Fine dining melds with smooth tunes at Moody’s Bistro and Lounge in Truckee
Hum a line of “Cheeseburger in Paradise” and you’ll realize just how well food and music go together. For J.J. Morgan and Mark Estee, the combination of food and music has become a career.
Their mutual respect of both art forms has led them to the streets of Truckee and this week’s opening of Moody’s Bistro and Lounge.
Estee, a graduate of the renowned Johnson and Wales Culinary Institute, became executive chef at the Hyatt Regency in Cambridge, Mass. at age 24.
Morgan, who started out as a bartender, ran the Up & Down Club in the heart of San Francisco with supermodel Christy Turlington. The club is credited with helping to revitalize San Francisco’s legendary jazz scene. Morgan also helped launch the careers of now prominent jazz artists like Charlie Hunter, who recently played in Lake Tahoe.
Morgan and Estee’s paths eventually crossed at the Lahontan Golf Course in Incline Village. The challenge facing the two men was to create an atmosphere that would serve a dual purpose.
“Music and dining tend to not go together so well,” Estee said, speaking of the clash between loud live acts and the enjoyment of good food. “We wanted to create a physical space where it could happen. Where you could walk through a lounge and into a dining room and be in two different worlds, yet still connected.”
Modeled after old-style speakeasies, red velvet booths and dark wood tables surround a stage and are flanked by a bar. Walk through a wide door, and you enter the dining room with an open view of the kitchen and an outdoor patio.
“It’s going to be casual and not just a special occasion place,” Morgan said a week before the club’s opening night. “We wanted the possibility to have a contractor sitting next to a stockbroker sitting next to a kid on his first date.”
To provide the nightly mix of jazz acts and DJs—spinning everything from hip-hop pioneers A Tribe Called Quest to Ella Fitzgerald—they had to undergo extensive soundproofing. Past businesses in the location, on the first floor of the historic Truckee Hotel, failed because of conflicts with the hotel management and guests trying to sleep.
Now they will be able to book local jazz acts to play live on a nightly basis. One of these is University of Nevada, Reno, piano phenom Grant Levin.
“Grant is fantastic,” Morgan said. “I’ve brought guys over from the Bay Area to play with him, and they all say he’s going to be huge.”
Neither of the two new club owners claim to have even an ounce of musical talent, but they do know how to surround themselves with it. When Estee is cooking, he listens to music ranging from Black Sabbath to Duke Ellington.
“Cooking is a creative art," he said. "Some people express themselves with music. I express myself with my cooking. It’s an extension of me. When music is played, people hear it and they love it or they hate it. Cooking is the same way."