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October 11, 2015

The Roots' Questlove dishes on the band's 'social food formula'

The Roots drummer and DJ explains the importance of food in the life of the band

Musicians Questlove
Questlove Matt Rourke/AP

The Roots' Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson performs during an Independence Day celebration Saturday, July 4, 2015, in Philadelphia.

“Every year, Philadelphians celebrate with homegrown hip-legends The Roots at their annual picnic, but it turns out the beloved band draws more than just crowds when it comes to food.

Drummer and DJ Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson recently talked to Forbes about how The Roots get their energy, sustenance and quite a few accompanying acts out of an emphasis on socializing through food -- whether it's in Philly, New York City, Los Angeles, or Miami.  

“Food is the best way to keep bands together,” Questlove asserts. “We’ve been a band for 24 years. A big reason for our success are our family dinners… food-focused gatherings that have nothing to do with gigs or music, but are about spending time together.”

Questlove's devotion to food culture has followed him around the country with his web series 'Questlove's Salon.' Thompson organizes social gatherings of chefs and others in music and entertainment to sample delicious meals and spur other creative projects. He explained the concept to Grub Street as follows:

They're personal but community-building. It's not like a sit-down dinner party would be. It's a walk-around of thought leaders in music, food, film, art who all can come together around a simple idea, food. I find myself gravitating towards a community of chefs. In music, musicians from different bands and genres will hang out and connect on ideas around music. At the salon, chefs are able to work together, they each stay on course, but the togetherness and their individual ideas about food create a meal that defines this community.

The importance of food to band isn't limited to Questlove, however. When The Roots came around to negotiating terms for its third record, it made three requests: a warehouse to jam, new instruments and a chef. 

They ended up hiring Chef Terry, who Questlove says cooked at fine establishments throughout Philadelphia, and his contributions helped The Roots spark the city's neo soul movement alongside acts like Jill Scott, Musiq Soulchild and Jazzyfatnastees.

"If you ask a musician to come jam, they may come. They may not come,” Questlove explained. “But artists and singers will always go where there’s food."

Check out an installment from 'Questlove's Salon' below and watch more episodes here and here.