A career in food means becoming the owner of the most essential cooking equipment. Your tools become extensions of your hands, particularly your chef's knife. While I have always loved kitchen gear of all sorts, over the years I have become more opinionated about what tools are most useful. You only have so much space, so one-use gadgets such as heart-shaped waffle irons don't always make the cut (although there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting a heart-shaped waffle if that's what brings you joy in life.) At the same time, it can be soul-satisfying to add that personal touch to your home kitchen, even if the item is not totally necessary (enter the antique kitchen egg beaters I picked up during a visit to New Orleans). Commercial kitchens emphasize function and efficiency: massive #10 cans of tomato paste, giant Cambros of chicken stock, and small toddler-sized industrial plastic wrap boxes. So every once in awhile, I stumble upon kitchen treasures in the outside world that help me appreciate the softer, more aesthetically pleasing side of the kitchen.
I have discovered some beautiful cooking equipment at flea markets and garage sales in the past. So when I happened to drive past an estate sale the other day, I pulled over to check for culinary treasures. Most of the time I've admired and walked away for practical reasons, like when I discovered a limited edition Royal Copenhagen tea set at the Frederiksberg flea market in Copenhagen. It had this brilliant orange, floral design (uniquely opposite from their classic blue and white design) and I fell in love with it. It was being sold by a little old lady and I thought it about it for days afterwards (and apparently I'm still thinking about it.) But, it was wildly impractical for me to purchase it at the time, and I was pretty sure it would never arrive back to the US unharmed. Even so, I kind of regret not trying. So perhaps it was in remembrance of the tea set that got away, but I ended up promising myself that I could spend a few dollars at this estate sale towards a partially impractical kitchen find.
After choosing carefully, I ended up with $10 worth of kitchen treasures: a set of five hand-decorated plates destined for serving friends homemade baked goods, Paul Bocuse's French Cooking (1977 edition), and a two tablespoon measuring spoon. I couldn't help thinking about who owned these treasures before me, knowing that there must be a story behind each item. It seems fitting that this cookbook found its way to me the very same year that Team U.S.A. won the Bocuse d'Or. The plates, imported by San Francisco's Takahashi Trading Company, are part of the fascinating life stories of business owners and philanthropists Tomoye and Henri Takahashi. And the measuring spoon? That was my practical side at it again. I promise to fully appreciate these kitchen finds and give them a good home, driven by the spirit of home cooked meals!
What are your essential, most functional, most efficient kitchen tools? And what are those unnecessary but soul-satisfying kitchen artifacts that make life a little more colorful? I'd love to hear about it in the comments.