SoloSam: On creating a space where people come first
The producer and chef launches House Special in collaboration with Soho House Chicago
Tuesday 20 September 2022 Words and photography by Felton Edward Kizer
My first introduction to producer and chef SoloSam was via Instagram at the top of the year, when Soho House and Soho Friends announced its inaugural US winners for their food, drink, and creative incubator programme, Soho Chance. In short, Soho Chance is a philanthropic programme that gives small business owners and creators an opportunity to bring their ideas to a diverse and influential audience. It’s the ‘audition’ many people dream of, and Soho Chance is helping make SoloSam’s dream a reality.
During our conversation, I was able to uncover precisely what his dream is, and it’s as simple as it is impactful: SoloSam wants to leave the world in a better place than he found it. He’s been doing that through his music and online show Principles To Die By. Now, through Soho Chance, he’s launching a new cooking show series, House Special, where he cooks with a mix of personalities from Chicago’s creative scenes and brings the worlds of art and food to his community.
Read on to find out more about SoloSam.
‘My dream closely aligns with my dream for the world: I want my presence here and the things I love to be reflected in other people. I want them to find things that they care about. So ultimately, the dream is to leave this place in a better shape than I found it.’
Beautiful. How do your passions intertwine or help you achieve that dream?
‘I think it’s a conduit in showing people that they don’t have to be one-dimensional; I feel like life is set in a way that tells people to figure out one thing. Focus on that thing, but I think there’s so much exploration. There’s no “set person” for hobbies. The thing that connects them is not gender or race; it’s the love of that thing.’
When you think about love, what comes to mind?
‘I think you sacrifice your whole self when you love something.’
Would you say that you’ve experienced a great deal of sacrifice?
‘Oh, yes, for sure. I think anybody who has something they put at the forefront of their own existence understands.’
Talk to me about the first time you experienced love.
‘Before I truly knew what love was, I knew what love felt like. And at a young age I loved art, poetry, and music. I remember being younger and being OK with sacrificing things I liked to do to just listen to music or write poetry. But it was that feeling [when] you’re so intertwined with something outside yourself, and you feel that connection. And the more you learn about it, the more you feel it enriches you. Art was my first love and it became the beacon of what love means.’
Can you provide some insight on the first time you experienced love when it pertained to food?
‘When you leave college, you realise that ordering food always is not the move. My mom, she’s Korean, my dad, West African; they both cooked a lot. And it was so enjoyable that the process of cooking became a process of self-love. And sometimes, when you’re going through life and looking for self-love, the small things are what your body and mind can recognise. The more I did it, the more I felt my body and mind respond to it in a positive light.’
I’m going to pivot a bit, but talk to me about the project you are currently working on.
‘In collaboration with Soho Friends and Soho House Chicago, House Special is a spin-off of my cooking show Principles To Die By. In this show, I wanted to highlight Chicago talent and [show] that food is parallel to art, which we all know. The process of plating is just taking food and painting it on a plate.
‘In that way, I’m bringing chefs, singers, rappers, or stitch designers to talk about their experiences. When you watch the series, [you’ll notice] how these people all have one commonality: the appreciation for art. The cooking show was to highlight that, and I’m excited to see where it leads after, because it all started with me just posting my cooking on my Instagram Stories. And [that] led to working with Dark Matter Coffee on Principles To Die By to House Special – who knows where [this] could go.’
‘I’m excited. And I’m a music artist under the name SoloSam. I love food, because I can creatively still be in tune and work when music overwhelms me. The same part of my brain that is enriched by music needs to be strong like a muscle.’
Can you speak about the show’s format, guests, and food curation? And [generally] what are you thinking about when you’re putting together an episode?
‘In terms of an episode, I like to do a pre-hangout with the person – because I feel like with interviews, sometimes people’s research comes from Googling other interviews. And subconsciously, you’ll create variations of questions they've already been asked. And nothing is more disappointing than being asked questions you’ve answered several times. But before you think of questions, you must think of the person and have them pick a recipe that’s comfortable for them. There’s a little bit of vulnerability that comes from cooking something you’re familiar with.’
What do you want people to know about you?
‘That I struggled like anybody else. I’ve learnt a lot under the moniker SoloSam; it started [because] I did a lot alone – produce, record, distribution, [all] without management. I want people to know that I’m imperfect.’
How do you want people to feel while watching the series?
‘I want them to be excited about other people. That’s really what I want people to be, you know, look forward to and be excited about the show.’
What are the details for the launch party?
‘Well, from what it looks like, it’s a sold-out event. This is the first time I’m doing just food. Like when I rolled out my project Plated, it came with a cookbook and a coffee collaboration with Dark Matter Coffee. And when I rolled out my project Principles To Die By, it came with a cooking show, Principles To Die By.
‘This event, it’s about bringing people into my creative process and seeing what I’ve been working on.’