When I started working in restaurants in high school, I never heard the phrase "rock star chef." I wanted to be a rock star, or at least party like one. But the more I got into cooking, the more I realized that juggling sauté pans and order-fire calls from the expediter was like performing — just in a different way.
But while I switched focus from guitar riffs to knife skills years ago, I never lost my love for music. During our first photo shoot for my cookbook The Preservation Kitchen, a Zeppelin song came on the stereo. When I caught the photographer, Jeff Kauck, getting into it, I knew right then that we'd work well together. Cooking and music just go together. While I don't play music in my kitchens during service, a stereo is always on earlier in the day when we prep. It helps get my adrenalin going, whether I'm chopping a few carrots or canning 100 pounds of tomatoes.
The set list changes on the day (and who has control of the stereo), but my favorite songs for canning come from classic masters of the craft: Zeppelin, sure, but also The Grateful Dead, Bob Marley, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.
Anyway, here's how it goes:
You've got to start with something chill while you get your mental game plan sorted out. For that, I go for Bob Marley's "Natural Mystic". This tune has the perfect intro, a crazy beat that gradually gains momentum and bass as it moves forward. Totally groovy.
Now something to jumpstart the task: "Dazed and Confused" by Led Zeppelin. This song rocks on so many levels that you can't help but get motivated to cook.
So, you're working, your groove is on, and now you need something to maintain the pace. Segue into "Can't You Hear Me Knocking" by the Stones. This is a longer tune with an incredible jam that just keeps going. And going. It keeps me focused on the job.
If you're canning, by now your jars are ready for the water bath and you need a more reflective tune. My pick is "Box of Rain" by the Dead. Apparently this song was dedicated to the dying father of someone in the band (I think it was Phil Lesh). For me it's a song about life and facing challenges, "a box of rain will ease the pain and love will see you through." A jar of jam can ease the pain, too. You decide.
To finish, I like ending on The Beatles "Taxman." The song is just pure musical genius with incredible percussions and bass. It's a great clean-up and organizing tune — and a reward for all your hard work.