We asked chefs: What kind of music do you play in the restaurant kitchen?

"We asked chefs" is a regular feature in which we ask local Tucson chefs a range of questions about chef life and food.

Last modified on November 16th, 2018 at 11:16 am

(Photo courtesy of Riley Chandler)

“We Asked Chefs” is a regular feature in which we ask local Tucson chefs a range of questions about chef life and food. Read their responses to the latest: “what kind of music do you play in the restaurant kitchen?”


Dee Buizer

Senae Thai Bistro
Dee Buizer, chef and owner of Senae Thai Bistro (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Dee Buizer, chef and owner of Senae Thai Bistro (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“One thing that is for certain, we play very different music in the kitchen than we do in the dining area. In the dining area, we play a varied array of contemporary Thai pop and flamenco jazz at a low enough volume so that people can converse.

In the kitchen, while the staff is prepping food before the lunch and dinner hours they mostly play contemporary upbeat music, which they switch over to 80s classic rock when I join them.

Music helps put everyone in good spirits and establishes a fast tempo that (hopefully) helps us get things done. Once the restaurant is open and things start to get hectic, we switch the music off in the kitchen — we want full concentration in preparing the meals for our guests.”

View our October 2017 Nine on the Line with Dee Buizer.

Adrian Castillo

Cielos at Lodge on the Desert
Executive chef Adrian Castillo at Cielos at Lodge on the Desert (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Executive chef Adrian Castillo at Cielos at Lodge on the Desert (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“We bump country. I play a whole lot of Florida Georgia Line, Randy Houser, Luke Bryan.

I work in hotel kitchen where there are other departments and all kinds of different people that walk through from time to time, so I try to limit the amount of cussing and vulgarity to not offend anyone.

But when I’m in savage mode and it’s prep time or late at night deep cleaning, we will bump a lot of YG, 2 Chainz, Gucci, and of course all of the West Coast gangsta rap from the good ol’ days — Pac, Cube, Dre, Quik, Cypress Hill. We will play everything from Depeche Mode to Rae Sremmurd, to Tejano legend Little Joe, whatever keeps the people’s mood good and gets them juices going.”

Riley Chandler

Pop-Up Tucson
Pop-Up Tucson chef Riley Chandler (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Pop-Up Tucson chef Riley Chandler (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“For my situation, it really depends. In some kitchens, we’d be working in silence to the rhythm of banging pans, rocking blades, and restaurant call-and-response language.

In other kitchens, we’d play ignorant rap or heavy metal at high volumes. When that wasn’t acceptable, we would play jazz or classical music, specifically Chopin. #choppinwithchopin”

View our June 2017 Nine on the Line with Riley Chandler.

Ivor Cryderman

Ten55 Brewing and Sausage House
Executive chef Ivor Cryderman at Ten55 Brewing and Sausage House (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Executive chef Ivor Cryderman at Ten55 Brewing and Sausage House (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“I let everyone have a day, so the music in the kitchen is all over the place. I believe it’s a great way to team build and get to know each other.

My personal favorite is ska or any happy fast-paced music that is easy to sing along with keeping the mood light and fun.”

Read more about the Ten55 Brewing and Sausage House Grand Opening.

Renee Kreager

Renee’s Organic Oven
Renee Kreager of Renee's Organic Oven (Photo credit: Steven Meckler)

Renee Kreager (Photo Credit: Steven Meckler)

“In the restaurant. we listen to the Pink Martini station on Pandora and love it. We have been developing this station for years and receive praise and inquiries daily in support of the vibe. It’s a great mix of artists. It moves us through the ages with everything possible — sensual, instrumental, funky, soulful, and swing.

In the back, it’s everything from Liam picking Chelsea Wolfe, Converge, and Russian Circles to Patsy Cline. Liam works the line — the heavy music keeps him connected to his roots in music. He played in bands and adds to the mix of moving through the rush. While [he likes to select] his more mellow tunes […] when it’s time to prep the goods.

Steve’s main gig is prep for all the restaurant cooking needs. His selection varies. His station of choice is his own collection of some heavy rap and hip hop, old and new. He seeks […] music providing the rhythm — beats he likes to work to.

Stand-up comedy is thrown in for the win to get everyone laughing […] This has become my favorite playlist for road trips, too.”

View our March 2015 Nine on the Line with Renee Kreager.

