How a Top Chef All-Star Pairs Music with Food

Chef Dale Talde on what music to play when serving cocktails and hors d’oeuvres.


July 26, 2017

Music and food pair together seamlessly, to the point where sometimes a dish can go from good to great just from the vibe of the restaurant, much of which comes from the music itself. One chef that really believes in music’s ability to influence a meal is chef Dale TaldeTop Chef All-Star and chef/owner of Talde in Brooklyn and Jersey City.

A devoted music fan, Talde recently partnered with LG for their LG Sound Bites event in New York City, where he paired a menu of cocktails and hors d’oeuvres with a playlist of some of his favorite songs. Here he explains how the dishes and playlist came together and how both embrace his love of summerChicago and Kanye West.

“When you think about a playlist, you have to make an impression in the beginning. It’s almost like a roller coaster, you have to bring people up and then bring them down. Much like with the dishes, you have to start with a bang. When you’re doing a cocktail hour, every dish has to make an impact.”

Dark & Stormy – “Til I’m Laid To Rest” by Buju Banton

Talde wanted to set the tone early so he started his guests off with a classic Dark & Stormy to channel the summertime vibe. “The day of the event it was super hot, so I wanted to transport people to the islands a little bit,” he says. “Reggae, and specifically dancehall music, is what I think of when I think of summertime. It’s what I want to listen to in my car, at the beach or even at the restaurant.”

Jerk Shrimp Cocktail – “Murder She Wrote” by Chaka Demus & Pliers

“For this one, we wanted to do a more refreshing take on those classic island barbecue and jerk flavors so we did a shrimp cocktail in that same style,” says Talde. “We diced up the watermelon really fine, hit it with some lime juice and some salt and had this really spicy, herbaceous jerk aioli. Then we poached the shrimp in a jerk-seasoned bouillon. Paired with ”Murder She Wrote,” it’s about as close to being at the beach as you can get without leaving the city.”

Deviled Eggs Smothered in Collard Greens and Ham Hocks – “Good Life” by Kanye West

Talde points out that Chicago’s roots, both food and music-wise, are southern, which he displays by combining this dish with a bit of hip-hop. ”Some people see Kanye as the devil, but I love him,” he says. “To me this dish is the perfect bite. Smokey, acidic and creamy, it all goes together super well.”

“There’s nothing more Chicago than the Italian beef sandwich,” says Talde. “We interpreted the dip as more of an aspic or gelee, seasoned the beef with that and then crushed it with the giardiniera. Staying true to Chicago, the Italian beef pairs perfect with Chicago house music, which is really the music style most closely tied to Chicago besides maybe the blues.”

Chocolate Sundaes – “End of the Road” by Boyz II Men

Talde ended the experience with ice cream from New York’s OddFellows, a purveyor that Talde was only too happy to introduce the event’s attendees to. “I think OddFellows is doing some of the most inventive and technically sound ice cream in the city, if not the country,” he says. “What better way to send somebody off with a little RNB and some of the best ice cream in New York City?”

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