Kasey and Matthew Hickey believe that an inspiring song and a strong cup of coffee should always be savored simultaneously. The right playlist, they promise, can bring out the best in a plate of pancakes. For every recipe, there is a vinyl record to enjoy.
This creative duo’s beyond clever blog, Turntable Kitchen, chronicles their passionate pairings of food and music. It’s a project that even garnered attention from The New York Times a few years back! We sat down with Kasey and Matthew to talk taste and tunes (we want a record collection as impressive as theirs!). You can get all the details—including a mini-tour of their living room—below.
First, give us a bit of background on Turntable Kitchen! Where did the idea for the blog come from, and how did it come to fruition?
Kasey Hickey: Before Matt and I met, I had started a food blog as a way to get back into creative writing, and to chronicle my life in San Francisco (I had recently moved to the city after graduating from college). I was amazed by the food—the farmers’ markets, the restaurants … I got totally sucked into it all. Soon after, I met Matt on the train to work. I quickly found out that his big passion was music (though he was also a great cook!). We started spending a lot of evenings together, cooking and listening to music. One day, I had this idea of pairing his music selections to the recipes that I was going to post on my food blog. He was down—and the rest, as they say, is history. At the time we seemed to be the first and only people “pairing” food and music, but others soon started catching on (The New York Times even wrote a story about it!).
Why food with music? In your minds, what’s the connection?
Matthew Hickey: We believe that the key to a good meal is making it a good experience. Music has played a part in nearly all of our favorite meals. That means listening to good music when you’re working in the kitchen and while you’re enjoying your meal.
What are your top tips for curating the perfect vinyl-record collection? Where do you buy your music? What kind of equipment is necessary?
MH: I think the perfect record collection offers a lot of variety. I like collections with a nice mix of vintage and contemporary music, as well as a mix of music from different genres. For example, if you’re the type of person who likes to host and entertain, then it’s nice to have a few contemporary classics alongside a few old-soul records.
I buy my music from many different places. I buy most of it online—often directly from record labels—but I also love thumbing through a stack of LPs at an actual record store. In addition to local record stores, I’ve spent hours sorting through records at stores in places like Bogotá, Moscow, Buenos Aires and Tokyo.
Necessary equipment? That depends on how fancy you want to get. There are plenty of stand-alone record players with built-in speakers on the market. We personally use a tricked-out Pro-Ject Debut III turntable, a Cambridge Audio integrated preamplifier, a Cambridge Audio phono box and a set of PSB Imagine T6 standing speakers.
What are a few of your family’s favorite food-and-music pairings?
KH: Our family is really big on weekend breakfast, which is always accompanied by music and coffee. So, right now one of our favorite pairings is pancakes/waffles and Leon Bridges. Another popular pairing is Mexican food—tacos, guacamole, the works—and Tame Impala.
How has music brought you together as a family? How do you incorporate music into your daily life?
MH: Listening to music is definitely an everyday family activity. We play music pretty much all day long. Our 2-year-old daughter, Neko, even has favorite records that she requests. We’ll ask her what she likes and we frequently let her pick (although we hold veto power!).
Could you give us some details on the extensions of your brand?
KH: We launched the Pairings Box in October 2011, which feels like a decade ago. We’d been doing the food/music pairing for several years, and we were itching for the chance to step outside the Internet and really connect with our loyal followers in a physical way. We imagined a product that would bring friends and families together—something that would help people discover new music and the joys of listening to vinyl, as well as inspire them to try new ingredients and focus on gathering and entertaining. It’s been going strong ever since. After the success of the Pairings Box, we expanded to include some other products, and we created a shop. One of our other popular new products is our Coffee & Vinyl Pairings subscription, which combines two of our other favorite things.
What are 10 records that everyone should own?
MH: That’s a hard question. I recognize and deeply respect the fact that music is incredibly subjective. If I could only have 10 records in my own collection, I’d probably pick Radiohead’s “In Rainbows,” Beach House’s “Bloom,” Angel Olsen’s “Burn Your Fire for No Witness,” “The Very Best of Otis Redding,” Jay-Z’s “The Black Album,” Widowspeak’s “Widowspeak,” Al Green’s “Greatest Hits,” Spoon’s “Gimme Fiction,” Jorge Ben and Gilberto Gil’s “Gil e Jorge” and Ryan Adams’ “Heartbreaker.”
What are your latest favorite songs? What’s your daughter’s favorite album?
MH: The tracks I listen to on repeat change nearly every week. At the moment, I’ve been listening a lot to the latest singles from Beach House, Widowspeak, Kiiara, GEMS and Pure Bathing Culture. I’ve also been really into the latest EP from Gallant.
Right now our daughter’s really into Jamie xx, Angel Olsen, The New Pornographers (and just about anything with Neko Case, which feels like a very random coincidence) and Tei Shi. She’ll alternate between twirling around the room and resting her head on my lap to just listen.
How did you incorporate your vinyl collection and record player into your living room?
MH: We had a record cabinet custom-built to hold my collection, and my turntable just sits on top of it. We wanted it to be an inviting space where people would feel comfortable browsing through my collection. After all, the records are meant to be touched! It wasn’t too hard to make the space inviting—my record collection is a lot like a bookshelf; like books, all the records are colorful and engaging.
How has living in San Francisco influenced your business? How has it enhanced your family life?
KH: San Francisco has no doubt been a force in our lives. It’s where we met. It’s where we’ve both really honed in on our passions. And it’s where we met a lot of people who have helped us shape Turntable Kitchen. Not to mention, it has inspired endless content and recipes. It was also a great city to create our business in because it’s so rich with good food and good music.
Raising a family in San Francisco is not without its challenges—we often complain about having such a tiny space for a kitchen, or the fact that we don’t have a washer, dryer, parking spot or yard. But it’s also an incredible place to raise a family. We live right near Golden Gate Park and are only a short drive from the ocean. We spend a lot of time outdoors, and our daughter is definitely a “city girl.” She’s got discerning taste when it comes to restaurant dishes and farmers’ market produce. It’s pretty great. We’ve written about how wonderful it is to live in San Francisco—and our neighborhood in particular—here and here.
What’s next for Turntable Kitchen?
KH: Well, we’re expecting twins (a boy and a girl!) this October, so this is definitely going to be a big year for our family. We’re feverishly working on getting ahead on everything so that I can take some sort of a maternity leave from cooking and blogging, but we’re also in a great place creatively. We’re brainstorming some fun new ideas for holiday products in our shop, looking forward to expanding our Coffee & Vinyl Pairings subscription and hoping to maybe do some live events. It’s going to be a crazy year!
Photography by Rachelle Derouin