You’re about to Kash in, if this is your first introduction to singer-songwriter Michelle Kash. Kash, a talented young performer, has been receiving some much-deserved recognition since the beginning of the year when she released her moody and sultry cover of Depeche Mode’s smash hit single “Personal Jesus.” There’s nothing mundane about this cover version; this is a full-on reinterpretation of the song with its only similarity being the lyrics. It’s one thing to do a good cover, it’s a whole other thing to do a cover, do the original justice, while also actually putting a new spin on it without making it seem forced. You can checkmark all of those boxes with this new Kash version of the classic ‘80s hit.

As an artist, you can think of Michelle Kash as the industry’s latest and greatest temptress. Her vocal delivery is smoky and soulful with a style kind of like a new age Debbie Harry. You could call her music alternative pop, but it’s evocative and empowering, delivered with a high level of self-confidence. Still finding her way, she just released her first singles “Smoking Gun” and “Hurt Me” earlier this year. It only seems natural that Kash would go on to a career in music. Her childhood was spent travelling the world with her family while frequently being exposed to the full span of the arts.

Oh, did we mention that she loves cooking and eating too? Yes, Kash is what you’d call a foodie, one who likes to take in nice restaurants, lives a gluten-free lifestyle, and indulges in the occasional sweets. We recently spoke with Kash for our latest Art of The Meal interview where she filled us in on her favourite food city, cooking for herself, her go-to sweets, and so much more.

Do you follow a particular diet?

“I am gluten-free and mostly dairy and sugar-free. I am even eye-rolling at myself!”

How does the food you eat on the road compare to what you eat when in the studio or not working?

“I am a food voyeur… I love to watch people get pleasure when they are eating. But it’s definitely a temptation that I can’t resist sometimes when traveling and I cave and eat my favorites. When I’m home I definitely have more control over everything I’m eating… there is more of an active discipline. It’s definitely gotten easier to eat healthy on the road I think… Most people understand gluten-free and even if they don’t I can navigate a menu and just find things that I like. I also bring an embarrassing amount of snacks.”

Do you prepare a lot of your own food?

“I do! Especially now in quarantine, it’s all I do. I grew up on Syrian food. My aunt is the most incredible cook and I have been trying to recreate her recipes. I am trying to master my favourites; stuffed eggplant, stuffed grape leaves, stuffed zucchini, soups, different rice dishes. It has been exciting. I have been using the cookbook ‘Aromas of Aleppo’ as a reference. I also love to bake and it’s been a new challenge the last couple of years to bake allergen-free and with natural sugars. The actress Jennifer Esposito came out with an amazing cookbook, ‘Jennifer’s Way Kitchen’ and that has been inspiring. The recipe for chocolate chip banana bread is heaven.”

Art of the Meal: Michelle Kash on Food Voyeurism, Being Gluten Free, and Her Strangest Food Experience

What are some of your favourite restaurants in your hometown?

“I grew up in a very small town in New York City called Rockaway Beach. Lots of people know it now but it was a hidden gem with not a lot of restaurants. My favourites were the local pizzeria (obviously) and the takeout Chinese place. There was a casual restaurant by the water called The Wharf where you could get a fish sandwich and some fries. Sadly, It doesn’t exist anymore. We are so lucky that people have discovered Rockaway and the town is reinvigorated with Rockaway Taco and other little food shacks on the boardwalk. My mouth is watering thinking of those tacos.”

Do you have a favourite “food city” (when on tour)?

“My favourite food city is Florence, Italy… Or really anywhere in Italy! I love Italian language, culture and the food especially! I lived in Florence for a year and I had my favourite bakery with these chocolate chip scones, my favorite restaurant, cafe, my favorite pizzeria, Pizzeria Cafe Italiano, a little hole in the wall with two or three tables and a giant pizza oven. They have only maybe two pizzas on the menu and Coke (no diet!) and wine. The end. It’s very no-nonsense. I haven’t been there in years and I’ve just been thinking about Italy so much and everything they are going through there.”

If a fan were generous and to give you a food or drink-related gift, what should they get you?

“Hmm. I would say the strawberry cupcakes from Topo by Kitchen Mouse are really to die for. They are amazing. My mouth is watering again…. I actually have some in my freezer that maybe I will thaw and eat after this interview! Or there is this amazing woman I know, I call her ‘the Cookie Lady,’ she makes INCREDIBLE chocolate chip cookies that are allergen-free. They are heaven no matter what your diet. Her company is called Baked By Sha Sha. I also obsessed with these dehydrated strawberries from Bella Viva Orchards. They taste like fruit roll ups! I’m addicted!”

Were any of your songs ever conceived at a bar or restaurant?

