How does a chef’s taste in things other than food wind up influencing what’s on the plate? For example, if they like rocking out to, say, the Butthole Surfers—is that relevant?

Bill Smith. Photo by Pableaux Johnson.
Bill Smith. Photo by Pableaux Johnson.

If you were to meet Bill Smith riding his bike around town, you might not realize you’d encountered an avid rock fan. Bill is 66, bespectacled, usually wearing a baseball cap over his white hair. He’s the chef at Crook’s Corner, the James Beard Award-winning Southern restaurant. The giveaway as to his musical predilections might be his t-shirt. Does it read Drive By Truckers? Or maybe Corrosion of Conformity?

Today: the story of Bill Smith’s t-shirt collection and what it tells us about the intertwined worlds of music and food in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Here’s a Spotify playlist of much of the (awesome) music featured in this story:

You can find more information about the Cat’s Cradle (including upcoming shows) here.

More info about Crook’s Corner is here, and a recipe for their signature Shrimp and Grits is here.

And, finally, to learn more about the Southern Folklife Collection, go here.