A great meal starts with the tools. Here, 10 of the South’s best chefs share the kitchen gadget they can’t cook without.
1. A Large Spoon | Michelle Bernstein: “One your grandmother might have served with soup, but was too big to fit in your mouth.” Bernstein always has one at the ready to flip fish, lift steaks, place food gracefully on plates, and spoon sauce over proteins.
2. Chicken Wire | Tim Byres: “As crazy as it sounds a roll of heavy duty chicken wire has way too many uses.” Use it to wrangle tomato plants in the garden, and to wrap large pieces of meat during slow-roasting. “It allows us freedom to move it around the pit or grill.”
3. Vegetable Juicer | Mike Isabella: “Fresh vegetable juice is great for all kinds of broths, soups, purees, and sauces.” Using a juicer, Isabella says, you aren’t limited to store-bought varieties. “You can juice anything at home.”
4. Mortar and Pestle | Donald Link: “I use a large granite mortar and pestle all the time to grind dried chilies, salsa verde, and chimichurries.” Link especially loves the old mortar-and-pestle for smashing garlic and anchovies to make aioli. “It releases the real essence of the garlic more than plain chopping.”
5. Vitamix Blender | Steven Satterfield: “I have one at home and at work.” Use it to puree soups, make velvety sauces, fruit smoothies, and hummus. “This is hands down the most needed piece of equipment at Miller Union.”
– Steven Satterfield, Miller Union in Atlanta
6. Microplane Zester | Frank Stitt: Great for zesting citrus fruits, including kumquats, tangerines, and blood and bitter oranges, as well as garlic and shallots. “The results are quick and easy, and clean up is a breeze.”
7. Boning Knife | Chris Sheperd: “We bring in one whole wagyu, three heritage pigs, four goats, and three lambs every week. This knife gets a lot of work. I can’t do my job without it.”
8. Cryovac Food Savers | John Currence: “The implementation of the Cryovac into restaurants in the last 10-12 years has revolutionized how we all cook, store and, mostly, travel. We used to have to pack all of out ingredients in one-gallon oyster buckets and tupperware.” Currence says Cryovac is also great for fish. “After a big fishing trip, cleaned speckled trout vacuum sealed and frozen individually, or in two, make incredible storage and usage sense.”
9. Ball Jars | Spike Gjerde: “Jars are essential, specially around this season when we are canning and preserving.” Gjerde uses one-and two-quart, wide mouth Ball jars with TATTLER reusable lids. “Anything bigger than that, and it’s hard to get consistent results.”
10. Tractor | Tyler Brown: Brown says his tractor is essential to turn the field, planting seeds, and a number of things that would be impossible without a lot of hands in the field. “Oh yea, and it is a ton of fun.”