FARGO — People in the Fargo-Moorhead area know Russell Peterson primarily as a musician, teacher and arranger, playing bassoon in the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra and saxophone in Post-Traumatic Funk Syndrome and various jazz ensembles.
A few years ago he revealed another skill, cooking.
Peterson has been flexing his chops in yet another arena lately — video production — and combining all of his passions in a YouTube series, “Sax in the Kitchen: Quarantine Quisine.”
As his musician friends all like to cook, the idea of making a cooking musicians show had been around for a while, Peterson says.
“This is the perfect time. There are no concerts now,” he says, referring to the coronavirus outbreak that is prompting people to spend more time at home and not get together in groups. “This is the perfect time to get people to join in.”
The show premiered with the musician making gumbo for his wife, Robin Nelson, who he credits for being the brains of the show. For the second episode, he enlisted his fellow saxophonist, Marco Albonetti, to make a ragu bolognese.
Peterson recorded as Albonetti, through an online Zoom meeting, watched and instructed his friend on the cooking.
The Italian didn’t just offer culinary advice. He gave Peterson, and the show’s viewers, a look at what daily life is like in Italy just as the country was the epicenter of the international crisis. Albonetti donned a face mask and went grocery shopping to get pasta, meat and cheese, with everyone he encountered all wearing masks.
“You see a little bit of it on the news, but when your friend is in the middle of it, walking around the deserted streets, that’s really something,” Peterson says.
Albonetti jumped at the offer to take part in the show.
“He’s going a little stir crazy. He said all he does is cook,” Peterson says.
Albonetti is stuck in Faenza, Italy, separated from his family by a 10-hour drive as Italians partake in their own social distancing.
Peterson and Albonetti met studying music in college and Peterson has brought his friend to Fargo-Moorhead a number of times to perform. Fans of the show may see more of him, as Peterson hinted that there may be future Italian cooking episodes.
Doing the show doesn’t just allow Peterson a chance to catch up with friends during social distancing. It allows him a chance to work on his video production skills.
“As a musician, you need to record yourself,” he says. “If you’re going to be relevant, you have to be on social media.”
His YouTube videos, which he links to from his Facebook page, aren’t just keeping him in contact with colleagues, but also have garnered some good-natured ribbing from students.
“What do music majors do during quarantine? Make parodies of Russell Peterson cooking videos,” wrote his student at Concordia College, Makayla Moen. She walks into the kitchen playing her saxophone, like her teacher does in his videos.
Peterson’s videos, which range from about 11 to 20 minutes, feature a short musical set, usually as something simmers on the stovetop.
Mixing music and food in the houses is nothing new. A few years ago he held dinner shows, called Concerts & Cuisine, in the summer to the delight of his neighbors at Fargo's Bluemont Lakes.
“I love it. If I could get together every night and play a concert and make a meal for my friends, that would be great,” he says.
For future episodes, he’d like to have other musicians on and wants to invite a professional chef.
“Maybe we’ll get an actual chef and do more teaching,” Peterson says. “I love cooking and cooking with friends. Maybe we can keep doing this after the quarantine.”
Find Russell Peterson's "Sax in the Kitchen: Quarantine Quisine" videos on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/user/rpeterssaxprof/videos