Day Job: brikAbrak mixes biscuits and beats
BrikAbrak, the vinyl-slinging, Al Green- and Old Dirty Bastard-mixing DJ, can most often be found rocking a party to high heaven or backing up one of Denver's premier MCs on any given night. On the daily, though, you can find him at 3237 East Colfax Avenue, watching dough rise and making biscuits from scratch for the Denver Biscuit Co., what Atomic Cowboy does for breakfast, y'all.
With brikAbrak behind the grill in his crisp white chef's coat and elbow-deep in biscuit dough, strains of anything from Pimp C to Jill Scott can be heard wafting from the kitchen along with smells so succulent, you're likely to gnaw off a limb while you're waiting. We caught up with brikAbrak to talk about the paradox of being a chef by day and a DJ by night, as well as the custom biscuit he named after his father.
Tell me about what goes down in the kitchen that makes the food you make so ultra-amazing?
We work our asses off -- that's what goes down. The crew I work with is unbelievable. They come in early and stay late EVERY time when asked. You'd think, with the volume we are producing and the popularity we are gaining, that we would have a large kitchen staff, when in fact there have only been six or seven of us doing all of it.
We come in every single day, crank the illest hip-hop or soul shit we can find, and have as much fun as we can. But overall, we bust ass. There's no such thing as a slow day in the game we are in. Especially now that the Biscuit Bus is terrorizing the city like it is.
Using a tiny kitchen like ours to prep for two kitchens is a non-stop process. If we get lucky and don't have much business one day, there are still four or five of us here with our heads down cooking and prepping food for the next Justice League event or farmers' market. Absolutely everything we serve is made by hand and from scratch. We buy mayonnaise and mustard, but that's about it. If that bothers anyone, we'll make that, too. We ain't scared.
More than anything, we all realize that we are making biscuit sandwiches. So, as a chef, the only way to take pride in that is to try to do it perfectly. The head chef, Jon Larsen, and myself feel very strongly about this and take the food that we make very, very seriously. He and I discuss and tweak recipes regularly, always trying to improve what we are doing.
As a DJ, how do you incorporate your life as a chef both in your music and also in your food?
I know everyone wants to hear a link between mixing flavors and mixing music, but they are really two separate things to me, save the music we all listen to in the kitchen. My meticulous nature comes through in both. Ask anyone in my kitchen: My job as the sous chef is to bother the hell out of everyone until they do what they're doing as well as the head chef wants it done -- and I do just that, with no shame about it, never settling for "good enough."
In my mixing, even if I'm freestyling on stage, I'll turn down the option to play three or four records that match with the timing -- and that's usually all you have time to try before it's time to throw on another song -- until I find a record that matches the time and the pitch of the previous record, making for a smoother mix. I'm just like any other chef or DJ: I decide my standards, and I stick to them.
I came to Colorado to be the head chef of Foolish Craig's in Boulder and decided then to try and share what I know and love of Southern food in a slightly more upscale style. When I came to Denver and found the Denver Biscuit Company, I thought it was a good match for my style. I like the boundaries.
They make you work harder to be more creative. Whatever we make has to be based around that biscuit, so it better be delicious. I guess that relates to my style as a DJ. I thoroughly enjoy the challenges brought by real vinyl -- the fact that some remixes cannot exist when you're using vinyl unless you work for weeks to figure out a way to make every drop happen at the right time.
I feel electronic deejaying has made a lot of things easy -- with looping, triggering, and other ways of basically creating your own instrumentals -- and it's made it extremely easy for a shitty DJ to sound like he has a clue. No real ear for music is necessary anymore, it seems. If I see one more deejay mix his two songs by staring at a computer screen instead of listening to the two songs, I'm going to vomit.
What is the best thing on the menu?
I have to be partial: The Jack Lee is my favorite item on the menu. The biscuit consists of bacon and grape jelly, nothing elegant, nothing flashy, but the flavors that the two impart on one other is, in a word, unexpected. And to explain my partiality, the biscuit is named after my father.
Since I can remember, my father has eaten his biscuit -- that my mother made by hand -- with bacon and grape jelly. So, as long as I can remember, I have, too. I was eating my breakfast in the kitchen one morning, and the owner asked what it was. He tried it, loved it, and it's been on the menu ever since.
It's interesting that you're an amazing chef as well as an accomplished musicologist. How do the two complement each other?
Ha! They more conflict each other. If you work nights, you gotta get weekend nights off, which is close to impossible, as most cooks will tell you. That was my problem in Boulder. Here, with the breakfast hours I work, it's the opposite problem. Being the DJ when I gig, I usually have to wait until the end of the night to break my shit down and leave. I get home around 3:30 a.m., then gotta set my alarm for 6 a.m. Not fun at all.