Best Thing About “Oldchella”? It’s Basically a Food Festival, Too.

Meet the chefs who'll join actual rock royalty at Desert Trip

By Reuben Brody

Food Is the New Rock?
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26 September 2016

In the foodie world, people like to say that chefs are the new rockstars. You need look no further than a popular podcast called Food Is The New Rock for proof.

And if you ever wanted to attend an event designed to commemorate this trend, it A) exists and B) will be happy to host you next month in Indio.

We’re talking, of course, about Desert Trip, aka “Oldchella,” where a lineup of rock gods (Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, The Who) will be joined by 24 of L.A.’s best restaurants and a massive pop-up dinner party at the Empire Polo Grounds.

The gustatory side of the experience won’t come cheap: $179-449 per person (in addition to a music pass), a steep markup from the carnival fare of festivals past. But we’d argue that that’s actually a deal. Allow us to explain.

New Orleans Jazz Fest is probably Patient Zero for elevated festival fare, with its heaping bowls of crawfish monica and cochon de lait po’boys. Outside Lands then kicked it up a notch, offering items from San Francisco’s best chefs, like State Bird Provisions chef Stuart Brioza. Coachella followed suit a few years ago. At first, “it was 100 percent a marketing tool,” explains restaurateur Stephane Bombet (Terrine, Faith and Flower, Hanjip). “There are 50,000 people a day at Coachella, and 70 percent of them are from L.A. That’s our customer.”

But they ended up turning a profit.

“It was nuts,” says Chef Dakota Weiss (Sweetfin Poké and Estrella). “We served five different poke bowls, selling 1,000 a day. We had to make an emergency delivery from our fish provider, IMC. They drove from L.A. and delivered it to our booth.”

You might think that dishes like poké and bibimbap would skew a touch too genteel for hopped-up kids dressed in neon and dirty Chuck Taylors. But consider the heat and the fact that these dishes won’t weigh you down like a burger or a slice of pizza, and there’s an argument that healthier, more carefully prepared cuisine is actually the perfect fit for a music festival (there’s also the fact that Coachella isn’t exactly Woodstock in terms of thriftiness: people pay well into the four-figures for VIP experiences).

Last season, Coachella introduced Outstanding in the Field, a pop-up dinner experience that served 250 diners at a time, four times a day. It will return for Desert Trip, along with Weiss, who explains that “given that it’s going to be very hot out, we’re keeping it light.” One of her dishes is a butter-poached hiramasa with fresh lettuce.

You'll also find elevated options like Terrine and Hanjip will be in the common area, and the Culinary Experience, which costs $179 per day, lets you eat and drink as much as you want from 24 vendors, including Sotto, Hanjip, Pok Pok, NoMad, Broken Spanish, Terrine, Badmaash, Sweetfin Poké … the list goes on.

The drinking options won't disappoint either.

Houston Hospitality (Breakroom 86, No Vacancy) and 213 Nightlife (Seven Grand, Varnish) will be providing cocktails in a series of on-site speakeasies. The wine program features 30-something small plot vineyards, an offering so boutique that Desert Trip ended up buying their entire production for the year to meet the expected demand.

Everything is geared towards making the experience better. It will be hot, so the wines they’re pouring are light, energetic and vibrant, as are the craft beers. It’s going to be a decadent weekend, and given that it’s probably the last time you will see any of these musicians play, it’s worth doing it up right.

“Good food makes the music experience better, makes it more special,” says Bombet.

We couldn’t agree more.

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