For my birthday, I got a copy of Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, and I’ve been laughing my way hysterically through each chapter.
But before all that, Bourdain graduated in 1978 from the Culinary Institute of America. He is currently a “Chef-at-Large” with a home base at the Brasserie Les Halles, where he was executive chef for many years.
I thought it would be fun to run down Bourdain’s list of the indispensible kitchen supplies he recommends for any serious chef.
And you’ll see, Bourdain has a delightfully dry wit to accompany his vast wealth of cooking knowledge.
Number one, he says, “you need, for God’s sake, a decent chef’s knife….This should cut just about anything you might work with, from a shallot to a watermelon.”
Use the tip of the knife for the small stuff, he advises, and the area nearer the heel for the larger.
Another useful item, Bourdain says, is flexible boning knife. You can fillet fish, and with the same knife, he says, you can butcher whole tenderloins, bone out legs of lamb, French cut racks of veal and trim meat. (But, he counters, if your butcher is doing all of this for you, you can probably live without one.)
A paring knife, Bourdain says, is to be used for “microsurgery:” turneeing vegetables, fluting mushrooms, etc.
The last knife Bourdain recommends is the offset serrated utility knife: “This is a truly cool item that, once used, becomes indispensable.” Bourdain says.
You can use it not only for your traditional serrated blade needs like slicing bread and thick skinned tomatoes, but also for the full line of vegetables, spuds, meats and even fish.
“Numero uno” in the kitchen, Bourdain says, is a plastic squeeze bottle.
Surprised? Bourdain says this inexpensive item is essential to that artful drizzle that dresses up a plate, and makes for a stunning presentation.
Next, the mandoline, because “you didn’t think they actually cut those with a knife did you?”
The mandoline is a vertically held slicer with various blade settings. Bourdain says, “it helps make those slick-looking, perfectly uniform julienned and batonnet-cut veggies.”
Last, Bourdain emphasizes the importance of a premium set of pots and pans, adding that most pans sold for home use are dangerously flimsy.
“A proper saute pan should can serious head injury if brought down hard against someone’s skull,” Bourdain says. A thick-bottomed pan will prevent scorched sauces, carbonized chicken, pasta that sticks to the bottom of the pot and burnt bread crumbs.
Last, Bourdain says, “a a nonstick saute’ pan is a thing of beauty.” Treat it nice, he advises: “never wash it – simply wipe it clean after each use and don’t use metal in it – use a wooden spoon or ceramic or nonmetallic spatula to flip or toss whatever you’re cooking in it.”
Any professional chef will have his own preference of style and brand – so don’t take Anthony’s word for it: shop around and figure out what works best for you.