The Doobie Brothers make shucking fava beans tolerable. Blaring Taylor Swift’s “Cruel Summer” while scrubbing a deep fryer will lead to increased cleanliness. Drake’s “Nothing Was The Same” leads to better-looking cavatelli. These are the restaurant truths that will remain with me, forever.
While you don’t need a collection of black clogs to verify that music makes all aspects of food more enjoyable, restaurant kitchens tend to be dialed in on the interplay of music and food. With that in mind—and in hopes of creating the ultimate kitchen playlist—we asked a few of our favorite New York City chefs what they’re listening to before and after service.
Here are their go-to albums and artists.
Ed Szymanski, Lord’s
“At the start of the day, I put on a lot of Bee Gee’s, a lot of Donna Summer. I like disco and high energy in the kitchen whilst we’re prepping to motivate everyone and get us flowing together. It sets a positive tone for the day ahead.”
“At the end of the day, it’s ‘Private Dancer’ by Tina Turner. A few years ago when we started out, and I was the only person in the kitchen at the end of the night, that was the song I would mop to—it has stuck with me ever since.”
Eric Choi, C as in Charlie
“I’d go for ‘Arrebatao’ by El Alfa, but I’m open to any song that can bring an energetic vibe to the kitchen and get the adrenaline pumping. Our kitchen crew is very diverse and this particular track suits everyone and keeps spirits high during prep and service.”
“I’d opt for ‘Love On The Brain’ by Rihanna. When I’m at home, I prefer playing songs with lyrics I know or those that have a good groove to get a little funky and unwind. Doing the dishes can often serve as a remedy after a hectic workday, allowing me to unwind and take it easy.”
Luis Herrera, Ensenada
“It’s usually a very collaborative playlist between all the cooks and it varies immensely throughout the day. I usually like to start with something easy and catchy. One album that I play a lot when I start prepping is Drake’s ‘Honestly Nevermind’ because you don’t have to pay much attention to it, so it’s easy to be focused. Then it can change from reggaeton to corridos tumbados, cumbias, trap, afrobeat, ‘90’s hiphop, and even a little ‘80s rock.”
“A little Young Thug or Lil Wayne. [They’re] great as finishers.”
“When I’m doing prep in the restaurant, I go for big ballads. I feel the energy of the song. Deep, emotional songs allow me to focus so I can zip through even the most daunting or mundane prep tasks. Anything from the album ‘Falling Into You’ by Celine Dion, or especially ‘Cry Me a River’ and ‘Sway’ by Michael Bublé, works every time.”
“When it comes time for service, I need dance music with upbeat energy. My go-to’s are DJ playlists from Joel Corry, Jonas Blue, Tiesto, and David Guetta. Their beats get my blood flowing and make me feel invincible. It’s the soundtrack to the superhero feat of simultaneously slaying a non-stop printer through a four-hour shift with a smile while chatting with the guests at the counter in front of me, dealing with an equipment issue, fielding emails, and planning upcoming menu changes. Running on repeat right now are ‘Words’ by Alesso and ‘Head and Heart’ by Joel Corry.”
Jackie Carnesi, Nura
“When I’m staring down the barrel of a heavy prep day, my go-to is almost always disco. For many reasons, I find it to be the ideal genre to get fast-paced work accomplished.
First, upbeat, fast tempos keep you moving.
Second, it’s, overall, a pretty non-offensive or generally palatable genre (country or punk rock can get people pretty testy).
Third, can anyone be upset when they’re listening to ABBA? Not I.
I have a solid playlist of disco icons like the Mary Jane Girls, Evelyn King, Thelma Houston, and a number of disco house tunes.”
“A lot of people know I love Selena Quintanilla, but I usually listen to her in the privacy of my own home versus work—maybe because I get too emotive. Hard to say. But throwing on the greatest hits really runs the gambit of fun, easy-listening pop tunes to super emotional and angry heartbreak songs, to dreamy love ballads. The pop tunes are for washing dishes, the heartbreak songs are for scrubbing the bathroom, and the love ballads are for those organization projects where you suddenly find all your belongings scattered everywhere with no more motivation to put them away.”
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Which albums do you listen to while cooking at home? Let us know in the comments below!