Rhythm of the knife: Do you play music in your kitchen?

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 8th August 2014
By James Euinton The kitchen is a working environment that often involves high levels of concentration and stress, and requires physical and mental endurance in order to get through the long shifts. Morale is important in this environment, as well as the mental well-being of the Chefs within it. For some kitchens, an old, battered radio buzzing away helps keep spirits up and the work flow fast and energetic, or calm and collected depending on the task at hand.   So what do the world’s best think about the use of music and the radio in the kitchen, a vital Rosio Sanchez, Photo by Hannah Grantstimulant or a hindrance to performance? And where better to start than the kitchen of this year's “50 best” winners Noma in Copenhagen. Head pastry chef Rosio Sanchez wouldn’t dream of a service without the right tunes, “If there isn't any music playing, It's usually due to a failed internet connection.” She told us, “It can easily go from Nina Simone to Led Zeppelin or from Nicholas Jaar to Buena Vista Social Club. It's all over the place.” Seasoned traveller and ambassador Dom Chapman has the same idea, “I enjoy playing music in the kitchen; I think it creates a bit of atmosphere, sometimes when the team are busy, the kitchen can be a bit too serious. Music lightens the mood and can be really good for morale.” However, not all chefs hold the same view, many feel that the radio can lead to a lack of concentration, or arguments, something you really don't need in such a high-pressure environment, Hayden Groves“I have been pro and against in my time of managing kitchens,” Hayden Groves told us, “A few years ago It was fine during mise en place; back then I found that it wasn't an issue whilst I was in the kitchen with the guys, but when my job started taking me out for extended periods; I found it started to distract, caused bickering over what radio station, what cd or even the volume level. I think that particular appliance went in the bin one day! And I haven't played music since in a kitchen, I would say for over seven years since. Now I like the sound of chefs working, a small level of banter and the tone of pushing on.” Adam Smith of the Devonshire Arms also holds a similar view “I think people can become a bit too relaxed if that sort of thing is going on. I think coming from the old school culture of The Ritz, it’s sort of embedded in me for better or worse. I think it’s very important the way chefs dress Adam Smiththemselves and the whole atmosphere you work in and the way that you work as to how you’re perceived by people – like being clean and tidy and no music in the kitchen.” However, Adam assured us that post shift, the music is on full whack on the car journey home. Emily Watkins of the Kingham Plough also believes that music can be detrimental to concentration. “I prefer not to just because there is nothing more annoying than an audible noise humming away in the background and from where I usually am on sauce section you can't really hear it over the noise of the machines and vent system.” New Kitchen layouts and the prominence of open kitchens and chefs tables have meant that many chefs must now work in more quiet conditions. Restaurant Sat Bains, situated modestly on a Nottingham industrial estate, has a table situated right in the heart of the kitchen, placing the diners in extremely close proximity to the chefs. The kitchen is quiet but that certainly does not mean that there is a lack of atmosphere in the kitchen environment. Sat Bains“If we were to hear music in the kitchen now it would be weird,” says head chef, John Freeman. “About seven years ago we put a radio in the kitchen. It was strange; no one liked it; everyone just found it a bit distracting so we ended up just putting it away and not using it. It’s something we’ve never done. Back in the day we never did, maybe because the restaurant was so close to the kitchen or because it stopped concentration”. Anna Hansen of The Modern Pantry, holds a similar view, but is lenient towards the prep area. “We have an open kitchen for the most part so cannot really play music but out the back in the prep area we do. The Chefs all bring in their ipods/phones and the general rule is whoever is on prep chooses the music. As you can imagine with chefs from all over the world the music is pretty eclectic!” The use of music in kitchens does not dictate whether the working environment is good or bad, but it does provide an interesting insight into the diverse nature of it. Every kitchen and workplace is different, which is one of the attractions to the profession. Let us know what music you play in your kitchen, if any at all in the comments, or on Twitter.

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 8th August 2014

Rhythm of the knife: Do you play music in your kitchen?