David Martin

Red Desert BBQ & Catering
David Martin, owner and pitmaster of Red Desert BBQ (Credit: Jackie Tran)

David Martin, owner and pitmaster of Red Desert BBQ (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“That really depends on the day. Chef Lindy and I listen to everything from country to heavy metal.

Some days you might find us listening to Dire Straits and Duran Duran and some you might find us listening to ACDC and Bad Wolves.

In the morning we jam the tunes loud and during service we have it so you can barely hear it. At night when I’m closing, I listen to my playlist consisting of Disturbed, Kid Rock and Volbeat.”

View our December 2017 Nine on the Line with David Martin.

Kyle Nottingham

Commoner & Co. • Prep & Pastry
Commoner & Co. and Prep & Pastry partner-chef Kyle Nottingham at Commoner & Co. (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Commoner & Co. and Prep & Pastry partner-chef Kyle Nottingham at Commoner & Co. (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“SLAYER. ALWAYS.

Okay, not always, but it’s definitely on our “Metal Mondays” playlist.

Music has always been a huge part of my life and I usually play stuff that matches my mood, especially when I am cooking.

I usually just rock to whatever my crew is playing during the day and then when I am in the office, I play anything from old-timey outlaw jug bands to funky coffee shop jazz and super heavy hardcore.

Podcasts are always great to keep your mind active and stay in that creative/inspired space throughout my day. I love Richard Blais’ “Starving for Attention”, “the David Chang Show” and “How I Built This” with Guy Raz. It keeps me pushing, listening to how others operate their restaurants and the stories of grind/hustle it took to get them where they’re at now.

I’ve also worked in many kitchens where music is not allowed. There’s a certain sound to a well-oiled kitchen where all you can hear is callbacks, plate ups, and the energy of a Friday night dinner service. I learned to like that clear, focused silence as well and that is why I usually do not play music during actual service.

I think I’ve found a good balance between the two styles of strict silent kitchens and upbeat music driven ones.”

View our March 2017 Nine on the Line with Kyle Nottingham.

Saumil Patel

Tamarind
Tamarind executive chef and owner Saumil Patel (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Tamarind executive chef and owner Saumil Patel (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“We play Frank Sinatra. I find his music very calming and keeps everyone in a good mood, which is always great.”

View our April 2018 article on Tamarind Indian Fusion Restaurant.

John “J.P.” Pratt

Tohono Chul Garden Bistro
Executive John "JP" Pratt at Tohono Chul Garden Bistro (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Executive John “JP” Pratt at Tohono Chul Garden Bistro (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“Goodbye Horses by Q Lazzarus on a 10-hour loop until they can’t take it anymore.”

Coralie Satta

Ghini’s French Caffe
Coralie Satta of Ghini's French Caffe and La Baguette Bakery (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Coralie Satta of Ghini’s French Caffe and La Baguette Bakery (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“What kind of music do I play or what my staff plays is a bit different. It depends on how much sleep I got the night before, but if I am lacking in sleep, I play some screamo.

If I’m feeling pretty rested, sometimes I will play 70s music or French music or jazz. If I’m in the mood to dance around, I play some hip-hop and R&B. The only thing you won’t hear me play is folk music and hair bands.”

Fulvia Steffenone

Caffe Milano
Chef Fulvia Steffenone "La Fufi" at Caffe Milano (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Chef Fulvia Steffenone “La Fufi” at Caffe Milano (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“The sound system of the kitchen is connected to the general one, and we only listen to classical music — chamber music and symphonic music. However, after closing, sous chefs and dishwashers are unleashed — rap and heavy metal at full volume.”

Nikki Thompson

Nook
Nook's Matt & Nikki Thompson (Credit: Adam Lehrman)

Nook’s Matt & Nikki Thompson (Credit: Adam Lehrman)

“Music is a very important part of our lives. At Nook we like a very specific vibe.

We consistently keep it on the Spotify stations Odesza, Moderate, or Petite Biscuit and Rezz during the weekend to keep us weird. We like to keep an upbeat and inspiring environment and we all believe that music has the potential to bring everyone together. Our staff is close and if we aren’t working or in Tucson, you’ll find us together at music festivals around the country.

While we all thrive on delicious and quality food, we also believe that music is life.”

View our September 2015 Nine on the Line with Nikki & Matt Thompson.

Jackie is a food writer and photographer native to Tucson. He loves corgis and still thinks rickrolling is funny. If you'd like to stalk him, visit jackietran.com.
  • Thomas Fleming

    Kid Rock…

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