BBQ&A: Joe Kwon, Musician and (Food) Groupie

Joe Kwon is the high octane cellist (eat your heart out, Yo-Yo Ma) for the Avett Brothers, a North Carolina-based band that has steadily grown its reputation and commercial success over the past few years.  It is perhaps no coincidence that the Avetts reached new levels of success following Kwon joining the band in 2007 for a tour and album called Emotionalism.  When he is not on stage, you’ll find Kwon settling in at restaurant tables across the United States, a foodie hobby he chronicles on his well-written and even better photographed blog, Taste on Tour.  A resident of Durham, Kwon agreed to an interview with me after I saw an article in the Independent Weekly about him eating barbecue at nearby restaurant, The Pig.  Read on to see Kwon discuss why kimchi would pair well with a BBQ sandwich, life on the road with the Avett Brothers, and the importance of supporting local agriculture. If you’d prefer to download a .pdf of this interview, click here.

 BBQJew:  Tell me about your upbringing. Where did you grow up and what brought you to North Carolina?
Joe Kwon: I was born in Inchon, South Korea and moved to Archdale, NC back in 1981. Archdale, NC is practically in the middle of nowhere but it was near my extended family, in particular my aunt. It was her convincing that brought my family to the states. Growing up, we had weekly family dinners with over 20 extended family members eating traditional Korean food and just playing around with other family members. I had several cousins near my age and this was a time for all of us to get together and be close. Those family dinners were definitely the starting point of my love for food.

BBQJew:  What specific role did food play in your childhood? What about music? Do you see any parallels between the two
JK: As I mentioned above about the role of food, it was always around for family dinners. We ate so much food at these dinners because they were almost always potluck style and each family would bring at least two dishes. It was almost as if you knew who had the best of each dish as well. I remember one of my aunts always making the egg rolls and the tonkatsu (fried pork cutlets) and my mom making all sorts of kimchis and sweet and sour pork (Korean style). There was always a plethora of food to be eaten and sampled.

My parents were both musicians. My sisters both played piano, and I was going to play music no matter what. I really didn’t have a choice in the matter. When I was 3 my mom tried to teach me piano. I probably was too ADD to sit still at that age because she didn’t press it hard enough for me to continue playing. When I turned 9 though I showed up at my first cello lesson and it’s all history from there.

I guess the biggest parallel is that music soothes the soul just the same way food does. As a classical musician you work really hard to get a piece Continue reading