Tour Tales: Kamal Kalokoh details cooking Caribbean food for Drake and Rihanna on the road

In this installment of “Tour Tales,” Rihanna and Drake’s former chef explains how sneaking into an arena connected him with Drizzy, Riri being so impressed with his food she took him on the “777 Tour,” and more.

A report by Keith Nelson Jr  for Revolt.

Musicians are barely getting a slice of music industry revenue, largely eating off of live performances instead. For ’Tour Tales,’ we dig into the rider requests, delayed shows, diligent preparation, and future of touring by talking with the multitude of people that move behind the scenes. Record executives, photographers, tour managers, artists, and more all break down what goes into touring and why it’s still so vital to the livelihood of your favorite artists. What happens on tour stays on ‘Tour Tales.’

When you’re on tour, the chef can be an artist’s only way to get a taste of home wherever they go. When Kamal Kalokoh went on the “Club Paradise Tour” with Drake in 2012, he did whatever it took to give the new rapper the food he grew up on.

In this installment of “Tour Tales,” Rihanna and Drake’s former chef explains how sneaking into an arena connected him with Drizzy, Riri being so impressed with his food she took him on the “777 Tour,” and starting a restaurant thanks to his touring history.

Before we get into your touring history with Drake and Rihanna, how did working with them help you with your restaurant Riddim N’ Spice?

The tours solidified the whole concept of people fucking with Caribbean food and music. We’re going to embrace all of the Caribbean cultures. It’s not just a Jamaican thing, it’s a Trinidadian thing, St. Lucia, Cuba, Dominican Republic. All of those islands will be embraced and we’re going to also bust some music for you. I worked with Drake and Rihanna in 2016 — every song was all Caribbean. Ed Sheeran, Justin Bieber, Major Lazer, everyone was doing it. Who kicked that off? Drake and Rihanna with “Work.” They’re the ones who really kicked off this whole diaspora acceptance by the world and the industry. I’m just taking all of that and making it into a restaurant, and hopefully we’ll be franchising soon.

One the first artists you cooked for was M.I.A.?

Yeah, they were coming through the Farmer’s Market and my mother’s restaurant Jamaica Wayon 900 Rosa Parks Blvd was closed on Saturday. They were standing outside the restaurant and I asked them, “Who are y’all with?” They were like, “Yeah, we were here with [M.I.A.].” I said, “I’ll feed y’all, just give me a couple of tickets to the show and y’all good. I got to the show before she got on and they were saying it was the best food they had all tour. They were very grateful.

How’d you connect with Drake?

My friends and my sister knew I was into going up to tour buses at the venue like, “Yo, I fuck with y’all and give y’all some food.” When Drake was in Nashville during the “Club Paradise Tour” in 2012, he went to this high school, MLK High School, to talk to the students, I think. My sister called me saying, “Kamal, Drake is at MLK High School right now” and just hung up the phone because she knew what I was on. She found out from Facebook. I got off the phone, made of plate of rice and peas, plantains, cabbage, brown stew chicken, and wrapped it up and told my mother I’d be right back. I went to the high school and asked if Drake was still there, but someone said he just left in his big red bus. It’s almost like God guided me to him. I kept driving down Broadway and saw there were no parking spots near Bridgestone Arena. So, I parked in front, walked through the front door, walked downstairs, and they’re setting the stage up. As soon as I get backstage, he’s coming out of a door by himself. I decided to switch it up with the patois and everything. “There’s some good food from down the street, ya know?” Dude just took the plate and started eating. He said thanks and walked off. I walked in his direction to the hospitality room and his whole clique was there. Everybody was like, “Where you get that?” Drake was like, “This dude brought it.” They looked at me like, “What’s good?” I looked over at the catering food thinking, “This shit look nasty.” I told them, “I can feed all of y’all right now.”

I went back Jamaica Way, my mother was like, “Where you been?” I told her, “Don’t worry. We have to move some pans because I’m about to feed Drake.” She was like, “Who’s Drake (laughs)?” I prepared up all of the food, go back down there to drop it off, and they hit me off with passes. It was enough food for 60 people. He did the show and I remember being there and thinking, “This dude has a jumbo screen with all of these graphics.” It was a very mesmerizing experience. It was February 17, 2012. I’ll never forget that day.

A month later, you were going overseas with Drake?

Before I even touched Europe, I was doing a business plan then for what is now my store Riddim N’ Spice and it was going to be a food truck. At the Nashville show, I snuck in asking him if he didn’t mind tweeting about us. He said, “You know how much that’s going to cost (laughs)?” I told them about my idea for a food truck and they were like, “Bet. Meet us in the next city.” I looked at my brother and there were no words; we knew we were going to the next city. Went to restaurant, packed up stuff, went to the crib and took a nap. Got in the car to do all of this at 4 a.m. before I got a called from Jamil [Davis], Drake’s tour manager. He was like, “Yo, congratulations, you’re his tour chef. Meet us in Lexington.” Luckily, it was a college tour. There was a higher up on the tour [who] saw the come up real quick and said, “Just don’t get in the way,” and I took that to heart.

