Critic-Turned-Cook Loves The Sounds Of The Kitchen
One of the things I love best about being in restaurant kitchens is the music that gets cranked in the back, the beat that motivatives like a double espresso. It's easy to go faster when you're chopping in time.
Each of the kitchens in which I've worked has its own soundtrack. At Lola, it was hardcore. In the Tom Douglas pastry kitchen, it was a wild iPod shuffle mix worthy of inspiring dance moves. It cracked me up when "Beat It" came on as I was standing over a giant Hobart mixer. A crackly AM radio was often tuned to Seattle Mariners games at Dahlia Lounge's kitchen. Listening to the dulcet sounds of Hall of Fame announcer Dave Niehaus made the numbing task of shelling fava beans a little more bearable.
My favorite musical moment happened at Shultzy's on a quiet Sunday. While I was helping prep, Jordan and Ben were making sausage and Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing" came on the radio. Such ripe possibilities for obvious puns. Wink, wink. But the guys didn't go there. Instead, Jordan sang along and he had a pretty good voice, too.
I've loved listening to loads of cooks singing or whistling or banging on pots like they were bongos. These impromptu bursts of talent confirms my hunch that kitchen crews are creative on so many levels.
It also reminded me of one of my pet peeves as a critic: the music played in the dining room too often felt like an afterthought. It was too soft or too loud or it didn't match the atmosphere. Like the Frank Sinatra constantly looping on the sound system at one of my go-to Thai restaurants.
As a diner, I want to know some thought has gone into what's playing, don't you? Wouldn't it be kinda cool if you could make requests? Like back in the day when a jukebox meant instant ambiance. Come on restaurateurs, gimme a beat!