Paintings by friends from Japan
Paintings by friends from Japan Credit: Andrea Bauer

Meet Alan Lake: musician, chef, author. He played percussion on Madonna and Bryan Ferry records in the 80s. He wrote a book called The Garlic Manifesto about the 10,000-year history of the herb. A few years ago, Ian McDonald of King Crimson slept on his couch after they played a gig together at a Division Street club. Once a sous chef at the East Bank Club, he teaches Cambodian and Laotian girls how to play drums in an after-school program at Asian Youth Services and is a member of a band called Casa de Soul. Given his collection of life experiences, it’s no wonder that Lake’s Ukrainian Village apartment is practically bursting at the seams with art, cookbooks, and percussion instruments from around the world.

“I grew up with adventuresome parents with interesting friends in an interesting culture—east Rogers Park, circa the late 50s,” Lake says. “There were a lot of artists and intellectuals and immigrants.” As a child, he spent much time with family friends who were musicians. “They had a toy box filled with craft percussion toys,” Lake recalls.

The aesthetic of his home is influenced by those early experiences. “Instead of a toy chest, I have this room that’s overflowing with over 70 percussion instruments,” he says, picking up the berimbau, a Brazilian single-string musical bow.

Stacks of global cuisine recipe books in the kitchen reveal Lake’s passion for cooking. “Music and food are very similar—what it asks from me and what it gives to me are one and the same,” he says.

Lake has run out of wall space for artwork, which ranges from paintings by friends to his own collages. A table is covered with a Buddha statue collection that began with a single figurine that belonged to his mother. One wall displays Haitian, Indonesian, and Polynesian masks. “I surround myself with the stuff that makes me comfortable,” he says. “It’s warm to walk in here, because a lot of it means something to me; there’s a significance to quite a few of the pieces here.”

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Correction: This story has been amended to reflect the time period in which Ian McDonald stayed on Lake’s couch.