Nationally-acclaimed chef and entrepreneur Sang Yoon picks the playlist for both of his Father’s Office restaurants. He says the process for hitting the right note in the kitchen and a song is very similar and tells DJ Tom Schnabel about the Canadian indie rock band that inspires his cooking, a local band that perfectly blends “distortion and elegance,” his favorite melancholy track and more.
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1.) U2, "Unforgettable Fires"
2.) Helen Stellar, "IO"
3.) Radiohead, "Bulletproof"
4.) Band of Horses, "St. Augustine"
5.) Arcade Fire, "Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)"
Tom Schnabel: Hi, this is Tom Schnabel from KCRW and I am here with Chef Sang Yoon, who is one of the hottest entrepreneurs in the culinary world. Sang is responsible for the gourmet burger craze and some say he makes the best one in all of L.A. at his Westside gastropubs "Father's Office."
We're here to talk about the music that has inspired him over the years. Sang, what songs are you going to share with us today?
Sang Yoon: A big portion of my sort of formative years were spent living in Europe and one of the things about living in foreign places…I think I looked for familiarity. And the last concert I went to in high school was, of course, U2 Joshua Tree, I actually got to go back stage. It was like one of those, you know, amazing childhood experiences. But to this day the song "Unforgettable Fire" is something that's just well, it's unforgettable, and it still remains, you know it just takes me back to that time. And the line "red wine that punctures the skin face to face in a dry and waterless place" – I just remember hearing that riding the trains in France. That was sort of my traveling companion song.
Song: "Unforgettable Fires" by U2
Tom Schnabel: I know in Latin music when you hear a song about food it could be -- in sort of the hypertext version -- a song about love or a song about sex. What is the connection between food and music for you?
Sang Yoon: When people try to get into your head about what I do for a living, typically I just equate it to music because what I really do -- it's a sensory thing. I'm trying to please the palette, I'm trying to please your sense of smell. And in music, I really think it's the same process. We're layering things and we don't want to hit sour notes and we don't want to be flat or sharp, we want to be in tune. And I think great cooking is like great music. There's a balance to it you're trying to achieve and I think I find a great connection between great culinary experiences and great music for myself. They're one and the same.
Song: "IO" by Helen Stellar
Tom Schnabel: Tell us about your next selection Sang.
Sang Yoon: Well, I play the music at Father's Office that I listen to -- that is just literally my iPod, for better or for worse. This next song or this next band really, is a group I was turned on to a few years ago. It's a band called Helen Stellar. This song is called "IO." I just really love their sound. If you listen to all their songs, I think they blend this distortion and elegance together and rarely do I find something so juxtaposed that works out really well. The line "This time around you can be anyone." I just think, to me it just means maybe, this is about trying again. And as simple as that is, this song just stuck for me, and the second I heard it, it was on the playlist at the bar.
Tom Schnabel: So you really have a personal feeling about really wanting to supply the sound track for the atmosphere in your establishments.
Sang Yoon: Absolutely. It's like I said, it's more than about feeding people, it's about entertaining them. You know as much as Father's Office is about people, there's an element of me and it's not just the cooking. I really want something personal to be there and, of course, I don't sit there and take the credit for it, but it is, I think as well as you can get to know me through my food, you can equally get to know me as well, through the music.
Song: "Bullet Proof" by Radiohead
Tom Schnabel: So Sang Yoon tell us about your next piece which is a Radiohead song.
Sang Yoon: Well Radiohead, what can I say? Those guys are perfectionists and being such a huge fan of theirs and Thom Yorke, you can only look at that for inspiration. Just the way they go about themselves. And the track called "Bullet Proof," I listen to that when I need to be melancholy. Maybe sometimes if you understand despair, you can understand being happy, so to me, it's like trying to go somewhere else and this song takes me there. So again, it is on the playlist at the bar. It's not to bring people down, it's to kind of relax people. But if you listen to the words, for me, it's about wishing very much I weren't as affected as much as I am by what people think of you. I think it's sort of this desire to be immune to the world and realizing it's not possible.
Tom Schnabel: You're listening to KCRW.com's Guest DJ Project. I'm Tom Schnabel and I'm here with Chef Sang Yoon. Tell us about the next selection and this is "Band of Horses."
Song: "St. Augustine" by Band of Horses
Sang Yoon: Yeah, I mean “Everything All the Time.” That's always in my car. It's a little country, it's a little Indie rock. I put the whole album on at the bar cause I just liked it from end to end. And then when I started listening to this track, it's called "St. Augustine,” I think it's the last track on the album…as much as I liked everything else this one was sort of a counterpoint to the rest of it and the line about, I mean this song is ballady and whatever, but I love the line "Your best is still your worst." It's sort of contemplative you know, I’m not sure what that means but that song just sticks and I find myself repeating it over and over again. I'll probably leave here today and play it on the way out.
Tom Schnabel: Let's turn to the last piece in your playlist today. A band that I know we love here at KCRW.
Song: "Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)" by Arcade Fire
Sang Yoon: Well a lot of bands that I love thankfully I've come across listening to KCRW myself; and what a great resource it is. Arcade Fire, of course, is another band that I just fell in love with immediately the moment I heard them. One of my absolute favorite tracks of theirs is the Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels). If you listen to their body of work it just sort of embodies, I think, perfectly what they're about. I don't really know what they're about, but it sounds so lush and so layered and it sounds theatrical, like something you listen to in a church or something. And I actually play this while I'm in the kitchen. This is a motivational/inspirational song to me and if I can find a way to layer what I do as well as they do, I think I’m doing a good job.
Tom Schnabel: Sang, thanks so much for joining us on KCRW.com today.
Sang Yoon: My pleasure.
[PLAYLIST GOES HERE]