Kelis: 'I like food that talks to you, that has something to say'
The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and why whipping up a storm in the kitchen is less selfish than creating music.
Q: How would you describe your style of cooking?
A: I'm a saucier, first and foremost. Sauces are always at the forefront of my mind. I think my style really mirrors my character: I believe in a balance of flavours. I am good at doing that. I also like food that talks to you, that has something to say. I like fire, I like heat, and I like scorching things and flavours. I'm not really a crudite sort of person.
Q: Why the obsession with sauces?
A: It kind of just happened to me. I went into the Cordon Bleu without any idea of how I'd come out, but in the interim, you home in on what you're strongest at and what you're most excited about. And for me, sauces are the defining factor. It's like, anybody can buy a little black dress but it's how she wears it: the shoes, the jewellery, the lipstick that makes her who she is. I think sauce is that, too.
Q: Would you say there are any similarities between the process of making food and making music?
A: They're both about giving to people around you.
Q: Yeah, but they're so different.
A: I can't really separate myself from each thing because it's always me doing it. But I do think that food is a lot less selfish. I think food is also the most honest someone can be. With music it's easier to put on airs or characters, whereas food is more raw. I think there's a thread of vulnerability in it that's completely different to music.
Q: You've been friends with Pharrell for years. Have you ever cooked for him?
A: Yeah - everyone who knows me, I've cooked for. But I don't remember, it was so many years ago. I've known Pharrell since he was 15 - and he wasn't "Pharrell" at the time, he was just Pharrell.
Q: Is your son, Knight, a fussy eater?
A: No, he's just a little man. He's very clear and distinct about what he likes. I don't mean to sound brash, but I think that problems come about when you give kids an option at the beginning. If we're in Budapest, I'm not going to get stressed out looking for a burger for him.
Q: How about you, are there any foods you don't like?
A: I do have textural issues, to be honest. I'm not into cold stuff, either, and I'm not a huge raw person.
Q: What do you mean by "textural issues"?
A: There are certain textures I find really repulsive. I just don't like fibrous, slithery things. I hate that.
Q: Have you had a hundred people ask you already "where's the milkshake recipe?"
A: Yes, I have had that question asked a hundred times. Which is ironic, because I would have thought that after 11 years it would be as boring to them as it is to me.
Q: I liked that you have "Kelis's Sangria". Is that your drink of choice?
A: Well I lived in Spain for almost a year and there it's like juice: it's everywhere and there are so many different variations. It really resonated with me, I love it.
Q: Do you have a favourite of the British celebrity chefs?
A: Well, I know Jamie Oliver. I love him. He's a beautiful person and has been very supportive of my learning process. On every level, he's a favourite to me. I love the fact that his personality comes out in his food. I love all the efforts that he makes in making sure people eat better and that he does it with a lot of passion. He's a great chef and a great person.
Q: What would be your Death Row meal?
A: Honestly, it would depend on the day. There are days when a tuna melt could be everything I've ever wanted in life. Then there are other days when it might be something more extravagant like a curry. And sometimes I literally feel like I will cry if I can't get mashed potatoes.
Kelis (36) has sung or appeared on 13 UK top-20 hits, including Milkshake, Trick Me and Millionaire. She was married to the rapper Nas for four years.
They have a six-year-old son, Knight, with whom Kelis lives in Los Angeles. She graduated from Le Cordon Bleu cookery school in 2010. Her first cookbook My Life on a Plate is released this month