A Little Chef Music


In every professional kitchen I’ve worked in, one of the most important pieces of equipment has been the one pumping out the music. In my tiny basement pastry kitchen of Mecklenburg Gardens in the 1970s it was a radio tuned to WEBN. A whole lotta love for you Blind Faith, Led Zeppelin, Eric Burdon (and your Animals), JohnPaulGeorge&Ringo, Ms. Joplin, Jimi, The Who, and The Boss. I depended upon you to keep me cranking on gallons and gallons of mousse (both chocolate and raspberry), a mountain of carrot cake, hundreds of Russian cheesecakes, and a thousand-and-one coffee toffee pies.

In the early 90’s, my pastry kitchen in The Cincinnatian Hotel was considerably larger, but still subterranean. Since no one knew what the hell we were doing down there, we kept the funk and soul on high through our flour-encrusted boom box with dual cassette recorder.  Responsible for all desserts, pastries, and bread throughout the hotel – The Palace Restaurant, The Cricket Lounge, room service, private dining, and high tea – ours was a busy kitchen with a lot of production and long hours. Sustaining our energy was key. James Brown kept us on the good foot, Tower Of Power provided a soul vacation, and Aretha Franklin rocked us steady (we also sought a rush of blood to the head with ocassional breaks to get inverted, but that’s another story). To chill, we called on The Rat Pack or Miles Davis, and John, my partner-in-crime who could consistently bang out stacks of beautiful, tender genoise, lovedlovedloved him some Sade.

Years later in the female-driven kitchen at Arboreta Restaurant in Over-the-Rhine, Anita, Dorothy, Greta, and I prepped with indie artists, singer songwriters, and jazz vocalists while the line cooks and dish dogs usually bumped on grunge or hip-hop. However, once service was in full swing and the line was cooking, the only music allowed was the sizzle of fat as it hit the grill, the clang of saute pans, the clatter of plates, and the calls between the service staff and the line.

Music got us in the zone. It could affect the ways in which we cooked and was as much a part of our creativity as our palates and our drive. It still is. Nowadays it’s my home kitchen, the dock has replaced the food-encrusted boom box, and the iCloud makes it possible to shuffle through thousands of songs. But it’s nearly impossible for me to stir a roux or risotto, roll out pie crusts, or anything that requires more than 15 minutes of my attention without it. Love is the food of music. Or the music of food. Yea, something like that.

Chef Todd Hudson provided us with a playlist that his kitchen at The Wildflower Cafe in Mason regularly grinds to. What music gets you cooking?

Afroman – Palmdale
Damian Marley
– Welcome to Jamrock
– That’s All
Anthony Hamilton
– Glad You Called
Big Boi
– Shutterbugg
The Band
– Up On Cripple Creek
George Harrison
– Awaiting on you all
Band of Gypsies
– Dem Changes
Bob Marley
– War
James Brown
– Its a Man’s World
Alabama Shakes
– Hold On
– International Players Anthem
Ray LaMontagne
– Repo Man
Big Tymers
– Still Fly
Nate Dogg / Warren G
– Regulators remix with Michael McDonald
Dean Martin
– Volare



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