Kelis Cooks More than a Milkshake

Winter Music Conference is in full swing here in Miami, and while the events that typically surround this bacchanal of house music aren’t necessarily haute, a private dinner last night at the W South Beach proved to be an exception. The hostess for the evening was Kelis, the Grammy nominated artist behind chart-topping hit Milkshake.

She is in town to kick off a promotional tour for her forthcoming album Flesh Tone. The video for the first single Acapella is set to premiere in just two days, so Kelis is amping up interest by making stops at the W Hotel, Score, Louis, and Ultra Music Festival.

But she isn’t just here to show off her musical talents, she also wanted to show off her culinary prowess. She invited 25 friends and media (myself included) to join her in the Belvedere Music Lounge at the W South Beach, which has set up shop in Bungalow 1 for the duration of the festival, bringing in acts like Macy Gray and Agnes to entertain the crowds. Kelis is performing at the lounge today from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., but last night, she worked her magic in the kitchen. For the past two years, the musical artist has been adding “culinary artist” to her résumé, and she is a recent graduate of Le Cordon Bleu.

For this special dinner, she partnered with Belvedere and began preparing for the evening weeks ago, working with the hotel’s chefs to create the perfect menu, one that reflected what she learned at the academy as well as her southern roots. The resulting menu offered a choice between Capuria’s stuffed with crab meat and an apple jalapeno relish with sweet corn puree; Duck Confit Salad with pomegranate vinaigrette; or Coconut Lobster Soup for the first course. For the main course, we chose between Fried Red Snapper with jasmine rice or a Ribeye with pineapple confit.

I am not going to lie and say that I thought this was little more than a stunt to raise awareness about the Belvedere Music Lounge, but it turns out Kelis was actually in the kitchen, toiling away for most of the day to prepare the meal for her guests, which included Interscope-Geffen-A&M Chairman Jimmy Iovine, DJ Benny Benassi, DJ Rashida, Chicago Bears player Adewale Ogunieye, Kansas City Chiefs player Thomas Jones, DJ/musician Calvin Harris, Burns, Jack Splash, and others.

Cocktail hour started at 7 p.m. on the back patio of the private bungalow, with dinner finally getting underway a little after 8 p.m., when Kelis made her grand entrance and addressed the intimate crowd from the head of the table while dressed in a fabulous multi-colored dress accented by funky jewelry, including enormous tribal-inspired gold earrings that were to die for. She apologized for the wait with a laugh, saying that there was an incident in the kitchen (“Not my fault!”) that she had to attend to. For the evening’s soundtrack, she played her new, unreleased album, so we quickly forgot the wait and got into the groove. After a quick trip around the table greeting each of the guests, she rushed back to the kitchen to aid in the plating of the first course. Servers came around to take our drink order of Belvedere cocktails created specially to complement the dishes.

I had the pleasure of being seated next to DJ Benny Benassi, who collaborated with Kelis for a track for her new album. He informed me that she will be joining him onstage this Saturday during his performance at Ultra Music Festival. For the first course, I opted for the duck confit salad, which was delightfully refreshing and laden with thinly shaved cucumbers in a citrus dressing. Benassi chose the lobster soup and was extremely pleased with his decision. Kelis came over and explained that she stayed away from heavy creams in the soup, opting instead to use a touch of coconut milk, which resulted in an extremely aromatic dish that Benassi devoured. For the main course, I chose the fried snapper, which was overwhelmingly large but unbelievably delicious and tender. I ate more than my fair share, which made the final dessert course a problem to enjoy, despite the delicious offerings of mango mouse, chocolaté Grand Marnier bread pudding, or a strawberry vanilla beggars purse.

The evening wrapped up around 10:30, with many of the guests slipping up to the W South Beach’s Penthouse Extreme Wow Suite debut of Symmetry, W Hotels’ CD Compilation. I ducked out and headed home, a bit exhausted from a soirée hosted by Haute Living the night before at a private residence on Key Biscayne in honor of the Sony Ericsson Tennis Tournament. High season in Miami may be coming to a close, but there are a few more grand events that will take place before we officially get to rest for the summer months (the annual launch party of the Haute 100 edition being the highlight I am most looking forward to), and I needed my beauty sleep to prepare.