Fresno's Derrick "Aesop" McElroy, member of hip-hop group Living Legends, will host a new cooking show with a Santa Barbara-area studio. Photo contributed by McElroy
Written by Edward Smith
Fresno rap artist Derrick “Aesop” McElroy, member of the acclaimed underground hip hop group Living Legends, signed a contract to host a new cooking show on Wednesday.
“Aesop’s Table” is slated to begin filming its pilot at Roselane Studios near Santa Barbara, with the first episode’s debut planned for early 2019.
The studio, which primarily works with musicians, reached out to McElroy about working on a project. The problem was McElroy was in the midst of setting up his cafe in the Tower District. He told them he was busy trying to make a restaurant out of a studio space where he’d previously hosted pop-up dining events during Art Hop.
It was when the conversation shifted to food that McElroy came up with the idea to use their studio for a cooking show.
“We went from there, and the next thing I know, they were sending contracts to me in emails, trying to get me to sign for a show,” McElroy said.
He’s still exploring ideas, but McElroy envisions a talk show format with guests, a little eccentricity and of course, cooking. He has Fresno IdeaWorks building a wolf background for him to go with his rap persona, “The Black Wolf.”
“My personality for the cooking show is gonna be who I am on stage,” he said.
McElroy wants to bring in big-name celebrities and local favorites to eat and cook with him. Some of his ideas include having Snoop Dogg and Fashawn as guests.
“It’s still really open-ended. This week and next week is when I really have to build the storyboard for it and start moving forward,” he said.
The possibilities for his show are wide open. Over his two decades of touring the world, McElroy has performed with scores of different artists. He wants to center his show on having other musicians in the kitchen with him. He’ll be doing his own background music and is consider making an album around the show.
The majority of “Aesop’s Table” will be shot in-studio in Carpinteria in Santa Barbara County, but he wants to bring Fresno down with him. He’ll have camera crews going with him to not only Southern California locations, but also places like R-N Market where McElroy has gone for years to get proteins and veggies for his Asian dishes.
“Aesop’s Table” will be featured on YouTube, Instagram and Roselane’s own streaming site, with what McElroy thinks will be monthly or bi-monthly episodes. He says he’ll be able to get enough sponsors to make it free for viewing.
“Once we get the pilot, we’re going to shop that to everybody, which is Netflix. I’ve got some people over at HBO that asked me to show them what it looks like,” he said. “If it’s big enough that we can get bigger production people to distribute it for us, we’re definitely going to go somewhere big.”
McElroy has never done anything like a cooking show before, but he does have more than 20 years in the entertainment industry on which he can draw from to drive the show. His tours with Living Legends have gotten him used to performing in front of crowds, which gives him the energy to captivate the audience.
“Being in front of a camera and cooking is something new,” McElroy said.
He’ll be doing a test run at The Bitwise Hive in Downtown Fresno, using the kitchen and studio to get a better understanding of what’s like to be on film, coordinating multiple dishes and all the while, keeping the audience’s attention.
“I’m going to shoot one just to see how it feels before I go into full production-mode,” he said. “I’m not sure how this show’s going to look. It’s a lot of smoke and mirrors as far as making it look like it’s from Fresno and making it look like it’s fully produced on a real set. I don’t know how I’m going to pull this all off, but it’s crunch time.”
His cooking days began with preparing “terrible” meals for his family, McElroy said. He began making food for his little sisters while his parents worked nights. In college, he cooked bachelor-style meals for himself. It wasn’t until he moved to Japan with a DJ friend of his that he began developing a sense of experimentation. He got used to home-cooked Japanese meals, and when he came home, he wanted to recreate that.
“I got a hankering for Japanese food because I had lived there for almost two years,” he said. “I wanted to be able to still make the same home cooking she was doing. It started with me making Japanese food.”
He began exploring online recipes and different restaurants while he was touring the country, discovering the nuances of different food traditions.
“Japanese cuisine became my thing until I got to the point where I was making pretty authentic, traditional Japanese ramen,” McElroy said.
His repertoire of recipes does not end in the Pacific Rim. He’s done Jamaican food for pop-ups and lately he’s been cooking Mexican food daily.
Once brainstorming is done and the ideas are in place, Derrick “Aesop” McElroy hopes to export the food of the Central Valley and show the world what he grew up tasting.