Just as a painter prefers certain brushes or a clothing designer prefers a favorite brand of scissors, a professional chef always has a few can't-live-without essential kitchen tools. And some of them may surprise you.
Chef Raymond Ost
French master chef and James Beard Award nominee Raymond Ost has more than 40 years of experience as a chef. Born in Alsace-Lorraine, France, Chef Ost is the owner and former executive chef of Sandrine's Bistro in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In 2014, he joined Wilson Farm in nearby Lexington, Massachusetts, as executive chef, bringing new flavors and putting his own spin on the farm's traditional dishes. His essential kitchen tools reflect his French training:
- Salamander: "It's like a broiler, but it just cooks on top. It glazes everything, and it gives a nice color."
- Automatic portionner funnel: "It is like a pastry funnel to fill up little containers. It has a stand and level, and that level decides for you when the liquid goes down."
- Knives: "Knives, of course — chef's knife, paring knives. I have my knives from 40 years ago. The blades are different than the [stainless steel] ones now. They have steel blades. They cut better. They bend better."
- A nice stove: "Of course, a beautiful stove — a center stove — not those American stoves where you have to cook on a wall. You can walk around, and it has a grill, ovens, a bain-marie, gas, a flat top [and maybe] air-pulsated."
Chef Suzy Singh
Singh was seven years into a lucrative career as a bioengineer in neurosurgery when she realized that her true passion was cooking. So she followed her heart and graduated from culinary school. A contestant on the second season of Fox TV's "Master Chef," Chef Singh is now the corporate research and development chef at NOW Foods. She says her "absolutely can't-live-without" essential kitchen tools are:
- Shun knives: "They have a lifetime warranty."
- Microplane zester: "They're incredible and add a lot of flavor. Zesting is essential."
- Calphalon nonstick pots and pans
- Ellyndale oils: Singh loves their organic sunflower oil for its high smoke point.
- Whisk: "For aioli, a stainless steel whisk is essential."
For more of Chef Suzy Singh, follow her on Twitter @chefsuzysingh. You can also check out her recipes using these tools on the NOW Foods blog.
Chef Enx Dadulas
Dadulas worked 11 years for celebrity chef Roy Yamaguchi, beginning as a line chef and eventually opening several restaurants for Yamaguchi. He is now owner and chef at the award-winning Ohana New American Cuisine restaurant in Gloucester, Massachusetts, which specializes in Hawaiian fusion cuisine and incorporates ingredients and techniques used in Japanese, French, Italian and Peruvian cooking. His essential kitchen tools are directly related to fusion cooking:
- Spoons: "[I use] big serving spoons to pick up fish and medium spoons so I can drag when I sauce."
- Hand-held blender
- Pots: "Small ones for sauces and purees. ... I set them up with my spoons."
Chef Art Jackson
Jackson and his wife, Chelsea, are co-owners of Pleasant House Bakery in Chicago's Bridgeport community. Specializing in traditional and modern savory pies and specialty sweets, Pleasant House is the recipient of several awards, including Chicago Tribune's "Outstanding Restaurant 2012" and TimeOut Chicago's "Best Cheap Eatery and Farm-to-Table Restaurant." With his essential kitchen tools, Chef Jackson says he can "pretty much go anywhere and will be comfortable in anybody's kitchen." Here's what he can't live without:
- Knives: "A sharp knife is No. 1."
- Cutting board: "I have to have a good surface on which to work."
- Kitchen towel: "A wet towel and a dry towel to keep your work zone nice and tidy and clean. ... I want to be organized."
- Heavy-bottomed saucepan and saute pan: "I come from a French cooking background and use cast iron or carbon steel — ones that induct heat very well."
- Good vegetable peeler
What may be an essential kitchen tool for one chef may not be for another. Experiment to see if any of these chefs' choices help you create your next culinary masterpiece.
Photo credit: Pam Niequist Wehbi