When I went to Giada’s demonstration at the Wine & Food Festival in the Fall, one of the audience members asked her what brand pots and pans she recommends. It was obvious she wasn’t ready to endorse a product publicly (especially considering she now has her own line at Target) but after further pressing, she finally said she really likes All-Clad. Since then, that stuck in my mind as the brand that the professionals use – or should I say my FAVORITE professional (hence her not wanting to endorse the brand at the time). Well, guess what’s going to end up on my registry in a few years ….
But part of what makes this so credible in my mind was because it was NOT an endorsement. Giada genuinely likes that brand, and not because someone paid her to say it (which explains why she’s hesitant to reveal it). So when navigating the aisles of way-too-expensive cooking tools, it makes sense to turn to the unbiased professionals. And for this reason, I’ve been taking notes from another favorite celebrity of mine, Anthony Bourdain.
His book Kitchen Confidential made him famous, ironically, outside of the kitchen. And since he wasn’t too well-known when he wrote it (well, he was a chef in New York City and not the host of a very popular show on CNN) his non-endorsements are all the more credible. Plus his no-nonsense attitude that is voiced in his writing just as much as his TV shows makes it clear that he means what he says.
So now that I’ve finished his “adventures in the culinary underbelly”, I’ve learned a lot about the restaurant world. Among them, the right tools to use (and why and how):
- decent chef’s knife – for everything
- offset serrated knife – all vegetables and breads
- flexible boning knife – for meat and fish
- pairing knife – for vegetables
Pots & Pans – all heavyweight, can purchase high-quality items from a restaurant going out of business
- sauce pans
- thick-bottomed nonstick sauté pans – thick non-stick coating (Care: never washed, only wiped clean; do not use metal utensils)
Food Styling to make your meals look fancy
- plastic squeeze bottle – to decorate plates with any sauce. For added effect, drag a toothpick through rings or lines.
- metal ring (or cutdown PVC pipe) 1.5-2 in. tall – to make food tall. Spoon food inside and remove.
- pastry bag – use to pipe into the metal ring
- mandoline – (vertical slicer with various blade settings) for julienned or waffle-cut vegetables
Ingredients that separate food from the restaurant and home
- Shallots – for sauces, dressings, sauté items
- Butter – finishing sauces with butter (AKA “monter au beurre”) to make it rich and creamy
- Roasted garlic – fresh roasted, slivered, or smashed (not through a press)
- Chiffonaded parsley – for garnish: dip sprigs in cold water, shake off excess and dry for a few minutes, and slice thin.
- Stock – roast bones and/or vegetables, put in big pot with water and keep reducing. Make in large quantities and freeze in small containers.
- Demi-glace – take already reduced meat stock, add red wine, toss in shallots, fresh thyme, bay leaf, peppercorns, slowly simmer and reduce until it coats the back of a spoon. Strain and freeze in ice cube tray to use as needed.
- Chervil, basil tops, chive sticks, mint tops, etc. – for garnish and presentation, and to add some flavor.
And if you want to learn more about the behind-the-scenes restaurant culture in a hysterically honest (and sometimes raunchy) voice, check out Anthony Bourdain’s original Kitchen Confidential. He’s also currently traveling the world as the host of CNN’s Parts Unknown and Travel Channel re-runs of No Reservations.
I’m all about the non-fiction books these days, and I’ll be sharing more tips from my reading list soon!