INTERVIEW BY MIKE CRAWFORD AND THE YOUNG JURKS @MIKECANNBOSTON
A lot of people, myself included, always kind of knew that Daniel Pontes-Macedo would land in the spotlight. It’s in his blood, and was only a matter of time. Or rhyme. Or even thyme, as you might say, since he has been showing off his culinary skills on season eight of the Fox competition show MasterChef.
A Greater Boston native, Pontes-Macedo is the comparably charismatic younger brother of Victor Pontes-Macedo, who’s best known to music fans as MC Exposition, or sometimes Expo. The brilliant rhyming frontman for the great Boston act Audible Mainframe, Expo was an otherworldly performer, held in the absolute highest regard by his peers and rap veterans too. I can still remember the first time I saw Exposition, back in 2004, when I produced the Beantown Meltdown battle of the bands at the now-defunct Good Time Emporium in Somerville. I thought his debut solo album, The Metro, was among the strongest of 100-plus submissions, but as it turned out he was already competing with Audible Mainframe.
Some of my fellow organizers thought that the group had no chance of success among the venue’s hard rock regulars. But in the end, Audible won over everybody, besting 35 other acts over a span of three awesome sets to secure gold. Expo even moved some of the metalheads, many of whom ultimately wound up seeing and hearing what the rest of us sensed almost immediately—that there was something extra magical about the Mainframe.
Having been fortunate enough to visit the band later in Allston during listening sessions for their next several albums, I thoroughly enjoyed building with Expo about life, the music industry, and especially politics and social movements. My girlfriend, Carmelita, who is the local programming director for WAAF, was also a fan and played Audible Mainframe on the weekly Bay State Rock show. So we were crushed, along with innumerable others, when Expo was taken by cancer in 2012. Prior to his passing, the band had moved to Los Angeles and was beginning to penetrate nationally when their signature voice was tragically silenced.
I know that I am not the only one rooting for Expo’s brother Daniel on MasterChef. Even prior to his making the cut on the hit Gordon Ramsay show, he had begun to build his own musical rep as the MC for the Metro, a band that he affectionately named for Victor’s early solo project. He may be cooking on TV rather than singing or rapping, but the family glow and resemblance is unmistakable. Just like Exposition handled stages, Daniel owns the cameras trained on his stovetop performances. Over the past several weeks, he’s also demonstrated the same kind of endurance that Audible brought to the Meltdown.
With so much happening for Daniel, who is also a new father, I recently had him on my WEMF Radio show, The Young Jurks, to talk about everything from his brother, to his band, to his inspiration for cooking.
How did it feel to rep your brother when you emerged to advance on a recent episode of the show and declared, “Victory”?
That was my main motivation going in there, that and seeing myself on national television … That was my drive, the reason I was there, the reason I got into cooking, my passion.
When my brother got sick I quit my job and became his nurse. I cooked for him, so that’s when I saw what the difference was between mediocre food and what good food can do. The difference between him taking a couple of bites and him finishing the meal—it was the difference of him staying in bed all day or him getting up to go for a walk and doing something … so I really saw the power of food as fuel and medicine.
Do you think your brother is helping you advance in this competition?
His energy is definitely a driving force. If it wasn’t for him getting sick there’s a very good chance I wouldn’t be in this situation, so you have to make sure it’s not for naught. I didn’t want to be the first one to go home … especially as I had a pregnant fiancee at home …
I left a lot, [it was not] the best time to leave, so I had a lot more [at risk], a real motive to make sure my time out there was for something.
Is competing on this show nerve-racking?
You’re in this larger-than-life studio competing with these larger-than-life chef personalities judging you, so yes, it is.
Where do you hope to go with your cooking after the show ends?
Cooking has always been something I’ve loved doing, it’s always been my stress relief, but I see a lot of my friends who are chefs, who come home tired, and the last thing they want to do is to cook [at home]. I don’t want to lose that outlet, so I don’t know if I want to work full time at it, run a restaurant. I would love to keep cooking, maybe just some private events, catering, hosting my own dinners, that sort of thing.
Do you ever drop lyrics and cook at the same time?
Music lyrics are always going. Whether we’re saying them out loud or not, I definitely see a correlation between cooking and hip-hop, especially because on the show [it’s like], “Here’s a bunch of stuff, now go make something,” and in hip-hop it’s, “Here’s the music, now create a song out of it with lyrics. Here’s the raw material, now you have to turn it into something you can serve to people.”
How do you regard The Metro all these years later?
If you look at that album even today it’s very topical. It still makes sense, it speaks to the state of affairs … Things don’t really change. I’m in a band called the Metro, obviously in homage to Victor’s first album … I’m able to appreciate that I got 31 years with one of the most amazing dudes I’ve ever met and I was lucky enough to have him as my brother.
Watch Daniel Pontes-Macedo compete on MasterChef on Wednesday nights at 8pm on Fox, and join him in person on Fri 9.18 at 7pm at Restaurante Cesaria (266 Bowdoin St., Dorchester) for a night of Cape Verdean food, conversation, and a special performance by the Metro. Tickets are $40 and include both dinner and music.