The Beat Divas Teach Cooking With Songs of Food, Love, and Mayhem

Music on the Menu at Central Market

The Beat Divas
The Beat Divas (Courtesy of Kathy Whittaker)

When Kelly Ann Hargrove founded the Music on the Menu series at the Central Market Cooking School in March 2003, there was no way she could know what one of the acts she booked would ultimately accomplish. The vocal trio known as the Beat DivasMady Kaye, Beth Ullman, and Dianne Donovan – began presenting dinner classes with a generous helping of jazzy harmonies in 2004 and quickly became one of the recreational cooking school's most popular quarterly attractions. The Divas' seasonal dinner menus certainly attract customers, but the appealing set of food-related songs they've written over the past few years to supplement the menus delights music lovers as well. Each Beat Divas class opens with "Cookin' in the Kitchen," and other tunes are served up during and between courses. Appetizers might be paired with the bluesy "Sweet Potato Jive," while the versatility of chocolate dictates that the calypso-inflected "Little Bit of Chocolate" could fit just about any course. "Hog Fat" complements pork dishes, "Cuppa Joe" fits in at coffee time, and "Sweet Treat" can make you salivate over the thought of a man creating desserts and pastries.

The food songs originally intended to accompany the dinner class performances became a full-time project for bandleader Kaye over the past two years. A new CD titled Dishin' With the Divas: Songs of Food, Love & Mayhem is the result. Kaye penned seven of the songs herself and collaborated with Ullman on four others. As the title suggests, the songs deal with food, love both troublesome and sweetly expressed, and the mayhem wrought by a dangerous devil's food cake. "Better Not Drink the Water" isn't a political polemic, but rather an exaltation to enjoy wine when traveling the world. However, the quirky "Fast Food Junkie" fits right in with the current national debate on convenience foods and obesity.

Many of the songs from the CD have been warmly received by the Divas' loyal fans at Central Market, but the culinary musical creations were formally debuted before and during the opening ceremonies of the International Association of Culinary Professionals conference. The appreciative crowd listened to the songs with rapt attention, and several attendees later stopped by the Beat Divas' booth at the conference's culinary expo to chat – Martin Yan grabbed several copies of the album for gifts, Ellie Krieger showed some interest, and one of the tunes just might end up as the new theme song for a cooking show. There's really no way to predict what good might come from the high-profile IACP exposure, but the Divas are ready in case producers from the Food Network or Every Day With Rachael Ray should come calling. Their next project will be a cookbook based on recipes from their popular cooking classes.

Meanwhile, the Divas have three promotional events for the new CD scheduled for the coming week, including the newly produced video of "Sweet Treat," starring attractive, tattooed Central Market chef Robert Jenkins as the dreamworthy pastry chef, posted at www.facebook.com/thebeatdivas. Each and every one of these events is worth a taste.


Saturday, June 18, 6:30-9pm

Tomato Envy Cooking Class at Central Market Cooking School (4001 N. Lamar, 206-1014) $50; the class is sold out, but there's a waiting list. Or sign up now for their Texas Goes Tuscan class on Sept. 17.

Thursday, June 23, 2-3pm

The Divas will be dishin' and playing cuts from their new CD, Dishin' With the Divas: Songs of Food, Love & Mayhem with Queen of Spoons Susan Gayle on KOOP 91.7FM's Food Love Austin.

Sunday, June 26, 3-5:30pm

CD release party on the upper deck at Central Market with a cash bar. Grab some grub from the cafe and relax to the sounds of the Divas' food songs. CDs on sale for $15; Dishin' With the Divas aprons are available for $20.

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