People who love the kitchen are often choosy about their gear. So… what do you get the chef in your life?
It’s an endless conundrum for people who really want to equip a family member or friend with some of the best modern kitchen tools that will help them to innovate as they craft dishes.
Some of your garden-variety guides just show you what’s hot at Williams-Sonoma or out of some general catalog, but this shopping guide uses actual input from real chefs with experience in the kitchen. We’re talking James Beard people (whether they have beards or not!) and Michelin individuals – those who have run their own restaurants and made high cuisine with the best of them.
With that said, here are some of our suggestions for excellent chef gifts any day of the year.
Experienced chefs know that one knife is not always like another – top brands that we hear about include Dalstrong and Wusthof, as well as some lesser-known lines with attractive modern craft. Also, we proudly feature a line of Mercer’s Genesis knives made with high-quality German steel and modern design, to help your chefs to slice, hew, hack, strip, debone or filet to his or her content.
Plating Tongs and Similar Tools
We once heard one Michelin star chef say of another’s plating skills: “he got his fingers in every way…”
We know what he meant.
Without the right precision tools, it’s difficult to arrange these quality ingredients on the plate, to make just the right presentation. Your fingers just get in the way. However, a good set of plating tongs is a lifesaver in this kind of situation. Your chef can use these Mercer or Norpro quality precision plating tongs to get around these kinds of problems, and show off the plate’s good side.
With knife bags, there are a lot of questions. How many knives does your chef want to carry around to various parties and gigs and catering opinions?
Also, materials vary – some are made with modern items like nylon or polyester, and some are made of hearty old leather. (Or: check out this Messermeister bag in black denim. Really cool!) Will your chef need a hard case to carry these items in?
Some of this comes down to preference, so you might want to eavesdrop a little or try to get some clues before you go shopping.
While we’re talking about on-the-go items, how about a nice small shaped pan?
A specialty pan can be useful for a lot of different things, but we’re thinking eggs. We know a lot of chefs who really love their omelette pans, or just use a single-egg pan to get the “oeuf” into the form they want it in. By contrast, trying to shape small-batch foods in a regular-sized pan is a lesson in futility. Just sayin’.
A Smoking Gun
Want to get your chef a smoking gun? This is different for a culinary expert than it is for a detective! The precision Breville PolyScience smoking gun can infuse drinks and sauces with a special woodsmoke flavor, be it apple, hickory or walnut, or something else. Multiple settings add to the appeal of this modern chef’s tool.
For a chef who’s on the go and prolific with his or her cooking, you really can’t go wrong with a high-quality immersion blender.
What’s so great about these cooking tools?
They’re simply portable and versatile in a way that traditional mixers and blenders are not.
The immersion blender has a small footprint, and a specifically engineered shaft that can get into your food without a lot of exterior trappings. In a sense, using one is just good ergonomics.
Immersion blenders help chefs to do a lot more with materials with a smaller footprint – say, when they’re out cooking over a campfire, or maneuvering in a small kitchen space. It’s kind of the chef’s version of the laptop computer – so having one of these along with the traveling knives is often a good idea.
If your favorite chef does want to outfit the permanent kitchen with a bigger sort of appliance, modern blenders have a lot of functionality that’s new and exciting. For example, the Vitamix offers precision food processing that really changes the game in terms of micromanaging your ingredients to a particular texture, and separating the fibers and the juices of natural plants. Think about how these are used in juicing, soup making, saucing and much more. Your chef would probably love one.
This may be one that you’ve never heard of, but the chef in your life probably has, at least in passing.
With that said, this is not part of the average small kitchen. It’s a very specialized appliance that is used for just a few things.
The core utility of the immersion circulator is to perform what’s called ‘sous vide immersion cooking.’
In this type of unique process, the chef puts the meat or other food in a bag, and heats it to a precision temperature in a circulating water bath.
As you might expect, these things are bulky and have detailed manuals for use. However, if your chef is someone who likes to set up shop somewhere with all of the latest big gizmos, this might be a great gift.
On the other hand, don’t forget that different chefs have different methods. Some chefs swear by an Instapot or slow cooker, and both of these can be gotten in small sizes for chefs who move around a little more.
At the end of the day, it’s all about your chef’s strategy and cooking style. But any of these quality items are popular with people we talk to in the kitchen. Each of them has its own role to play in creating the best dishes and bringing them to a dining audience.