Interview with Nashville Chef, Philanthropist, and Music Enthusiast – Melissa Ann Barton aka Mod Squad Martha

"Nashville is attracting all kinds of incredible chefs from all over and I think when they land in this city, they feel the magic vibe of Nashville which is something you just can’t explain to others and it is reflective in their cooking."

Thank you so much for chatting with us Melissa aka Mod Squad Martha! Can you tell us about what you currently have going on, Crossroads Campus, and Bonaparte’s Retreat?

I have been with Emmylou Harris’s rescue Bonaparte’s Retreat since it started. My son does not remember life without helping Emmy with the dogs. I have been in animal rescue for 27 years. Crossroads Campus is an amazing program I have been involved with since it began as well. It is a amazing place where homeless and at-risk youth and shelter pets are both rescued and healed. I was blessed with the most incredible parents and these kids have not had people who have made a difference. It is based on social enterprise and the human animal bond is powerful. We just started Mod Squad Mutt which is a line of healthy dog treats which are made and packaged by the youth, providing jobs, training and mentoring.

Did you always want to be a artist/chef or was there a specific moment that something happened that made you think “this is what I want to do with my life.” If so, what was it?

As a kid, I always wanted to be a singer which if you heard me sing, would know how scary that is. My secret dream is to be a songwriter. I have always loved food and music. I grew up watching my aunts in Appalachia cook without recipes and I wanted to learn like that. While working on the sets of country music videos, doing craft service, I realized how much I truly loved making folks happy with food and serving it with kindness. I took a detour and owned a business before I started Mod Squad Martha and I loved the creative end, but I was in my late thirties and wanted to do what makes me happy. So, for nine months I filled up my backyard and grew herbs and vegetables and worked on my own recipes. And Mod Squad Martha was born and it has been the best move ever. To say I am fulfilled by my job is an understatement.

Who have been some of your biggest influences growing up and do the same people currently continue to influence you now?

My biggest influences were my Momma and Daddy. I was just an ordinary kid who felt extraordinary by their love and support. I have definitely traveled the groovier path and they have always believed in me. Their influence can be seen in everything I do. My Daddy is 92 and still my Rock Star in life.

You highlight a lot of artists and playlists on your website. So what is your favorite music to cook to right now? (song/artist)*

I love all kinds of music, but true country music and Americana are my favorites. There is such a sense of gratitude for me when I listen two those two genres and that goes hand in hand with my gratitude for what I get to do for a living. Born to Run/Emmylou Harris.

Do you stream Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music, or classic tapes/cds/vinyls?

I stream Spotify and Apple Music, but I am a purest and love original vinyl. I still play cds and who did not keep a few mix tapes? I love to spin vinyl with my son, Graham who is a walking encyclopedia of music!

Who are some of your favorite musicians?

I have so many that I love. Living in Nashville for 25 years, I have heard so many great artists. My all time favorites would be Emmylou Harris and Neil Young. I also love Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson, Jason Isbell, Loretta Lynn, Ryan Adams, The Stones, Van Morrison, Dylan, and REM.

Do you have music playing in the kitchen at home and is it different when working on recipes?

I always have music playing in the kitchen and anywhere I can. When I am doing actual work on recipes I am always listening to female artists. Emmy, Dolly Parton, Gillian Welch, Holly Williams, Margo Price, Lucinda Williams, Loretta Lynn, Patty Griffin. That Girl Power does something to me! If I am just cooking for us…Stones, REM, Ryan Adams, Jason Isbell.

What is your go to place for live music in Nashville?

Without a doubt, the Ryman. I get chills every time I see a show there. I love the history of country music and the respect that the artists of all genres seem to have for playing there.

What sets Nashville apart from all other cities, food-wise?

Nashville is attracting all kinds of incredible chefs from all over and I think when they land in this city, they feel the magic vibe of Nashville which is something you just can’t explain to others and it is reflective in their cooking. I love that in all pockets of Nashville there are restaurants you love for different reasons. And we have Margo McCormick who is a pioneer and treasure in this town.

What food is your food vice? You know, one you sneak in a little extra of when no one is looking.

Kettle chips. I could polish off a bag just about anytime.

What kitchen appliance do you use every day?

My coffee grinder and maker. Such a vise for me!

Finally, if you could share a meal with one person, living or dead, who would it be and what would you have?

Definitely, my Momma. She taught me a deep appreciation for trying new things to eat and good restaurants. She taught me how to be my own gig and she loved to try all of the dishes I made. We would have some sort of homemade pasta with a piece of grouper on top! Her favorite.

Website: https://modsquadmartha.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/modsquadmartha/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/modsquadmartha/
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/modsquadmartha1/

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Mary Ann Kaylor Griffiths

Reach me at publicity@kaylorgirls.com

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