“When I’m in New York there is a hotel across the street with a great bar. That seems to be my go-to… They make the best Bellinis. I’ll order some food and I’ll eat and drink by myself and things have come to me there. None of my songs were fully conceived there but I guess some lyrics and poetry were. If I was out at a bar and in the middle of writing a song something could come to me, or just a line here and there and I would write it down. Definitely some lines from ‘Hurt Me.”

When was the last time you barbecued?

“Last week actually. Alone here in quarantine, I got a little BBQ going here. I don’t actually trust my BBQ. It’s very very old. I have to turn a gas valve on to even turn it on. And then I stick one of those long lighters in a hole and then I PRAY while I try to light it. Sometimes it lights right away… This is a great day… Other times I’m waiting quite a bit and the BOOM is terrifying. It doesn’t feel safe…”

What is your go-to meal when headed to a barbecue?

“I make this big avocado salad that is a huge hit wherever I go. It’s basically a very chunky very lemony guacamole made with avocado, cherry tomatoes, and red onion. I add other things depending on what I have but I’m a purist. I guess it’s the signature dish. People really look forward to it. My mouth is watering again!”

Artwork for “Personal Jesus” by Michelle Kash

Did you have to overcome being a picky eater and, if so, when/how was it?

“I don’t think I was ever picky like some people I know but I’m not the most adventurous. I think what it comes down to is that I really love certain flavours that I crave all the time so I tend to stick to what I love. Because my diet is pretty limited I have to take joy in the food that I eat or I would go crazy! Hot sauce and lemon is a staple of my diet. Like A LOT of lemon. I probably go through about 20-30 a week. I have a citrus juicer and I will juice them two times a week and put it in mason jars. And then I put it in everything. I have a couple of lemon trees here and it’s been amazing to just go out and pick them when they are ripe. Growing up in New York that wasn’t really a reality… it’s a whole new world out here in California (laughs).”

What is the “strangest” food you’ve ever tried and how are you with “less standard” foods?

“I was once in northern Norway with a boyfriend. We were staying at this amazing gorgeous little motel that was modern cabins called Juvet Landscape Hotel. It is basic and stunning. It was featured in the movie Ex Machina. The owner created the hotel because winters were getting more and more lonely there. One year he saw 20 lights down the valley, then the next year eleven, then the next year three and he thought that he had to do something to bring people there. He built the Juvet Hotel and one of the main points of the hotel was that he created these communal dinners for him and the guests to provide that connection and sense of family. It is not a time to be a picky eater… Every meal challenged me. I guess I’m not a super adventurous eater so it really was a challenge.

One thing we were served I swore to my boyfriend that I will never ever admit what it was. I couldn’t even eat it honestly. I tasted it and he discreetly ate the rest of my plate. I’m sorry but I can’t tell you what it is! I will tell you though, we were also served reindeer, which here in the States is not common, and I had an internal struggle with that too. But It was delicious.”

Which toppings go on your ideal pizza?

“I’m a pizza purist. So CHEESE!!! Very Kevin McAllister. I have a favourite question that I ask people and that’s if they could have one food as much as they want whenever they want with no consequences, what would it be? I love the answers people give and it’s so intimate and a peek into their inner life and it definitely fuels my food voyeur… Mine is pizza.”

When did you first get interested in cooking?

“Growing up I loved baking. I was baking at a very young age making very intricate checkerboard cakes, cheesecakes, cookies you name it. I really loved the order and the measuring and the preciseness. It relaxed me especially when things around me weren’t so stable.”

Do you have a favourite chef?

“My aunt!!! I dream of her dishes! Mouthwatering.”

What sort of cooking set-up do you have at home?

“When I’m in New York I have this big old commercial stove and it boils water in like 30 seconds and it really feels like it’s a ‘magic stove.’ I love it. People tried telling me it was ugly and to get rid of it and I was like ‘hell no!’ This is my piece of kitchen magic.”

Have you ever owned a George Foreman Grill?

“Yes (laughs) I love gadgets. I once had a panini maker, I had an air fryer (I have no idea where this is), a little sorbet maker, a single waffle maker, and other little things. Bed Bath and Beyond sucks me in…”

What is your favourite fast-food chain restaurant?

“I didn’t grow up eating fast food… I once drove cross country by myself when I graduated high school, I decided I would try every fast-food burger once. I tried them all! My favourite was actually Carl’s Jr. But I haven’t had a fast-food burger since then… Overall chain restaurant would be The Boiling Crab which I just discovered. I’m amazed by them. No silverware, seafood comes in bags to your table, wearing bibs, eating with your hands… It is so primal and amazing! I love seeing people tear into it and being their most animalistic (laughs).”

How do you usually get your groceries? In-store? Online delivery?

“While in quarantine I have been getting online delivery. I’m so thankful for it. I do miss in-store shopping and farmer’s markets and little specialty shops. I’m trying to be more self-reliant so I started growing my own vegetables and this is really new and exciting for me. Fingers crossed we all soon safely out of quarantine and back to the things we love!”

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