Yoshihiro Imai Gives Us a Front Row Seat to His Kitchen on Episode 4 of Snacky Tunes’ “Serving Sound”

The latest episode of the audio series documenting field recordings from the culinary world spotlights the jazz-inspired kitchen of Imai’s Kyoto restaurant, monk.

“An ambience is defined as an atmosphere, or a surrounding influence: a tint.” — Brian Eno

“There is no such thing as silence.” — John Cage

Hello. We’re Snacky Tunes. 

For over a decade, we’ve talked to the world’s best chefs (on our podcast from HRN) about music: the songs that inspire them, the playlists that animate their dining rooms, the bands they’ve performed in themselves. We even wrote a book about it.  

Recently, beyond the precisely curated playlists and music inspirations, we’ve been interested in the elemental, discrete sounds that punctuate a chef’s day-to-day environment: the low hum of vendors haggling at the morning farmers markets, the call and response from the kitchen pass, the percussive knife chops as vegetable are prepared, the low-roaring hiss of freshly minced garlic hitting a hot, well-oiled pan, the pitch-perfect crescendo sizzling of a divinely seared steak. 

In this audio column for FLOOD, we’ll explore the ambient soundtrack of a life in the kitchen. These field recordings, gathered by chefs from all over the globe, grant us intimate access to the lives of acclaimed culinarians. 

To dive deeper into the subject, we recommend Kyle Chayka’s The Longing for Less

Serving Sound 1.4: Yoshihiro Imai

If you happen to find yourself in Kyoto, please find your way to Yoshihiro Imai’s 14-seat, seasonally inspired restaurant monk, set on the cherry blossom-lined Philosopher’s Path. We have been following Chef’s love affair with pizza, his beautifully composed photos of freshly picked items, and his incredible way with words. 

We are labelmates by way of Phaidon, and as soon as we saw his beautiful new book, we wanted to hear the world around him. 

From Chef, as he writes in his new book monk: Light and Shadow on the Philosopher’s Path

“At monk, something I particularly value is the performative aspect; cooking in an open kitchen feels like giving a live performance. This style of cooking reminds me of a jazz session. There’s the basic melody, and a chord progression—but beyond that, each instrument begins its own improvisation, and what happens that night is a one-off that cannot be repeated. Riffing off other sounds, sharing heat or blues or bitters, and marking out the rhythm. The session unfolds with the day’s ingredients, comes together as a course, and is shared that evening with the guests, who will only be there to spend this time together once. The guests bring their own melodies and emotions, while our rhythmic movements in the kitchen provide the background sound. The guests’ conversations bring the groove, and in the shared space between a kind of heat is generated. That is what a restaurant should feel like.”

Hear the sounds of Chef’s kitchen below.

About Snacky Tunes

Broadcasting since 2009, the Snacky Tunes podcast has been a weekly exploration and conversation about the cultural convergence of music and food. Over the years, co-hosts and identical twins Greg Bresnitz and Darin Bresnitz, along with Snacky Tunes co-producer Khuong Phan, have interviewed acclaimed chefs, food writers, brewers, bakers, and restaurateurs, while also recording live in-studio sets from genre-spanning indie bands and musicians.

In addition to the podcast, they wrote a book about music’s influence on the culinary world (Snacky Tunes: Music is the Main Ingredient, Chefs and Their Music, Phaidon, 2020). And inspired by the book, they collaborated on a sustainable t-shirt series with EVERYBODY.WORLD, raising money for various Chef charities around the world. 

Newsletter

We won’t spam you. Promise.