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Anthony Bourdain's 25 favourite songs to cook to


The weekend approaches once more and chances are, if you were ever going to bother, today is the day that you’ll have a go at whipping up your favourite meal. In our opinion, there is, quite frankly, only one accompaniment for a great cooking session: a perfect playlist. Equally, there’s only one man to help provide you with such a collection of songs; Anthony Bourdain.

So, with that in mind, we thought it best to revisit the man’s two greatest passions: food and music. The chef has always been a part of the bustling alternative scenes of each field and is a legend that is still very sorely missed to this day.

Bourdain is a figure who became synonymous with non-conformity and a determination to forge his own path, regardless of the hurdles in front of him. Whether through his progressive food, his dedication to the dive bar and all its inhabitants, or his adoration of all things punk, Anthony Bourdain was a bastion of anti-establishment splendour and he was determined to integrate his two passions. This playlist of the greatest songs to cook to is about as close as you can get.

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The chef was a well-known champion of New York’s punk movement and, somewhat coincidentally, Bourdain was also at the forefront of the food scene as it began to bubble away in the cauldron of NYC’s backstreets. It was a marriage made in heaven for the young Bourdain who saw both chefs and musicians as creative equals, both working in similar undulating patterns, both touching the darkest reaches of the city every night and both, it would seem, with an unstoppable thirst for chaos.

This love affair with punk had always been at the forefront of Bourdain’s entertainment work. Whether it was inviting guests like Iggy Pop on to his shows to share his knowledge or plugging his seminal programme Parts Unknown full of raging rock anthems, Bourdain kept the beat and the rhythm going throughout his storied life. In truth, music was always a part of Bourdain’s life, “My dad worked at Columbia Records for a lot of the really great years of music,” he told the Archive of American Television. “It meant I got all the Columbia and Epic records every month. I’d trade Jim Nabors records – sample copies of the records I didn’t like – for stuff on other labels.”

“Any kind of music I was into was good music as far as they were concerned,” he said speaking of his parents’ musical roots. He also realised that having a good sense of music was important: “Music was who you were,” he said. “If you showed up at school with a Cream or a Yardbirds album under your arm, it said something.”

Punk landed on Bourdain’s shoulders in a big way. He was at the epicentre of the movement: “The music and the musicians who started playing and hanging out with each other at CBGB were an appropriate reaction to the general feelings of hopelessness, absurdity, futility, and disgust of living in New York at the time,” he wrote for SPIN.

It has meant on the various playlists that Bourdain has created in his life punk rock has always been front and centre. But on this one, things are a little bit different. That’s because, despite their Venn diagram patterns of behaviour, the kitchen was not Bourdain’s place to lose control. Check out Bourdain’s 25 favourite songs to cook to, which makes for a perfect playlist and perhaps the only real condiment for a perfect meal.

Included in the list are some of the chef’s favourite artists such as Elvis Costello and Roxy Music but lacking are the known punk heroes of the chef like the Ramones or Dead Boys — even The Heartbreakers misses out. But there are some songs that have always resonated with the chef, picking Curtis Mayfield’s ‘Pusher Man’ he once told Rolling Stone of the unstoppable song: “Ahhh…cocaine. I wanted it. And even though the Superfly soundtrack (unlike the film) is decidedly anti-drug and cautionary, it sure made coke sound desirable to me.”

There is also a spot on the list for Brian Jonestown Massacre’s ‘Anemone’, which Bourdain said was “drenched in opiates and regret, I heard this song once and became besotted by it. It sounds like lost love, past lives, unforgiven mistakes and transgressions,” fitting acclaim for the song’s creator and Bourdain’s friend, Anton Newcombe

The artists included in this list of perfect songs to cook to, created for his PBS show The Mind of a Chef offers a vision of Bourdain in his kitchen. Tenderising chicken to Johnny Thunders, sashaying his hips to the latest soul or some Bill Withers, or swinging around the counter to A Tribe Called Quest there’s even a spot for experimental genius Ryuichi Sakamoto, for a piece of contemplative listening.

If you have a meal planned this evening, one that takes a little extra time in the kitchen than usual then we can’t recommend this playlist highly enough. Below, find the complete list and the bumping playlist.

Anthony Bourdain’s 25 favourite songs to cook to:

  • ‘Across 110th Street’ – Bobby Womack
  • ‘Pusher Man’ – Curtis Mayfield
  • ‘Wedding Dress – Mark Lanegan
  • ‘Use Me’ – Bill Withers
  • ‘Tangled up in Blue’ – Bob Dylan
  • ‘Both Ends Burning’ – Roxy Music
  • ‘Too Many Creeps’ – Bush Tetras
  • ‘You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory’ – Johnny Thunders
  • ‘Time Has Come Today’ – The Chambers Brothers
  • ‘Hollywood Perfum’ – Pretenders
  • ‘Sweet Jane’ – The Velvet Underground
  • ‘What?’ – A Tribe Called Quest
  • ‘If I Had No Loot’ – Tony! Toni! Tone!
  • ‘Anemone’ – The Brian Jonestown Massacre
  • ‘Cold Shot’ – Stevie Ray Vaughan
  • ‘Family Affair’ – Sly & The Family Stone
  • ‘Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence’ – Ryuichi Sakamoto
  • ‘Plundered My Soul’ – The Rolling Stones
  • ‘Street Life’ – Randy Crawford
  • ‘Pets’ – Porno for Pyros
  • ‘Et moi, et moi, et moi’ – Jacques Dutronc
  • ‘Main Titles’ – Mask
  • ‘You Only Live Twice’ – John Barry
  • ‘Riot Act’ – Elvis Costello & The Attractions
  • ‘That’s The Way of the World’ – Earth, Wind & Fire