If you’re like me—and a good chunk of internet-dwellers at large—you’ve recently found abundant delight in watching a certain group of seemingly unassuming chefs and food editors create, cook and goof around in a test kitchen on the 35th floor of One World Trade Center in Manhattan. I’m talking, of course, about the Bon Appétit YouTube channel, which houses an all-star lineup of series featuring favorite personalities including Gourmet Makes with Claire Saffitz, It’s Alive with Brad Leone, Back-to-Back Chef with Carla Lalli Music and a special celebrity guest, as well as plenty of one-off videos featuring recipes, tips and experiments.
The channel now has more than 5 million subscribers, and the kitchen’s rotating cast of various characters have acquired a sort of b-list celebrity status, as well as hundreds of thousands of Instagram followers, not to mention a meme page dedicated entirely to them. The internet is fully smitten with these people, their on-screen antics, their off-screen food habits and everything in between.
One such personality is Drinks Editor Alex Delany, host of the occasionally recurring series One of Everything, in which he brings a fellow BA pal along to a favorite NYC joint to try literally one of everything on the menu. Delany, who’s often referred to by just his last name, is known as a good-vibes goofball, as personified by this Meme Appetit creation:
Make sure you look at this year like @alex_delany looks at a chicken cutlet sandwich
A post shared by Meme Appetit; (@meme_appetit) on
You can often spot Delany putzing around in the background of Gourmet Makes or From The Test Kitchen videos, or appearing at just the right moment to sample someone’s new recipe. His Instagram followers know him as an avid restaurant goer with a proclivity for posting meat pics. He is an informant of good food, good drinks and good ideas for making them work together. What many of his followers and fans may not know, however, is Delany’s other not-so-secret talent: playlist extraordinaire. A kind friend recently put me onto his Spotify profile, which boasts more than 12,000 followers, plus 63 playlists and counting. His recently played artists column reveals the broad taste of a curious listener: There’s indie rock like Ty Segall, My Morning Jacket and Bonny Doon, but there’s also more left-field fare by psych-rocker Sam Evian, transportive R&B crooner Jai Paul and disco-house mashups Crazy P. His playlists are broader still, each one featuring an accompanying illustration and anywhere from a couple hundred to several thousand individual followers. Ranging in genre and time period and always featuring surprising, often obscure, music, they’re quite a wonderful vehicle for music discovery.
So you may be wondering, how does a drinks man/food guy/Instagram influencer become a Spotify hero? I was curious, too, so I called up Delany last week to talk about his music taste formation, the best songs to cook to and those weekly disco playlists. This interview has been edited for length and is best enjoyed with a beer in hand.
Paste: When did you start making Spotify playlists so regularly, and when did people start to catch on?
Alex Delany: I’ve always loved to make playlists. I’d been making Spotify playlists for a long time throughout college, but always for my own enjoyment. I started writing a column for Bon Appétit three years ago called “Rent Week.” It was once a month and I would do a playlist to go along with every entry. And that’s when I started to kind of push them on people, I guess you could say. It’s grown more and more frequent ever since then.
What formed your music taste? What did you listen to growing up?
Delany: It’s definitely a lot of different things. Starting from a very early age, my dad and my mom were both super into music. There was always music playing in our car or in the house or whatever. I grew up right outside of Philadelphia. My dad grew up in South Philly when disco was really big. So I grew up listening to all the stuff that he liked to listen to: old disco stuff, soul, R&B, from the ’60s and ’70s. That was kind of the foundation. But then also I was really lucky—I had a really amazing public radio station in the Philly area called WXPN, that’s 88.5. David Dye was the DJ that kind of formed my taste in music. A lot of alternative rock and Americana stuff and kind of all over the place, but I would say between my parents and XPN, that’s where the foundation was.
Speaking of disco, what exactly are those Disco Drop playlists on your profile?
Delany: I think dance music is very funny right now. There’s this trend of going to see someone spin, and—this thing always fucking happens to me—I go and I’m like, “OK, this is kind of good,” and it just gets darker and darker and more androgynous. And the way I like to dance, what I like to listen to when I dance, is the complete opposite. So I’ve always been a big fan of disco. I think the synths and the strings and just the light breezy melody is what I want right now in a very depressing time. So I started making these playlists a few months ago. I do them twice a month, and it’s just supposed to be a kickstart to the weekend—kind of enter the weekend with a smile on your face. But disco was always my preferred dance music.
What is, in your opinion, the best music to cook to?
Delany: I will always say soul from the late ’60s, early ’70s.
Do you guys ever play music out loud in the test kitchen?
Delany: So we do play music sometimes, but since we’re filming so much in there right now and buying music rights is quite expensive, we don’t listen to music whenever there’s a video being shot. So it used to be a lot. Now that we’re filming more frequently, it’s not as much.
When you’re at home, do you usually have music going when you’re in the kitchen?
Delany: Always. 100%.
What’s your favorite band and/or album right now?
Delany: So not new, but on very, very heavy repeat has been this Hugh Masekela album called Reconstruction. He’s one of my favorite musicians all time. That’s probably the record I’ve been playing the most over the past month. In terms of singles that have come out recently, I’ve been playing a new single from Coco. I love Sam Evian. I think his music is really beautiful, and I play that a ton as well. I’ve always got TOPS playing and Twin Peaks, always Twin Peaks. A major love over the past year and decade in terms of bands—I’ve been listening to Night Moves so damn much. Consistently excellent, beautiful music. Jackie Cohen as well!
Finally, you’re obviously a pro at this. What’s the key to making a perfect playlist?
Delany: Put music that you like on it. I think the more rules you put on a playlist, the worst the playlist is. It shouldn’t be about genre, or new or old. It should be about the through line. And the through line for me on my playlists: Is it a good vibe? If it is, it’s on the playlist.
You can find more of Alex Delany and his playlists on his Spotify profile, on the BA YouTube channel and at BonAppetit.com.