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VALLEY WEEKEND | ROCKTALK

On Rock 'n' Roll Cooking Show, the Band Is the Appetizer

The musicians play, they chat, they pig out. Host Lenny Bent combines haute cuisine and hot tunes on public access.

May 30, 1996|JAMES E. FOWLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Lenny Bent had a problem. He was a man torn between two loves.

He was a musician (well, er, actually a drummer) and a trained gourmet chef, and he wanted to find a way to satisfy both his muses.

"I've always had a conflict in my life," Bent says. "I'm a guy who's stuck in two things he really loves."

So he created his own music and cooking show on public access TV.

"Cookin' With Lenny" has been on public access for over two years now, with more than 25 shows in the can. Guests have included a number of bands that play the local club circuit such as Blue by Nature, King Ernest, Walter Trout and Gashouse Dave.

Each show features a band doing a number live, then Bent chats with the musicians and cooks something at the same time. The band plays another number and then Bent makes dessert. My favorite part on a recent show was watching the feeding frenzy that ensued when the musicians were set loose on the food. Some sharks have better table manners.

Like most public access shows made on a minuscule budget, the program lacks production values--the lighting is poor, the sound is barely adequate, the camera placement and shot selection scream of amateurism. But the concept is original--I've never seen a rock-'n'-roll cooking show before. Bent keeps the show moving along at a quick pace, and the musicians are actually playing live, not showing their latest videos.

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Bent prepares such dishes as cioppino and lobster ravioli with lemon pesto cream sauce. Some critics have rapped Bent for not cooking dishes traditionally associated with blues music, but really, how many ways can you prepare barbecue sauce?

Reseda native Bent has a regular gig as chef on a dining yacht in Marina del Rey, but for years before that, he was a drummer. When his band, Destiny, died after doing the L.A. club circuit in the early 1980s, he started to study cooking seriously at L.A. Trade Technical School. Later he served in a culinary apprentice program specializing in French and Italian cuisine. He thinks the show is the solution to his problem.

"It's opened a whole new territory for me," Bent says. "It's food and music, two things that people can't live without." But, like most everyone else in town, Bent is not content with what he has--he wants more. He's looking for a syndication deal.

* "Cookin' With Lenny" can be seen at 8 p.m. Wednesdays on West Valley Cablevision's public access. For more information, call Bent at (310) 216-7025.

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The Search for Gashouse Dave: I wanted to interview Gashouse Dave, but getting ahold of the big, friendly bear of a blues man is easier said than done.

Dave, who's sharing the stage with Louisiana Guitar Red on Saturday at Cozy's Bar & Grill, used to play bass for legendary rock guitarist Mike Bloomfield and then later with longtime L.A. faves Top Jimmy & the Rhythm Pigs. But now, he plays a wicked finger-picking blues style on an electric six string and fronts his own band, the Hard Tails.

To keep body and soul together, Gashouse Dave, whose real name is David Shorey, works a day gig for the Southern California Gas Co. He sometimes wears his gas company uniform to his night gigs, hence his stage name.

Originally from Boston, Gashouse Dave frequently gigs at the House of Blues, Jack's Sugar Shack and other Hollywood haunts. Although he lives in Chatsworth, Dave didn't play much in the Valley until recent jobs at Cozy's and the Hot House.

Dave's alleged response to offers of work outside Hollywood was: "If it isn't on Page 34 of the old Thomas guide, don't call me."

So I called Dave to set up a time to chat. It was like we were old friends. Dave talks almost as fast as his fingers play the guitar. He said he'd call me back, but he never did.

Not to be deterred, I went to find him at a scheduled Tuesday-night gig at the Hot House, but Dave wasn't there. The guy behind the counter told me Dave had played the first two Tuesdays of the month but had to cancel the rest.

I finally got in touch with Dave over the phone, but before I could ask him a question, he let me know that he had three things to say: 1) "The blues never let me down"; 2) "Anyone who's played with me knows I do long hours for short bread on off nights in raunchy clubs, but I've made a lot of friends"; and 3) "I owe a lot to Hollywood, it made me very tough."

I did get to ask the big guy one question: "Do your friends call you Gashouse or do they call you Dave?"

"When I put my Albert King suit on, they call me Gashouse."

* Gashouse Dave and Louisiana Guitar Red perform Saturday night at Cozy's Bar & Grill, 14058 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks. $5 cover. Call (818) 986-6000.

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