Thanks in part to Charlie Murphy and Dave Chappelle, Prince has become forever associated with breakfast. Specifically, pancakes. And no wonder the association has stuck: Imagining Prince and The Revolution, in their billowy blouses and lacy cravats, serving pancakes to Murphy’s entourage in a conciliatory gesture after dominating them in basketball is pure comedy gold. The fact that the story is true—and that folks within Prince’s inner circle have confirmed both the Purple Yoda’s prowess on the court and his penchant for pancakes—only helps the tale grow taller.
So it makes sense that brunch is featured as part of the Sunday VIP tours of Paisley Park, Prince’s home, production facility, and private concert venue in Chanhassen, Minnesota. Since learning all about the secrets of Prince’s fridge back in 2011, the opportunity to eat some food prepared by his personal chefs was too good to pass up.
The first thing that struck me about the tour is that it all seemed a little #toosoon. I felt a bit like a cog in a machine that’ll do whatever it can to keep printing money in the absence of our irreplaceable star. But it’s also clear that the chance to peek behind the curtain is exciting and meaningful for Prince’s most ardent fans. In our small tour group, there was a foursome who travelled from Holland, all of them wearing matching Prince-glyph necklaces and taking in their surroundings reverently. As a Minnesotan covering this story, it felt more like poking around a dead friend’s house, sad and funereal.
Yet for all the sorrow surrounding Prince’s death, the Paisley Park tour has its uplifting moments that helped keep the gloom at arm’s length. First off, you can’t help but notice just how steeped in the 1980s the place is. From the exterior office park-like feel to the outdated interior furnishings (drop ceilings, thick carpet, shiny brass fixtures and lots of pastel colors), it’s a time capsule, frozen in Prince’s breakout era, in a charming way. After sealing our phones in impenetrable lockboxes (if you’re caught with a camera at Paisley Park, you get banned for life), our tour guide led us into a sunlight-filled, two-story atrium that’s crowned with giant skylights and painted with clouds on every wall. Adjacent to it is a small kitchen and lounge, apparently one of Prince’s favorite spots to grab a midnight snack or watch some hoops on TV—this space felt personal and homey, especially compared to the grandiosity of the atrium, where two white doves—Divinity and Majesty—cried softly in an ornate white cage. Before moving on, our guide directed our attention to the small kitchen, where a Lucite box had been installed. The transparent chamber contains a Paisley Park-shaped urn that holds Prince’s ashes. After a moment of thoughtful silence, our group was led toward more celebratory sights and sounds.
From there, the tour bounced between some genuinely unvarnished and authentic experiences, and some very formal, museum-like installations that felt at odds with Prince’s vibe. Highlights included Prince’s office, where his personal luggage sits casually near a desk so curvy that it could only ever belong to Prince; his video editing suite, filled with almost-extinct Apple computer gear that Prince apparently favored compared to the newer stuff; and all four of his recording studios, where you can almost taste the ozone crackle of pure, creative musical energy that once coursed through the air.
The moments of the tour that feel out of place are the period installations that, ironically, attempt to breathe life into things like Prince’s clothes, which are displayed on ghostly, headless mannequins; or his iconic Purple Rain motorcycle, leaning on its kickstand with registration tabs that expired in 1983; and his Bentley and Plymouth Prowler, sitting sadly on the carpet within Paisley Park’s massive soundstage where, once upon a time, huge crowds exulted for hours into the night during Prince’s legendary and not-so-secret Paisley Park After Dark shows. The soaring space, built for celebrating life and music, now has a tomb-like feel to it.
Inevitably, we found ourselves spat out of the tour and into the gift shop, ready to dig into whatever personal-chef-crafted delights awaited us. While a video of Prince’s unbeatable Super Bowl performance played on a big screen in the shop, we waited as the previous tour group exited the room where the brunch happens. When they left, we entered the NPG Music Club, Prince’s private nightclub at Paisley, where he’d often entertain musicians and celebrities while holding spontaneous jam sessions long into the night.
The space is all nightclub-black and appropriately dim, with curvy purple velvet booths lining the walls and a stage set up with plush sofas and about a million candelabras. Beneath our feet, a black carpet with NPG Music Club emblazoned on it in massive letters. Above the stage, video of Prince and friends jamming in that very space played on a loop. Our group was invited to grab a seat at any of the small black cafe tables in the middle of the floor—separated from the velvet booths by a purple velvet rope—and we were greeted by a very polite young server, who offered coffee, orange juice, and green tea. On the table, real silverware rested on paper napkins and bottles of Paisley Park-branded water stood at the ready.
Returning with the coffee and OJ (nothing special in a paper cup and Tropicana in a plastic cup, respectively), our server explained what the brunch would be: soft scrambled eggs with dukka and avocado, roasted new potatoes, and s’mores French toast.
No pancakes. Hmmm.
The setting was strange for brunch. Instead of 2 p.m. on a Sunday, it felt like 4 a.m. on a Saturday morning. If you want to know what it’s like to eat an uncomplicated breakfast in a dimly lit nightclub, this is your chance.
The plates came out quickly, every single one exactly the same: a couple of thoughtfully scrambled eggs topped with sliced avocado and a sprinkling of dukka; two small, roasted new potatoes sliced thinly but not all the way through, as to leave their forms intact; and two eggy planks of French toast adorned with bruléed mini marshmallows and a drizzle of chocolate syrup. It was simple, straightforward, and tasty, yet the dishes left us puzzled. Were our expectations out of line? Might it be that this eccentric feature of a VIP tour—seemingly ginned up by a savvy person within the Paisley park organization to take advantage of Dave Chappelle’s pandemic-level viral meme—just isn’t able to live up to such hype? Maybe so. But something special seemed missing. The brunch didn’t feel very Prince-y. It felt tacked on, and while the food was fine and much appreciated, the experience might benefit from some re-thinking as a special feature of the weekend tours.
What if the chefs, for instance, did their best to create a meal based on Prince’s song “Starfish & Coffee”? To wit:
Starfish and coffee
Maple syrup and jam
Butterscotch clouds, a tangerine
And a side order of ham
If you set your mind free, baby
Maybe you'd understand
Starfish and coffee
Maple syrup and jam
Now that brunch would feel more like Prince: whimsical, funky, somehow sexy, and straight up fun. And serve it in Prince’s beloved little kitchen that we saw at the start of the tour, an intimate spot tucked away within the sprawl of Paisley Park. More than any other space that we toured at Paisley, Prince’s kitchen felt like the heart and soul of his home.