The Lowdown: music and food pairing

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

the Lowdown music and food pairing

Related tags: Fine dining, Music, Food

A dinner last week hosted by Beats By Dre and overseen by Tom Sellers looked at how pairing music with a menu could be the future of multi-sensory dining.

Sorry to sound like a traditionalist, but aren’t you normally supposed to pair wine with your food?
Get with the times. Why would you want to agonise over making the perfect wine choice, when you can just play some Bill Withers while you eat?

What’s the deal then?
Well, at a special dinner last week, Michelin-starred chef Tom Sellers served up a six-course menu that was accompanied by a specially curated playlist of tracks ranging from rap music to contemporary rock. Sellers enlisted his friend Professor Green to help create the soundtrack, with the emphasis being on trying to bridge the gap between what the diners heard and what went in their mouths.

So did the music help the food sing?
Sellers certainly seems to think so. The soundtrack played at his Restaurant Story in London used to be comprised of tunes chosen by chefs from around the world, and when he relaunched the restaurant last year the music was overseen by platinum-selling collective Rudimental. Sellers insists these sorts of multi-sensory experiences are what diners crave. He told GQ​: "Young people especially want to be stimulated in more than one way. If you throw it back, dinner and cabaret or live music was a thing and we kind of lost that for a while. There aren't many venues where you can go and see that done well."

What sort of music did he play?
Langoustines were served with a side of Oasis; his venison and cauliflower main was seasoned with the blaring tones of Eurythmics; and the lemon sherbet dessert was accompanied by Run DMC. Plus, of course, given that Beats hosted the event, there was plenty of Dr Dre for the diners to indulge in.

Ah yes, I forgot about Dre. Is there any real evidence that listening to specific music can enhance the food?
I thought you’d ask something like that. The short answer is no. In the context of Sellers’ meal, a lot of the choices held an emotional resonance to him personally. Oasis was selected because Sellers remembers songs such as Morning Glory getting him through lengthy seafood prep when he worked at Noma in Copenhagen, but one can’t imagine the music would have the same impact on other diners. He’s not the first person to experiment with mixing sound and sustenance, though. Lest we forget Heston Blumenthal’s ‘sound of the sea' dish, still available at The Fat Duck, which sees seafood served with headphones that play ambient seaside noises while you eat. What’s more, there appears to be a growing trend of food producers using music to try and improve the flavour of their produce.

Sorry, what?
I’m serious. A couple of years back a Swiss cheesemaker embarked on an experiment to test the impact of music on Emmental by blasting out the likes of Led Zeppelin to a room of the distinctively porous fromage, to see if it influenced the development, characteristics and flavour.

You’ve gouda be kidding me
Very good, but it’s true. More eye-opening is the Stoke Newington-based salmon smoker who was charging more than £100 for a fillet of fish because he played live music to it while it was airing.

Sounds fishy to me
Indeed.  

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