Anthony Bourdain: Five Essential Kitchen Tools
Anthony Bourdain is probably one of the best known American chefs today. Having French grandparents, he claims that his love of food and cooking comes from the vacations he spent in France as a child.
In his book Kitchen Confidential, he tells a great deal about the life of a restaurateur and the workings of commercial kitchens. His stories are illuminating and sometimes extremely funny.
I highly recommend it as great read. YOu’ll also find a wealth of information that will help you in your own cooking at home.
One of the chapters that particularly fascinated me was about the tools he uses and the ones he recommends for our own kitchens at home.
He says that he rarely wants to eat restaurant foods and loves home-cooking.
Luckily for his friends and relations, he doesn’t demand professional standards when he’s a guest in their homes.
In fact, he tells that his mother-in-law would say, when bringing the meal to the table, “this must seem pretty ordinary for chef…” but that she had no idea how comforting he found her food.
He said that he particularly loved her meatloaf. He enjoys home cooking which, as he says ‘ is blessedly devoid of truffle oil’. 🙂
Sometimes, he is asked about special equipment that the pros have in their kitchens.Often, the people who ask are wondering if there is some magical appliance or tool that will transform their own home cooking to professional standards.
But the joke is that chefs -or Anthony certainly – are likely to be using the same equipment we use at home. Yes, they have larger blenders and soon for when they are making bulk foods but most of the time will use domestic models.
There are however five tools that he recommends that we own to help us create professional meals.
A decent knife
Bourdain says that there is absolutely no need to have a battery of knives.It’s also a waste of money, he says, to spend fortune. (He particularly decries those multi-sets of kitchen tools that you can buy direct from television ads. He says that you only need one good knife.
He recommends the make you see here.There is no ‘right’ size. Buy knife that feels comfortable in your hand. He says that most of the professionals he knows have gradually been replacing their expensive sets of German knives for the more lightweight example that you see here. This should be able to cut anything from a tiny shallot to huge watermelon.
If you feel that one knife won’t be able to cover your needs (although he insists that it should) then he suggests a small paring knife if you do lots of fancy work when preparing vegetables.
If you bone and fillet fish, or perform any clever butchery in your kitchen then by all means consider a special flexible boning knife but that won’t be necessary for 99.9% of home cooks. (That’s what the butchery and fishmongery departments in the supermarket are for, after all).
Offset serrated knife
However, if you spend a lot of time slicing bread or other items that really need a serrated knife, this is the one Bourdain recommends.
Many chefs are using these nowadays.
He can understand this because these knives can soon become indispensable items in the kitchen. You may wish to use this instead of the traditional knife as seen above.
It will do all the normal cutting jobs in your kitchen,especially bread and vegetables such as thick-skinned tomatoes. He says that his sous chef uses no other knife. One advantage is the way that the handle is offset. This lessens the strain on the wrist and the handle also has a safety guard.This is an advantage if you are the kind of person who is often using the knife when your hands are wet from rinsing vegetables or greasy from making pastry.
They can be professionally sharpened but Bourdain says that they will last for years without – at which time they are inexpensive enough to simply replace.
Plastic squeeze bottle
They say that we eat with our eyes and it’s true that we are fooled into thinking that attractively presented food does seem to taste better. Presentation is important. This is why Bourdain recommends cheap plastic squeeze bottles with which to distribute sauces and dressings.
With the pack of six you see here, you can keep several in the fridge containing different sauces.
He says that an ordinary dish can be elevated into ‘restaurant quality’ by making the food look attractive by using these. You can use them for sweet or savoury sauces. Pastry chefs use them a lot of to make the fancy icing effects you see on the top of baked goods. This,he says,plus a swizzle of raspberry sauce, allows them to add another two or three dollars onto the price of the pastry.
To get really attractive results, make rings or lines of sauce onto the plate before you add the food ans simply drag an ordinary wooden tooth pick through the lines. Practice will make perfect.
Still on the subject of presentation, these metal rings can help you to form beautifully presented salads or vegetable dishes by using them as moulds.
He calls them ‘the backbone of pretentious food presentation’.
Place a ring on the plate then spoon, for example, your mashed potato into the ring and tamp it down little. Place a few cooked shrimp on top. Tp these with another vegetable – say some sauteed leeks, then add a spring of fresh herbs. Slip off the ring and you have a beautifully restaurant-style presentation.
As a bonus, you can use these rings to make perfectly round pancakes or fried eggs, or use them as cutters for cookies or scones. They are inexpensive but even so, Anthony suggests that a piece of PVC pipe, cut to about two inches high.
A heavyweight pan
The emphasis here is on heavy. I have to give you this quote from the book. ‘A thin bottomed pan is useless for anything.I don’t care if it’s bonded with copper, hand-rubbed by virgins or made from the same material as the stealth bomber’.
He says that you should only buy such a lightweight pan if you like pasta that sticks to the bottom, burnt sauces,carbonised chicken or burnt bread crumbs.
There’s a great range available online – such as the one on the right – but if you’re on a serious budget, he recommends that you watch for notices about local restaurant closures (restaurants are often unsuccessful) and the likelihood is that they’ll be auctioning their kitchen equipment.
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