We built the perfect soundtrack to cook to.

By Oset Babür
Updated January 28, 2020
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Caitlin Bensel

Whether you’re pulling together a quick weeknight dinner or have a full snowy Sunday stew going, the right soundtrack can make for a peaceful, creative mood in the kitchen. To create the ultimate set-up, we tried ten different speakers in the Food & Wine test kitchen, and ultimately fell in love with the small but mighty Harmon Kardon Go + Play. It’s powerful enough to fill even the largest spaces with crisp, clear sound, has a handle built in for easy transport, and is fairly resilient even when faced with splashes and splatters. We also asked some of our favorite chefs for the scoop on the artists, albums, and songs they like to listen to as they cook. Get in the zone at home with our Spotify playlist of their picks.

Nick Elmi (Laurel, ITV, Royal Boucherie, Philadelphia):

“Depends on the day. Usually something chill like Wooden Shjips, Black Angels, Nothing (a Philly-based band), Radiohead, This Will Destroy You works for us. For a little more upbeat we do Jeff the Brotherhood, Ty Segall, Midnight Ghost Train, Black Rainbows, Quaker City Night Hawks. If we really need to be picked up it’s Action Bronson, Shawn Smith, Dave East, RTJ.”

Daniela Soto-Innes (Cosme, New York City)

“We love to listen to music that gets us going. We like J. Cole, same with Travis Scott. Purple Disco Machine is also great because it has a beat and that sort of energy helps us throughout service. When I’m at home, I listen to Bon Iver. I also like a lot of 70’s rock and listen to Pink Floyd. I also listen to a lot of Tash Sultana and have been to a million of her concerts.”

Caroline Glover (Annette, Aurora, CO)

“At the restaurant I listen to whatever is playing in the dining room since our kitchen is open and we usually listen to Nigerian rock from the 70's. But at home when I’m cooking I'm usually listening to Sturgil Simpson, Kurt Vile, Lake Street Drive, Lukas Nelson and The Bahamas.”

Julia Sullivan (Henrietta Red, Nashville)

“We take turns choosing the tunes but I like something energizing like LCD Soundsystem or calming like Youth Lagoon. At home, I listen to a lot of female vocalists—Brittany Howard, Kacey Musgraves, Lizzo, and Lake Street Dive are all in my rotation recently.”

Jason Vincent (Chef’s Special Cocktail Club, Giant, Chicago)

“We play a mix of albums and playlists, hoping that everyone will hear a song they like at some point in their experience. We craft new, unique vibes nightly, always aiming to match the spirit of the room.  Some songs that have become staples over the years include Frank Ocean’s "Nights," "Anemone" by The Brian Johnstown Massacre, and "This Must Be the Place" by the Talking Heads.

Nina Compton (Compére Lapin, Bywater American Bistro, New Orleans)

"I play music when making pasta, and that includes Kendrick Lamar, U2, Miles Davis, Gregory Isaacs, Coldplay, De La Soul, and Nas. Lately, though, I've been hooked on podcasts."