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When Brooklyn native Chef Edward Brumfield came up with the idea to host a “mixtape dinner”, he simply wanted to combine his two greatest loves—classic hip-hop and fine dinging. “Usually, you don’t go to a restaurant and hear Wu Tang or Mobb Deep while you’re eating filet mignon,” Chef Ed explains. “So that was always like a thing for me. How can I bring these two worlds together so people get to experience it?” And so, he did. As the Executive Chef at Marcus Samuelson’s acclaimed and award-winning restaurant group, Chef Ed decided to give it a try after years of planning in his mind.

He hosted the first ever Chef Ed’s Mixtape Dinner in 2018 inside Ginny’s Super Club in Harlem, to honor the late, great rap legend (and fellow Brooklyn native) The Notorious B.I.G. on his birthday. He passed out a flyers and news spread through word of mouth. When guests arrived, they were treated to a one-of-a-kind evening of fine dining, with a custom menu with unique dishes themed around Biggie’s classic song titles and lyrics, and live music too. He even had special celebrity guests attend, like Fat Joe, who he’d slipped a flyer to earlier that day when he was dining at Red Rooster, actually show up and crash the party. “They were playing Lean Back live, and he gets up, and he starts dancing,” Chef Ed recalls. “Then he takes the mic and tells a whole (never before heard) story about him and Biggie Smalls.” And just like that, Chef Ed’s Mixtape Dinner, one of the hottest underground pop-up events in New York City, was born and the winning formula locked in. Since it began, Chef Ed has hosted six epic Mixtape Dinners so far–including one in Sweden—honoring hip-hop legends like Missy, Nas and Raekwon while also introducing new crowds to his delicious menus.  

We caught up with Chef Ed, who has catered luncheons for former first lady Michelle Obama and worked alongside culinary legends like Chef Marcus Samuelsson and Chef Gordon Ramsey, to talk about the movement and to get his best advice on hosting your own unique dinner experience.

ESSENCE: What’s your hope for the Mixtape Dinner brand and what should we know about you, the man behind them?

CHEF ED: I’m just very passionate about my craft. I’m trying to bring to life something on the plate. I want you to feel it, taste it, enjoy it and understand it. I created this feeling that brings you back home. Comfort is also what I’m looking for. I just want to grow them even more to where it’s more of a global brand too. My dream is that everybody knows what The Mixtape is, because for right now, it’s a speakeasy type thing. It’s underground. There’s a following. I would like it to become more of a household name.

ESSENCE: Who will be at a Mixtape Dinner is quiet the surprise. Has that always been part of the plan?

CHEF ED: I usually don’t let people know who’s going to be the special guest. And now, it’s coming to the point where the artists are reaching out to me first, which is very fun and exciting. I’m still in awe and such a fan of them, so for them to call and be like, “I want you to do my next mixtape.” And, I’m thinking, wow. Me? I’m just a regular old dude that grew up listening to your music and hip-hop and I’m a chef. I didn’t think that you would want me to honor you. I don’t pick artists that’ve been everywhere. I pick artists that I grew up listening to that I feel should be highlighted.

ESSENCE: What is some of your best advice for putting together a feel-good menu and vibe for your own private dinner party?

CHEF ED: Like I always say, comfort food comes from the heart and soul and from love. When you cook this way, you’re really showing your family that you care about them. Because when my father cooked, that’s the way he showed us love. That’s where I got my inspiration to become a chef, it was from my father because he was a chef too. And how he would act when we would eat at the table, he didn’t show much emotion like that, but he showed it throughout his food. And that’s the same way I do.

ESSENCE: What types of food say “comfort”?

CHEF ED: Do something like gumbo. Everything is in the pot. All these different flavors and all these different types of ingredients are in the pot. I you have a vegetarian, you can do a stew that has all vegetables, one sweet and one savory, and something spicy, or you can do a seafood gumbo pot that has the mussels and the clams and the shrimp and crab meat. You can also throw in the bacon, the sausage and ham hocks. Mix all that stuff up. Just serve it right on the table in the pot with a big spoon, and put bowls out, and maybe some rice and sides. A nice piece of big toasty baguette, where everybody can sit at the table and it’s interactive and they can share and pass things around. Then everything will be family orientated. It’s not really a soup per se. It’s just a pot of potluck. It just has everything up in there. I do that often, especially when I have family members come over.

ESSENCE: What feel-good food has to be on the menu?

CHEF ED: Collard greens have to be on the menu. That’s the number one go-to. Collard greens, cornbread, and something fried. You could also do a big fish fry. That’d be amazing.

ESSENCE: How do you merge music, entertainment and flow at an event? What makes it feel intimate and feel-good?

CHEF ED: Me and my daughter, we make a lot of playlists for whatever situation it is for the day. So we have our playlist FOR when we’re cooking and I have my old school 80s R&B playlist for cooking or cleaning the house. When you first come into our house, the music’s blasting because we want people to come in and feel okay. I don’t want people to come in and be calm. I want people to come in, and say, “Oh, we partying tonight!” Then when it’s time for dinner, I’ll turn it down a little bit. And then after dinner’s done, maybe the spades come out like every family household and the music turns back up.