Turntable Kitchen founder Matthew Hickey on the art of pairing food and music
At an apartment in Inner Sunset, San Francisco, Kasey and Matthew Hickey are busy finding new ways to connect food and music: Flying Lotus with miso-marinated beef, SBTRKT with honey and rosewater tapioca, crab pasta with James Vincent McMorrow. Their blog Turntable Kitchen has a monthly readership of 40,000, and last year they launched the Pairings Box, a monthly subscription to a parcel of themed recipes, limited-edition vinyl and a few tasty surprises.
How did Turntable Kitchen come about? Kasey already had a food blog when we first met, and her passion for food quickly became something we shared. Because music has always been an important part of my life, I’d put a lot of thought into how I wanted to soundtrack an experience. One day Kasey came home and suggested that I write about our musical pairings for her blog. We received a great initial response, and eventually decided to formalise the food and music connection. Turntable Kitchen was born. Has pairing (food and music) entered your everyday lives? Do you have favourite combinations you tend to re-visit? Actually, pairing was a part of our lives before we even started Turntable Kitchen. It’s something I’ve always thought was important. I honestly believe that the right music can enhance any experience. And I don’t think it’s an entirely subjective thing either. There are studies to show that people attribute the qualities of the music they're hearing to the taste of the food and wine they're enjoying. Could you talk us through the thought process behind a pairing? Sure. We recently paired Grizzly Bear’s album Shields with a recipe for Chicken and Cardamom Rice with Barberries (from Jerusalem: A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi). Typically Kasey selects the recipe first. Before we start the meal, I'll look at the recipe to try to tease out its characteristics in order to determine my musical pairing. I'll make a list of some of the words that come to mind. In this case, I wrote down: exotic, complex, nuanced, textured, slightly rustic and spiced. Shields shared all of those qualities and felt like a natural fit. Do you have any regular gigs soundtracking restaurant menus? To be honest we’ve only experimented with that idea so far. We’ve co-hosted a few food and music events, and soundtracked a dinner at San Francisco’s Flour + Water. These events have been very successful, but they're a lot of work! Are you ever contacted by academics interested in the psychology aspect? Nope! Right now it’s primarily me reading studies that I find by academics which seem to support what we’re doing. Tell us about the Pairings Box. The Pairings Box has definitely exceeded our expectations. It began as a way to share our combined interests – food and music – with our readers. I love vinyl records and making mixtapes; Kasey loves creating new recipes and trying new spices. So the Pairings Box includes all of these things. We work with an artist we love to create an exclusive, limited-edition vinyl record for our subscribers. Most of these are debut singles by the artists. I also include a link to an exclusive digital mixtape featuring around 20 of the best songs I've heard in the past few months. Kasey creates three new recipes for a great meal you can make in your home. We include a new spice or other dry food ingredient in the box to help with at least one of the recipes. From time to time we include other surprises, such as dark chocolate or spice blends. Has an element of A&R come into finding music? Is there now a Turntable Kitchen label of sorts? Yes and no. We don’t do A&R in any formal sense, and we're definitely not a traditional label. We don’t sign bands to deals, and so far we’ve only worked with artists on one-off projects (the singles for the Pairings Box). All of the bands we work with are artists I’ve discovered over the course of running Turntable Kitchen. When I hear music by an artist I like, I simply reach out and ask them to let us release a single. It’s very informal and there are no commitments. That said, we have considered expanding our catalogue to include records that aren’t part of the Pairings Box, including full length albums. Where do you get your handsome coloured vinyl pressed? We've been using United Record Pressing – the same plant that Jack White uses for Third Man Records. They’ve been exceptional in helping us meet our deadlines and create quality records for the Pairings Box. Do you guys supplement TK with other jobs? We both have full-time jobs in addition to Turntable Kitchen. However, my day job is loosely related, I'm an attorney representing music and publishing industry clients. More specifically, I help artists and record labels with contracts and assist blogs and print publications with intellectual property matters. Meanwhile, Kasey works for Evernote [a popular clipping and organising app]. How do you think living in San Francisco has influenced what you do? It's hard to say specifically. There is a great music culture here and I'm always interested in what’s happening in the Bay Area scene. Not only that, I consider many of the local bloggers, musicians, and record label owners to be my friends. Similarly there's an amazing food culture here, with a lot of warm and supportive personalities. What's getting the most plays on your headphones at the moment? This week I've been obsessing over Mÿ’s first couple of singles. I’ve also been listening a lot to new records by Ty Segall, Matthew Dear, Grizzly Bear, and Window Twins.
by Sam Edwards
To read the blog, and for more details of the Pairings Box subscription (international delivery) visit www.turntablekitchen.com