Joshua Ploeg’s cooking blows my mind. It blows my mind so much that a secret door opens in the back of my head and white doves, musical notes, and winged horses fly out. His cooking is transcendent, dangerous, strange, and perfect. It’s full of colorful tastes that explode in your mouth like Pop Rocks; flavor combinations you never thought possible, crazy alchemy, freaky magic. Joshua’s the Traveling Chef; you make an appointment, he shows up at your house with a load of groceries, makes an incredible multi-course vegan meal using your pots and pans, and then he’s gone like the Lone Ranger riding into a big Texas sunset.
Joshua’s been in a bunch of hardcore bands (Mukilteo Fairies, Lords of Lightspeed, the latest of which is called Warm Springs) and he brings all the good things punk rock gave us—risk, passion, creativity, weirdness—and applies them to his meals.
I randomly lucked into a Joshua Ploeg dinner last year in Oakland. The menu was:
1) Spinach-Mushroom Nutty Cheezy Fingers
2) Wild Mushroom Pasties with Wine Gravy
3) Spinach, “Bacon,” Avocado, Onion, and Oranges in Watercress Vinaigrette
4) Avocado Mousse with Wild Mushroom Mince, Spiced “Cream” and Shaved Chocolate
5) Spiced Cinnamon-Tomato Rice Ring with “Lamb” and Vegetable Stew
6) Plum and Pistachio Crisp with Ouzo-Lemon “Ice Cream” and Rose Syrup
I usually eat really fast and kind of mindlessly—good food turns me into a wild boar—but I had to take this one slow and let all the flavors develop and do their respective stuff. Each had its own distinctive note, its own voice that rang out to let it be known that it was something special and unique. It was an experience in the finest sense of the word, like taking a submarine trip, reading Huysmans in the original French (not that I can do that) or getting in your first-ever, lip-bustin’ fistfight.
I was in the Bay Area for a few days and Richard and Amy from 1984 Printing took me and Joe Biel to some incredible places to eat, but nothing topped Joshua’s meal. I still dream about it months later.
Says Joshua, “A sample dinner party menu [would be] roasted eggplant roulades with green olive and almond tapenade, pistachio-coated deep-fried tofu with tangerine sauce, cannelloni and roma tomato salad with mint and arugula, vegan ‘chicken’ and escarole soup in ginger broth, tempeh ‘fish’ with orange herb sauce and garlic linguine, baby carrots in spicy tomato sauce, deep-fried chickpeas with lemon-chili sauce, almond sheet cake with lemon custard, rosemary lemonade.”
You can book a Joshua Ploeg meal by emailing thetravelingchef (at) gmail (d0t) com.
You should also check out his cookbook zines, most of which you can find online. His next one, In Search of the Lost Taste, will be his first full-on book. Look for it from Microcosm Publishing later this year.BIO: Adam Gnade's (guh nah dee) work is released as a series of books and records that share characters and themes; the fiction writing continuing plot-lines left open by the self-described "talking songs" in an attempt to compile a vast, detailed, interconnected, personal history of contemporary American life. Check out recent writing here and songs here. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org