Hilton Honors, the guest-loyalty program of Hilton’s 18 hotel brands, kicked off a new season of providing members exclusive access to once-in-a-lifetime opportunities through its Hilton Honors Experiences platform. From access to sold-out music and sporting events from premier partners to world-class dining and wellness packages at Hilton properties, these unforgettable experiences help members make the most of their stay.
To celebrate the end of summer, members were invited to bid on Endless Summer Night Grills with Questlove – an intimate food and music experience at Motto by Hilton New York City Chelsea with Questlove, the award-winning musician, producer, director and culinary entrepreneur. Before performing an exclusive DJ set for those in attendance, Questlove spoke with Hilton about the art of storytelling through food and music.
Hilton Honors Experiences partnered with you to create this exclusive/intimate event for your super fans. What excited you most about this opportunity?
Questlove: Connecting with people in a smaller setting is the fun part for me. When I get involved in projects like these, the first thing I think about is what the last 15 minutes of the event will be like. While I want people to walk away feeling good after the event, I’m also the type of person that loves surprising people who have underestimated expectations. Once I see people are having a great time or they tell me post-event about how they’ve truly enjoyed and made connections, that’s when I know I’ve done my job. Overall, I want people to come to my events with an open and ready mindset as that is the spice of life.
Motto by Hilton New York City Chelsea has a vibe. What made it the perfect environment for your Endless Summer Grills x Hilton Honors event?
Questlove: Motto by Hilton New York City Chelsea has a great vibe and is by far the most interesting Hilton property I’ve ever been in. I’m a proverbial kid at heart, so when I first walked into this hotel and saw that it provided bunkbeds, the first thought I had was how much I wanted to spend the night here. Growing up in a bunkbed household, it gave me a sense of nostalgia and closeness to my childhood and family, reminding me that it truly matters where you stay. Often times, the memories and closeness people search for come from mixing food, music and culture together, making this the perfect environment for the Endless Summer Grills event with Hilton Honors. I hope all my fans enjoyed everything this night had to offer.
Tell us about the chefs you chose to feature at the Endless Summer Grills menu, and how do they inspire you?
Questlove: There is always a certain type of rhythm and flow to how food is presented. I realized this a couple of years ago when I went to Japan and visited Jiro Ono, the god of Sushi. After going to his restaurant, I understood that without saying a word to me, Jiro was trying to tell me a story amongst the 21 pieces he served. The first three were establishing his base, the next three were salty, then buttery and his grand finale was as if he pulled magic out of nowhere, ending with the sweetest cantaloupes as a palette cleanser. After this experience, I realized that food is an art and when you close your eyes to enjoy every bite, each dish tells a story. This inspired me to get into food salons and have chefs from all walks of life make dishes that tell different stories from their experiences. Music also plays an important role in throwing a dinner party, as each element goes hand in hand with how stories are told. That’s why I selected Omar Tate, Natasha Pickowicz, Shenarri Freeman, Paris Starn and Channing Centeno for the Hilton Honors x Endless Summer Grills event as they each brought different cultures and told their own stories through food and beverage – I always call food the greatest social adhesive there is.
Music is one of your passions and you’re such a talented DJ. How did you go about creating the setlist for an event like this?
Questlove: Early on, music and food played a really big role in my career because collaboration was the key component to success. I’ve had the honor to play with many musicians across the globe who don’t even speak the same language, yet I was able to connect with them on a deeper level. For me, music is more of a spiritual communication amongst artists that focuses on minimalism when you’re working in a collaborative environment. I always tell people that music is like food in the sense that you don’t want to add too much pepper, sauce or salt, but rather trust in the ingredients as the recipe will slowly grow on people. In curating the music for my setlist, I had a level of preparation that really isn’t normal for the average DJ or music curator. Going back to my experience with Jiro in Japan, I realized that the storytelling aspect is transferrable to other avenues such as music and it helps me build out my sets for different audiences. Being immersed in music and spinning for about an hour a day has helped me become the music curator I am today.
What do you love most about intimate fan events like this – and do you have plans to partner with Hilton Honors on more experiences in the future?
Questlove: There are several ways to communicate with people outside of physical chatter and online platforms. Whether it’s through music, food or a combination of both, I genuinely appreciate intimate and smaller atmospheres as a way to connect with people. In fact, I’m always looking for an excuse to spin music for people because that’s my real love language. I think my entire career was created just so I could develop different avenues to spin music for all types of audiences and test out what works and what doesn’t. This project with Hilton Honors truly illustrated my passions and I will definitely pursue more experiences with Hilton in the future.
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