“There are people who are makers, artists, and appreciators of all different ages, like-minded people, living in different pockets of Vermont. And it’s been really cool to gain the attention of those people, bring them to our shows and create opportunities for collaboration. And I want to continue doing that.”
Guthrie Galileo has a thoughtful way about him. The performer/producer is the creator of Nightshade Kitchen, a series of uniquely intimate music and food events that have garnered a local following of Burlingtonians over the last couple of years. Highlight partnered with Guthrie via the crowdsourced “Bright Idea Project” to produce Nightshade on New Years, which will pair the sounds of Mauritanian artist Daby Touré with a Pan-African menu from rising local chefs.
We sat with Guthrie in his Old North End apartment one December morning, fittingly at his kitchen table (upon which a bag of frozen nightshades thawed for his dinner), to learn more about his work, his year and where he wants to take it from here.
We have to ask, how did you get your stage name?
Guthrie Galileo is part of my real name. My full name is Guthrie Galileo Stoltzfus. It’s a result of creative hippie parents, I would say. And both of those names, Guthrie and Galileo, have little to do with ancestry and more just to do with a cool name, and meaning behind the name itself, I guess.
Where were you born?
I’m from Northern California, about an hour north of San Francisco. I was raised in Sebastopol, a very small town in Sonoma County. Wine country. Very beautiful. I was just out there. It was raining the whole time, which is good. They could use the rain, honestly.
How did you find yourself in Vermont?
I came here once on a cross-country road trip shortly after I graduated high school. It took going all the way to the opposite side of the country for me to feel at home or feel like something would resonate with me. I came here to Burlington. It was in the middle of the winter. I spent maybe two nights with a friend of a friend who I didn’t really know and I just really fell in love with the place—or saw a place for myself. It was a feeling like this could be a home as well as wanting to get out of California at the time to distance myself from the possibility of stagnation there. I started college at UVM as an English major in this humanities program that accepted me and offered a good scholarship. So, there were a number of reasons why one would move to the opposite side of the country just to go to school. I’m happy, at least, that it brought me here.
How did you start Nightshade Kitchen?
Well, it started in an old second-floor apartment on North Winooski Avenue. It was a really beautiful apartment that had this central room that, as musicians, we saw as a potential performance space. There was a lot of influence at the time from organizations like Sofar Sounds, and people who were intentionally working outside of the typical concert circuit of venues or bars and creating their own environment for that.
At the time I was working at Healthy Living, and my roommate’s parents’ owned this farm in Williston called Red Barn Gardens. It’s a very special place where we’ve actually hosted three outdoor festivals, during the summer. As a combination, having access to really fresh local products at a discounted rate for me, and for him—his family owned the place—so, we also just found ourselves with an excess of food, basically. That tied in the cooking element.
You must like to cook.
I love to cook. I definitely emphasize the fact that Nightshade Kitchen serves home-cooked food, so there’s a lot of emphasis on the process, making things from scratch, and experimenting, always trying new things and combining different flavors that might be unprecedented. There’s definitely a sense of thematics to it where we’ll do a menu that’s German-style or potentially North African. One of my closest collaborators here is my friend Simon, who is a refugee from Rwanda by way of the Congo. So, he has also introduced that side of cuisine to me.
How is the work that you’re doing informed by this place, by Vermont?
Nightshade Kitchen would not be possible without having a strong familiarity and connection with the surrounding community—the artists that exist in that community, the people who are willing to support the arts and keep coming out to events. The huge emphasis around here on local food sourcing, and the care that is put into that within the restaurant industry . . . the connection between those two—the farm, the table—that is super-important. We’ve been really fortunate to build connections and partnerships with different farmers in the area that allow us to be this independent company and present something really high quality.
Pros and cons that come with working in Vermont?
I guess a pro and a con within one bundle that I see is definitely the size and the range of activity that’s happening here. Sometimes it can be pretty insular. Sometimes it can be limited and we find ourselves just seeking new ways to stay fresh, I guess, and not over-saturate, and not be always presenting to the same audience even though having a recurring following has also been something that’s really meaningful to us.
