We all know Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony — the four punching notes are a cinematic signal of despair. Beethoven roots his composition on the four-tone motif, building the piece around the short theme.
Christian Schulz, on the other hand, composes with gourds.
Schulz is the head chef of Menuette, a new addition to Pittsburgh’s pop-up food scene. Menuette launched in May with Opus 1, first in a tasting series that explores the relationship between musical and culinary composition. Schulz and his partner Rebecca Nicholson are headed into Opus 4 on Aug. 28.
Before he became a chef, Schulz studied guitar and music.
“I took my knowledge of composition and started removing aspects of music theory and inserting aspects of cooking theory,” says Schulz. “It’s completely changed the way I think about food.”
Opus 4’s primary theme is gourds, specifically melons and cucumbers. Schulz designs each menu with a primary theme, contrasting theme, and a cadence, then weaves them through the three courses. For Opus 4, the contrasting theme will be thistle plants, sunflowers, and artichokes. Legumes are the menu’s cadence.
“They [composers] take a simple theme and base entire symphonies off of the short passage. If you can do it in music, why can’t you do it in food?” says Schulz.
Every plate on Menuette’s menu espouses these themes with “very real threads” connecting the dishes. Nothing is placed without thought.
“The tomato,” says Schulz, chuckling. “That’s just one of many of hundreds. Why stop at the tomato? Why not explore the other things that are related to that? How many different ways could I prepare a tomato without them really realizing?”
A lot of popular modern-day music is built in simple forms with repetitive choruses and riffs. Schulz uses this concept as he creates a menu, leaving essences of his themes on each plate.
“When you’re exposed to something and you love it, you want it again. It makes you feel satisfied,” says Schulz. “[How] can I weave these themes into a dining experience, and how does that affect opinions of the meal?”
Opus 4 begins with a seared scallop, paired with a cucumber and miso broth, melon, butter beans, finished with sunflower tahini. The threads continue through the next courses, linking artichoke raviolo to sweet and crispy duck.
Menuette’s goal is a brick-and-mortar restaurant, though Schulz laughs that it's “a long way away.” Since the first pop-up in May, Menuette has expanded to brunches, happy hours, and private catering. The Opus tastings will remain Menuette’s core.
Menuette’s Opus 4 is a ticketed, three-course tasting with craft beer pairings from The Korner Pub. Schulz recommends purchasing early, though there is some room for walk-in seating and a la carte dinners.
Tue., Aug. 28. 5:30-9:30 p.m. $40. The Korner Pub, 4 Bower Hill Road, Mount Lebanon. menuettepgh.com