts, with plenty of free af­ter­noons, life on tour of­fers a lot of scope for ex­plor­ing out-of-the-way restau­rants and eater­ies.

“Mu­sic and food go hand in hand,” Bron­son ex­plains. “The dish in the mid­dle of the ta­ble is like the song you put on for ev­ery­one to start groov­ing to. It’s the lan­guage of the world, a way of bring­ing peo­ple to­gether.”

As he ex­plains, for him the food came be­fore the mu­sic. He grew up in Queens, New York, son of an Amer­i­can mother and an Al­ba­nian fa­ther. “My grand­mother would be mak­ing food three times a day,” he says. “De­li­cious Al­ba­nian del­i­ca­cies, but I didn’t ap­pre­ci­ate it un­til I was older. I’d be eat­ing ham­burg­ers like a lit­tle prick.” He worked as a chef, and even briefly did food TV him­self, be­fore an in­jury led him to fo­cus on the mu­sic.

Soon, how­ever, Bron­son’s catholic palate and grow­ing hip-hop fame led to a show on Vice’s food chan­nel, Munchies, called F*ck,

That’s De­li­cious . As you might guess from its ti­tle, the se­ries does not dwell long on the finer points of flavour­ing or sous-vide tech­nique. In­stead, Bron­son trav­els around, meet­ing lo­cal chefs, ex­u­ber­antly sam­pling their wares, and swear­ing a lot.

“This is go­ing to blow your pussy off,” he says of some fried chicken in New Or­leans. “This tastes like my grand­mother. Not like her, like the things she used to make,” he says of a meat-filled pan­cake in Paris. “I feel like Jamie Oliver,” he says, show­ing us how to make Hawai­ian poke on a New York rooftop. It’s funny, un­pre­ten­tious – and filthy.

Per­haps inevitably, given the mil­lions of views it has re­ceived, the show has led to a cook­book of the same ti­tle, co-writ­ten by Rachel Whar­ton. In it, Bron­son lists 100 of his favourite things to eat, go­ing into 40 recipes in depth, as well as telling some colour­ful sto­ries from his child­hood.

“Think of it as vol­ume 1,” he says. “You can’t fit ev­ery­thing into just one book. It’s the start of an En­cy­clopae­dia

Bri­tan­nica of food.” Like its au­thor, the book is equally de­voted to haute cui­sine and street food.

“I’m not a snob,” he says. “I didn’t grow up on fine din­ing and I love ev­ery­thing. I love go­ing to the shit­ti­est part of the neigh­bour­hood for a bar­be­cue and then go­ing to a three Miche­lin-star restau­rant where you have to wear a tie. It’s about ex­pe­ri­ence. That’s how you in­crease your knowl­edge of who you are.”

Not that he doesn’t have his favourites. Copen­hagen and Paris are his top cities to eat out in. He’s been fed by Mas­simo Bot­tura at

Mu­sic and food go hand in hand. A dish is like a song you put on for ev­ery­one to start groov­ing to

Os­te­ria Frances­cana in Mo­dena, and Rene Redzepi at Noma. But in the UK he goes straight to east London for earth­ier de­lights.

“As soon as I touch down in London I go di­rectly to La­hore ke­bab in Whitechapel, straight off the plane. They know where to sit me, what to bring me. I get a shish ke­bab, lamb vin­daloo, veg­etable cur­ries, two types of naan. It’s a sta­ple.” He’s good friends with Lee Tier­nan of Black Axe Man­gal in High­bury, and Tom Adams at Pitt Cue Co. “Those places are cathe­drals.”

Other food pre­sen­ters have spo­ken about the inches the job puts on their waistline and what it does to their blood pres­sure. Is there ever a move from the peo­ple around him to make a pro­gramme about, say, yoga in­stead?

“You try not to eat the whole meal,” he says, “but I don’t even think I’m over­weight. I know the way I move on stage, and I could do 50 push-ups in a clip. The only thing that makes me feel over­weight is when my shirt clings a lit­tle bit. But it’s all about how you feel. You can change the out­side, but it doesn’t change what’s in­side.”

Be­sides, he has im­por­tant work to do show­ing his fans how much great food is out there to be dis­cov­ered. “I hope I’m help­ing to make it hap­pen. Peo­ple in the mu­sic in­dus­try you’d never ex­pect have told me they love the show. And I’ve had mes­sages from the fans telling me they’re eat­ing this or that. Mother­fuck­ers from the hood say­ing, ‘Yo, I made oc­to­pus tonight,’ who would never have tried it. They’re get­ting the hype. I don’t know what I could have done with my life, be­sides some sort of hu­man­i­tar­ian work, that would have been more sat­is­fy­ing,” he says. “I’m very fuck­ing sat­is­fied.” To or­der a copy of F*ck, That’s De­li­cious by Ac­tion Bron­son with Rachel Whar­ton (Abrams, £19.99) for £16.99, go to book­shop.the­guardian.com

‘I’m not a snob. I didn’t grow up on fine din­ing and I love ev­ery­thing’: (be­low from left) beef drip­ping on flat­bread; and film­ing in Italy with the Vice crew

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