There’s more of a sense of bumping your head on the ceiling and pushing it upwards little by little and growing, and just infusing more artistic and creative happenings into the landscape.
What is one of the best things that have happened in the last year?
This year has been the main year of branching out, in terms of location. We had the first iteration of Nightshade Kitchen in our apartment for about two years. Then we were homeless—not literally homeless—with the idea and the organization for a little while. And then, we moved to North End Studios, right at the top of North Winooski, and that was really awesome.
Since then it’s been a period of seeking the next best place.
The really exciting part, I think, about 2019 was just seeing all these different places where we could do Nightshade Kitchen, where we could just show up with a crate full of pots and pans and present to different audiences in different places, And, wherever we go and whoever comes, it’s always very quick to get back to that root of saying, “Oh, wow. This is really special, it’s intimate.”
What was your biggest challenge in the last year?
Definitely finding those locations. And grappling with wanting to do something in a new unique environment but then thinking, “Oh, wait. Nobody knows that there would ever be a musical event here.” How do we bring people into a completely new space that’s not on their radar whatsoever?
What do you like to do in your downtime?
Downtime is limited because Nightshade Kitchen is my downtime, I guess.
It’s a really involved hobby. I’d love to, maybe at some point, pursue it in its full capacity, like a fully running business. Right now it exists in addition to working a full-time job at Cumbancha Records, which also has a way of informing what I’m doing with Nightshade Kitchen. I love working on these projects. It’s a lot of work, but it’s a labor of love—orbiting things that I love to do, music and creating events and cooking. And it always involves a lot of friends around, so yeah.
How might your community in Vermont differ from communities you’ve been a part of elsewhere?
I think that there’s definitely a strong sense of involvement here, a sense of wanting to build and cultivate something as opposed to finding something that’s already on the rise. And I think, as far as the food and music industries go, what Vermont doesn’t have in the way of glamour that some other places might have, it has in substance, I guess.
The people who I know and have worked with within those industries are so, so talented. I would definitely put them up as a match against people who I know from home in California, for example, or in other places around the world. And they definitely hold their own and have a really distinct way of being a part of the scene.
Is there a certain artist that comes to mind?
Yeah, I’ll do a shout out. One artist who’s a good friend of mine who I’ve worked with a lot, both in the capacity of performing and with Nightshade Kitchen is a guy by the name of Chazzy Lake. He’s been a special part of building the community and developing the music scene here. Mostly because I think that he’s definitely one of the most naturally talented, musicians I have known. I think that he has the destiny to be like a rock-pop star somewhere down the line. The connection that he and I have in Nightshade Kitchen is mostly that I’ve always been able to depend on him as a performer who I know will put on the best show.
What’s your favorite thing about where you live?
Definitely, I think the seasons. Coming from California, there’s like no sense of that. It’s like fire season and then overcast, foggy season which is also year-round. But here people are really connected, I think, to the change of the season. And that definitely exists within agriculture, where working with the local produce has been a big inspiration as opposed to like a limiter because I can be like, “What is realistically growing in Vermont in December?” And that leads me to design the menu, to design the flavors that are going to be presented. Lately, it’s been a lot of winter squash, putting winter squash in everything, desserts, roasted, fried . . .
Agriculture aside, just having that rise and fall with the seasons of, “This is when we’re going to gleefully pursue and really get the juice out of these next two months,” or, “This is when we’re going to rejoice in the sense of coziness.”
And obviously, the natural surroundings that come with each season are a big part of why I’ve remained here, just the beauty and the rawness. I really like also the sense of preparedness that it requires people to have just upon exiting the house. Lots of intention. Nothing is done just flippantly.
What’s your resolution for 2020?
It’s just to keep growing, keep doing more. I definitely want to continue establishing Nightshade Kitchen in one place. You know, where people can continue to know us for what we do and come out to our events, just with the expectation that it’s going to be good.
Vermont is a place that people have always gravitated towards, that’s kind of like an abode for the arts and for sustainability, sustainable thinking, and agriculture. There are people who are makers, artists, and appreciators of all different ages, like-minded people, living in different pockets of Vermont. And it’s been really cool to gain the attention of those people and bring them to our shows. And I want to continue doing that. Definitely.