From reggaeton to Swedish death metal, music fuels the glory (and drudgery) of the chef's day-to-day existence. Kitchen Radio explores this special relationship by asking culinary pros to talk less about stock and more about rock. Here, we chat with Bar Blanc chef Sebastiaan Zijp.
What was your first concert?
I’ve actually never been to a big concert. I usually go to smaller venues, be it a jazz club or a place where friends are playing. I saw Jose Gonzalez play Bowery Ballroom awhile back.
You’re a passionate fan of Old Time music. Explain the genre…
Old Time music originated in the Appalachian Mountains and was established in very small communities—coal-mining towns and farms. It’s mostly played on the fiddle; the fiddle plays the melody with banjos and mandolin going in the background. Guitar and bass keeps rhythm. They are really simple dance tunes.
How were you introduced to Old Time music?
For a long time I used to go to this bar in the East Village called Mona’s, which was known for hosting traditional Irish music every night. One of the bartenders turned me onto another neighborhood bar called Sophie’s, which has an Old Time band every Sunday night. The moment I walked in there I was hooked, and for months and months I would go every Sunday. It forced me to push myself to learn the tunes.
So you ended up leaning to play?
I went out and bought a mandolin and started to teach myself to play and ended up sitting in once. It was pretty intimidating. These guys are really professional—they’re amazing banjo and fiddle players.
What’s playing on the kitchen radio at Bar Blanc?
We actually can’t play any music in the kitchen. We have some very cranky neighbors whose bedroom is right above the kitchen and one of the stipulations of us being here is that we can’t play music.
The horror! How do you get through a shift with music?
It sucks, for lack of a better term. But, we talk about music a lot. And there is a lot of whistling and singing that goes on. It helps us get through the mindless tasks like shelling peas, peeling potatoes. I also like to whistle while butchering or making sauces.
And those cranky neighbors can’t take that away from you!
One of our guys is into rock ‘n roll and is constantly singing all the classics. Journey tunes are always good. Beatles, Stones. Sometimes it gets cheesier. Embarrassingly enough, show tunes are sung. It’s good times.
What are some of the modern bands you listen to, while not in the kitchen of course.
I really like this band from Israel called Monotonix. White Demin is really raw and great.
What’s the front-of-the-house music like?
It’s a wide range, all from the owner’s iPod. Sixties French jazz to The Knife and Animal Collective. White Stripes sometimes. It’s all over the place, and all really great.
A band that you would say inspires your cooking?
I kind of want to say the Clash—they draw from so many styles to create a style of their own. Tight, clear, well-executed music. We do a wild striped bass special served on farro with a little bit of tomato and a super-flavorful saffron and tomato consomé. It’s an old-school consomé, served, not on its own, but as a broth and flavor enhancer. The saffron is global influence.
What Clash songs pop into your head?
“Straight To Hell” is up there on my list.
Photo by Melissa Hom