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Monday, March 28, 2011

CHEFS: These Are The Gadgets You Need In The Kitchen

CHEFS: These Are The Gadgets You Need In The Kitchen

Jodi Rhoden has a simple rule concerning the purchase of kitchen tools.

“If it hasn't been invented by now, you don't need it,” said Rhoden, baker and owner of Short Street Cakes in West Asheville. We've had thousands of years since the discovery of fire to figure out the basics of what we need to cook.

“Most ‘As Seen on TV' items are going to be useless,” she said.

In keeping the spirit of spring cleaning, now is a good time to pry open those cluttered kitchen drawers and determine what you really need to cook — and what tools are a waste of time, space and money.

“The more multipurpose a tool is, the more useful it is,” Rhoden said. “I was recently in California during a wedding. There were all these tools that were so specific to one purpose, the George Foreman grill, juicers specific to one kind of fruit … those are the things I avoid.”

Rhoden can't live without her easy-to-use sifter and her offset spatula. “I have this Echo spatula that is completely indispensible,” she said. “I've had it since I moved out of my parents' house.”

Although professional chefs may have the need and opportunity to use cutting-edge cooking gadgets, you'll find that people in many of the Asheville restaurant's kitchens also want to keep things simple.

Justin Smudde, who just opened Bandido's Burritos in West Asheville, said he had to keep his tool to-buy list short.

“I made a list of the bare necessities of what I needed and figured out what I could afford in my budget,” Smudde said. “As time has gone by, we are adding (kitchen tools).

At the top of his list: a commercial food blender. “I make everything in that: all of our salsas, all of our vinegars, all of our marinades,” he said.

“It just pulverizes anything. You can put rocks in and make dust out of them.”

William Dissen, chef and owner of the Market Place, considers himself a “conservative in the kitchen when it comes to buying tools.”

“Yes, we play with a vacuum sealer and an immersion circulator, both for the craft of ‘sous vide,' but a chef has all he needs with a good knife, a solid oven to cook over and a little creativity.”

Here's a look at what other Asheville chefs will always keep in their kitchen — and a few ideas about what items they will never buy again:

From William Dissen, of The Market Place:

“No. 1 is a good chef's knife. I use a Glestain, which comes from Japan … I am left-handed, so finding a knife that “fits” well is hard to come by. When you are using this tool every day, you want to make sure that you really love working with it. I buy my knives from Korin, which is located in New York City and Japan.

“No. 2 is my Pacojet. It takes ice creams and sorbets to a whole new level. The machine spins so fast that it can make a typical ice cream light and airy.”

From Charles deVries, CEPC, instructor, hospitality education at Asheville-Buncombe Community College:

“I can't live without offset spatula ... very versatile for chocolate, cake work and sugar. The other more important tools that you can't buy are my hands. Waste of money: Silicone brush ... not good for eggwash, spreading anything but barbecue sauce.

From John Hofland, culinary instructor at A-B Tech:

“My 8-inch chef's knife is what I can't live without. I could cut a cord of wood with it if I had to.”

From Robert Wallace, Bistro 1896 chef:

“I got a few years back a rechargeable hand blender as a gift. By the time you would get halfway through a chore, it would die. … I took it work, and everybody made fun of it

“A thing I can't do without is a chinois. It is just to strain soups to get out any grit and to make the texture velvety.

“A silpat is essential in baking cookies and making candies. It's a nonstick, Teflon plastic surface you put on a pan. You can cook anything on it, and you don't have to use (cooking spray) or butter.”

From Laurey Masterton, of Laurey's:

“My chef's knife is No. 1. I have an 8-inch knife. I have it at home, and no one else is allowed to use it. My microplane grater for lemon zest and parmesan is important. A lemon reamer for juicing works really well, and it is a lot easier to use.”

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