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Top Drawer: Indy Chefs’ Tried-and-True Kitchen Tools

Behind every good chef is a cherished kitchen tool—a sturdy knife, a clever gadget, or a well-worn saute pan that is essential to day-to-day kitchen chores. Whether they love the latest technological gizmo or a prized family heirloom, these local toques give us a look at some of their most indispensable culinary instruments.

 

Lodge 10-Inch Cast-Iron Skillet
Craig Baker of The Local Eatery & Pub

“I bought it at a Goodwill for five dollars after watching a chef in North Carolina rock a service in a restaurant with a stack of them,” says Baker, who also owns Plow & Anchor. “It’s the most versatile thing I own by far—it can replace so many pieces of kitchen equipment.”

 

Shun 7-Inch Classic Asian Chef’s Knife
Erin Kem of R Bistro

Kem found her “go-to, all-around best knife” on a trip to Seattle when she wasn’t even shopping for kitchen supplies. “It’s a right-handed knife, and I’m a lefty, but the way I choke up on the knife makes it perfect for so many projects.”

 

1114-SternbergAmerican Weigh Digital Pocket Scale
Alan Sternberg of Cerulean

“We like to be as precise as possible,” says Sternberg, known for his trompe l’oeil presentations and deconstructed flavors, “so almost all of our recipes are weighed using grams.” No wonder he prefers a scale that measures down to a hundredth of a gram.

 

Excalibur 9-Tray Food Dehydrator
Carlos Salazar of Rook

For his innovative interpretations of Asian street-food staples, the former Oakleys Bistro sous chef uses this high-tech dehydrator for making black limes, puffed pork rinds, and aromatic powders of coconut or kimchi. Drying intensifies the flavors and makes them more versatile for seasoning and garnishes.

 

Vintage 1970s KitchenAid Mixer
Kate Drury of The Flying Cupcake

Indy’s celebrated cupcake innovator employed her mother’s trusty avocado-green mixer to test all of the original recipes for her popular bakery, now with five locations. “I finally took it home from the shop in 2010, and now I use it for every new recipe I create. It may be old and ugly, but it’s the only mixer I can use.”

 

Brandon-CanfieldLe Creuset Heritage 1.5-Quart Pate Terrine
Brandon Canfield, of The Loft Restaurant at Traders Point Creamery

For the terrines and pates he concocts from whole hogs and lambs, Canfield uses this hefty enameled cast-iron terrine, which is as durable as it stylish. “When I see one in a kitchen, it lends instant credence to the chef’s skill. It’s a respect-earner.”

 

iSi One-Pint Whipped-Cream Dispenser
John Adams, formerly of Plow & Anchor

When he sees a young toque, the former chef at Bluebeard and Louisville’s Proof on Main tells them they have to put their hollandaise sauce in this curvaceous frother, which turns almost any smooth sauce into an airy emulsion. Adams uses the tool for the coffee–and–bacon-fat “redeye” hollandaise that accompanies his breakfast-inspired seared scallops. “We had one at Bluebeard, but we didn’t know how to use it yet. Now I use it every day.”

 

 

A graduate of IU’s Master of Fine Arts program in creative writing, Terry Kirts hails from a town in Illinois so small it didn’t have a restaurant until he was in the 8th grade. Since 2000, he’s more than made up for the dearth of eateries in his childhood, logging hundreds of meals as the dining critic for WHERE Indianapolis, Indianapolis Woman, and NUVO before joining Indianapolis Monthly as a contributing editor in 2007. A senior lecturer in creative writing at IUPUI, Terry has published his poetry and creative nonfiction in a number of literary journals and anthologies, including Gastronomica, Alimentum, and Home Again: Essays and Memoirs from Indiana, and he’s the author of the poetry collection To the Refrigerator Gods, published by Seven Kitchens Press in 2011.
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