I would go off the bus, wake up, go get a runner, go to the store, and then cook that shit on portable burners. I was going to cook that food anyway, anyhow. I’m in the back of the stadium with a pressure cookers whistling and shit (laughs). I’m there cooking for Drake, Drake’s niggas, Drake’s niggas’ bitches. They would tell me, “We’re about to go to L.A. Step it up. It’s going to be a lot of people there.” It was a college tour, so after the second day, I would wake up in the morning and go to my first student [I saw] and ask, “How far is your dorm room from the arena? I’m Drake’s chef. I’ll give you tickets to the show if you let me cook in your dorm.” That’s how I got my kitchens (laughs). I did that in Tallahassee, Arlington, Tucson, San Jose, Davis. Midway through that I started looking at culinary schools. I would call the day before I touched down at tour spots and ask culinary schools if they had five students to work for me.

What were some of your favorite moments on tour?

Definitely Houston when Rick Ross came out. I had to put in my ear plugs. I was like, “This stadium is really, really loud.” You hear him rap about certain cities like Houston and Atlanta, and you feel that lyric. You feel what he means when he says, “Houston is my city.” You feel it. Then, seeing the diversity in the crowd. Back in 2012, even though people were singing the songs, the public were hating on him. Going to that show you see all walks of life. You see moms, old white dudes, old Black dudes, little kids.

How is Drake and his crew backstage?

As far as Drake, those dudes were always working. Whether it’s Future or Oliver talking to Drake, or it’s a closed door, you know some work was going on. A couple of days later you hear the new song that comes out that lights up the internet and you’re like, “Damn, that’s what they were moving and shaking. That’s why that person was there.” Twelve years later, you see him with Certified Lover Boy and Nike.

Drake

How did you get to join him on the European leg of the tour?

There was an email from the person that wasn’t fucking with me. He was saying, “Kamal’s not ready to go to Europe.” In that email, CJ and some other people said, “Give Kamal whatever he needs to go, he’s coming to Europe.” Before that happened, I think Drake asked me, “How are you cooking all of this stuff?” I told him, “I’m going to dorm rooms.” They were like, “Oh snap. Word?” At the last show in San Diego, Drake came up to me like, “Yo, chef, you’re coming to Europe with me.”

What people in America don’t know, Europe is lit. Imagine if you’re in America and you have a show in Dallas. You get off the bus, do preparation, and everyone is getting ready for show time. This is all starting at 6 in the morning. In the states, you don’t see lines around the corner in the morning. If the show is at 8, you might see lines start forming around 6. So, imagine doing that, cooling out for a few weeks, get on a plane, and then you check into hotel across from the O2 arena. You wake up in the morning and go, “Is that a long ass line of people waiting for this show?” You go from the hotel to the arena and they ask, “Yo, have you touched him?” Fans would ask the craziest shit. In Europe, it’s also open seating on the floor and that’s wild. I saw a couple of bras get thrown from the crowd (laughs).

How did cooking for Drake in Europe differ from cooking for him in the states?

At that point, I got a full kitchen. I got road cases and all the equipment I needed. Another difference is the runners bend over backwards for you. Runners in America are like, “I’ll do what you need right now.” But, the runners there will wash dishes and do anything. In terms of getting food, I loaded up in England for the rest of Europe. I loaded up on my curry and things the crew liked because I didn’t know what I could get in Brussels or Stockholm.

What guests of his did you feed?

Rih. That’s how I got on to Rih. She was in England, I was doing my thing, and one of our personnel said, “She was asking about the food and who was cooking. Don’t worry. Finish the tour and we’ll get you linked up.”

Any moment hanging with the OVO crewoutside of the shows?

In France, a friend took me to a club in Paris and they were there. They were like, “Nah, come up to the booth with us” because it was all love. There definitely were moments where they asked me to be with them when they were out. A part from that, it was work.

How did you connect with Rihanna?

I hit Jay Brown and he was like, “Oh, she already has a chef.” I was persistent with that. A couple of months later, they got in contact me like, “We’re doing the iHeartRadio Music Festival [in September 2012]. Come to Vegas and cook. If she likes you, we need a chef for her studio time for her Unapologetic album.” I was her chef while she was recording.

What did Rihanna like to eat on the “777 Tour”?

She likes regular food. She’s from Barbados, so she likes curry. Cook the girl some curry (laughs). She likes her Caribbean food. I was her personal chef at the time and it became a thing where I knew what she liked, so I’d make three or four different options.

That “777 Tour” was seven shows in seven different cities in seven different countries.

Bro, I wasn’t supposed to go. It was around Thanksgiving time. I was heading to the airport from L.A. Right before I got on my flight, I got a call like, “She needs you now in Toronto.” I flew to Toronto and it was crazy because the show happened, and then we got on the plane to fly to Stockholm. The plane had our crew which was 20 people. The rest of the plane had every publicist, journalist, you name it. New York was dope because JAY-Z was there, Swizz [Beatz] was there. London was also lit. Nobody knew any of the songs, so it had a listening room sort of feel. There wasn’t any crowd singing and shit like that. Everyone was just mesmerized by the new music.

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