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Brooks Headley

Brooks Headley has been the executive pastry chef of Del Posto in New York since March 2008. During that time he has helped the restaurant earn four stars in the New York Times, and in 2013 he was honored with the James Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Pastry Chef. Headley has also been playing drums for more than twenty years, in a series of underground bands (Born Against, Universal Order of Armageddon, Young Pioneers, Skull Kontrol, Wrangler Brutes, Oldest, C.R.A.S.H., Music Blues). W. W. Norton has just released his first cookbook, Fancy Desserts, which features photography and design by Jason Fulford and Tamara Shopsin.

  1. MELVINS, BULLHEAD (BONER RECORDS, 1991)

    This is a record that truly sounds like nothing else. The first track, “Boris,” is eight and a half minutes long and has never gotten boring in the past twenty-three years. The front cover is just a complete-bullshit generic graphic of a fruit basket, but you can’t stop staring at it. The back cover has a border of intertwined condom wrappers. The lyrics are ridiculous and cryptic and only King Buzzo will ever know why.

    *Cover of Melvins’ _Bullhead_* (Boner Records, 1991). Cover of Melvins’ Bullhead (Boner Records, 1991).
  2. CLAUDIA FLEMING, THE LAST COURSE: THE DESSERTS OF GRAMERCY TAVERN (RANDOM HOUSE, 2001)

    This cookbook came out right about when I had just dug my feet in and decided that I was going to be a pastry chef. Claudia Fleming was a true pioneer and forged modern dessert making out of the super-French, overwrought, overdone, baroque style of the late 1980s. The simplicity and understated elegance of the creations in this book made me want to devote my life to food. I have probably ripped off every single one of the recipes at some point in my career. The Last Course really holds up; it does not look the least bit dated in 2014—the photography, the layouts, the typography (there’s even an entire page describing the typeface . . . in a cookbook . . . that’s so cool!). It is, however, out of print—which is so sad because it is an art object, a philosophy manual, and one of the few dessert cookbooks that aren’t annoyingly cute. This is real cooking.

    *Chestnut-honey madeleines from Claudia Fleming’s _The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern_* (Random House, 2001). Photo: Dana Gallagher. Chestnut-honey madeleines from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern (Random House, 2001). Photo: Dana Gallagher.
  3. WATTS TOWERS, LOS ANGELES

    Whenever anyone slags my second-favorite city, Los Angeles, as a cesspool of twerps and dingbats and endless traffic and backstabbing wannabe celebrities, I always bring up the Watts Towers so they will relax. They are fantastic structures smack-dab in the middle of the cityscape—subversive, introspective, and beautiful. I have never been an outdoorsy kind of person, and the countryside scares me. Walking over the Manhattan Bridge or gawking at the Towers—that’s my idea of nature. I like to get off the plane at LAX, head straight to the Towers in my rental car, and then go have breakfast at the Original Pantry downtown. A perfect LA morning.

  4. MAURICE SENDAK, IN THE NIGHT KITCHEN (HARPER & ROW, 1970)

    This was one of my mom’s favorite books, and she often read it to me when I was growing up. I was fascinated by the food imagery and the midnight invasion of a kitchen by a ballsy little kid. Plus there’s full-frontal nudity, fake violence, and seemingly drunk red-nosed adults wearing chef’s toques. I think about this book a lot when I am mixing doughs at work. Someday I’d like to do a cookbook for kids.

    *Page from Maurice Sendak’s _In the Night Kitchen_* (Harper & Row, 1970). Page from Maurice Sendak’s In the Night Kitchen (Harper & Row, 1970).
  5. DEVO’S HARDCORE VOLUME 1 LP (SUPERIOR VIADUCT, 1990/2013)

    All these songs were recorded in a basement in Akron, Ohio, between 1974 and 1977, before Devo became famous. In the early ’90s they released these songs on a CD, which I promptly dubbed to cassette so my band could listen to it in the van on tours. Even though it is super weird, has questionable lyrics, and is unapologetically creepy at times, this album contains really awesome and memorable tunes. In 2013, Devo finally pressed it to vinyl with a lyric sheet (that’s what he was saying?), and, in 2014, they did a short US tour playing only these hardcore songs, in honor of their recently departed guitarist Bob Casale. I saw the show at a venue in the heart of Times Square. Walking out of the gig, totally stunned to have finally heard these songs played live, only to be dumped into the absolute worst part of Manhattan on a Thursday night—it all made sense. De-evolution. These guys were right all along. Now it can be told.

  6. GLEN E. FRIEDMAN, MY RULES (RIZZOLI, 2014)

    Glen Friedman has taken so many photos of so many things that I love that his work sort of makes me annoyed and angry. The original My Rules photo zine came out in 1982, and this new book collects, yeah, all the photos I love (of skateboarding, hip-hop, punk rock, Public Enemy wearing Minor Threat shirts). It is a monster that should dominate all coffee tables this year, man.

    *Flavor Flav and Chuck D of Public Enemy, ca. 1988.* Photo: Glen E. Friedman. Flavor Flav and Chuck D of Public Enemy, ca. 1988. Photo: Glen E. Friedman.
  7. BIKINI KILL

    Bikini Kill is my favorite band name ever, followed closely by Throbbing Gristle and Kraut. Bikini Kill really were a revolutionary force, and their influence continues today. Musically, they had just the right amount of dumbness wrapped up in just the right amount of smartness: the best combination for a group. My old band Universal Order of Armageddon got to play with them several times in the ’90s. I would always just watch in awe and think about how much less of a threat to society whatever we were doing was.

  8. CARSICK: JOHN WATERS HITCHHIKES ACROSS AMERICA (FARRAR, STRAUS AND GIROUX, 2014)

    I grew up in the suburbs of Baltimore, in Towson, Maryland. John Waters is, of course, the de facto king of Baltimore. I was born in 1972, the year Pink Flamingos was released, so I consider that movie to be my birthstone. Female Trouble (1974) and Desperate Living (1977) are some of my favorite films of all time. Waters’s latest book, Carsick, is absolutely hilarious, disgusting, and merciless. “Without obsession life is nothing” is my favorite quote of his. God, I hope I can be that cool when I am pushing seventy.

    *John Waters hitchhiking, May 2012.* Photo: Shauta Marsh. John Waters hitchhiking, May 2012. Photo: Shauta Marsh.
  9. OVER THE EDGE (JONATHAN KAPLAN, 1979)

    This movie came out when I was seven years old, but I didn’t see it until 2010, when it was screened at Lincoln Center in New York. I’m glad that my first encounter with it was on a big screen, because it really is the ultimate teenage-rebellion movie and has influenced so many great artists and musicians. The sound track has multiple Cheap Trick songs, there are tons of quotable lines, and watching it for the first time surrounded by truly psychotic fans, well, you could feel the electricity in the room. I scored a cool VHS copy last year, but it doesn’t play, which is a bummer.

  10. VEGGIE BURGERS

    I make fancy desserts for a living. That’s my job. On my tax return I list my occupation as “pastry chef.” But the real reason I’ve been messing around with food for the past fifteen years is the veggie burger. Yes, I know, it is a much-maligned foodstuff—but even when they’re terrible, I will gladly scarf them up. There’s a bright side to all of this: My complete immersion in fine-dining cookery mixed with my pure love of fake burgers has led me to my own platonic version of the sandwich. Right now it’s just a hobby, but my hobbies usually become jobs.