Food & Drink
8 Must-Have Kitchen Tools, According to Canada's Top Chefs
Home cooking game strong.
by : Aman Dosanj- Feb 8th, 2022
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We’ve been finding our way in the kitchen a whole lot more since the pandemic (whether we like it or not). From our everyday dilemmas to the uncertainties of lockdown and various restrictions, a little home cooking has nourished us, comforted us, and even kept us company. Together, we have baked, fermented, canned, bought a smoker, and hopefully, picked up a few tricks and tips along the way.
While no other industry has faced the challenges quite like the restaurant scene, our chefs have continually helped us with our cooking problems every step of the way. As we may be home cooking a wee bit longer, we asked eight of the country’s top chefs to open their knife rolls and tell us about their all-time favourite kitchen gadgets.
Food Network Canada Top Chef Canada fans may recognize Kym Nguyen from last year’s competition, where they crafted gorgeous plates reflective of their Asian and British background (with some French cooking fundamentals). Kitchen gadget-wise, the season 9 runner-up, former PiDGiN sous chef, and now a private chef based in Vancouver loves their Victorinox 6-inch offset spatula so much that they have two — one in their knife roll and one at home. “It’s easy-to-use, lightweight, compact, and so reliable,” Nguyen says. “I’ve been using this for over seven years. It’s usually used for cake decorating, but I think it’s the perfect fish spatula — you can get a good angle on it to pick up fish from a pan.”
Celeste Mah moved from Vancouver to St. John’s in 2014. As pastry chef at Raymonds Restaurant, Mah was recognized as Canada’s Best Pastry Chef in 2019. “My favourite kitchen tool to use both at home and work is my Iris Hantverk metal dough scraper,” she says. “I use it to cut and portion dough when making bread. But I also use it to scrape my cutting board or work surface. It is so versatile, and it helps me to keep [things] cleaner when working. Using the dough scraper to scoop up, say, diced onions or chopped garlic keeps your hands clean, and you don’t lose any. This tool isn’t in my knife roll, only because I make sure to have one at work and [one] at home!”
Como Taperia‘s top-notch Spanish tapas earned them the #2 spot on Canada’s Best New Restaurant list in 2019. Executive Chef Jacob Kent can’t imagine cooking without his Microplane grater/zester. “Whether I’m zesting lemon or nutmeg on our croquetas at Como [Taperia], [it] gives me the best results for building dressing and sauces or even a late-night bowl of cacio e pepe at home after work,” he shares. “The sharp stainless teeth can power through even the toughest of ingredients, [like] ginger, nuts and horseradish.”
Jamie Harling is the co-owner of Harling Food Co. (plus a firefighter). The former opening chef at Calgary’s Deane House left restaurant life behind to create a more just and sustainable food system. When he’s cooking, it’s all about the heat-resistant, stain-resistant and oh-so-pliable silicone spatula (or spoontula). “A mix of a spatula and spoon, it can do almost anything, [plus] they won’t damage or scratch-up pots or pans unlike metal or wooden cooking tools,” Harling says. “They are great for mixing, folding, and plating. And the sharp edge ensures you get every ounce of sauce out of your pot, pan or bowl, [helping reduce] food waste.”
When Siobhan Detkavich stepped onto the set of Food Network Canada’s Top Chef Canada last year, she made history as not only the youngest-ever contestant but also the first Indigenous woman to compete. Under Mission Hill Winery’s Terrace Restaurant, Detkavich discovered the magic of cake testers. Now, the versatile kitchen tool has a permanent spot in her knife roll. “I love using it to check the doneness of fish [and] vegetables,” she explains. “When I’m cooking meats, it’s great to give a poke to see [where its internal temperature] is!” Detkavich adds: “I love this little utensil almost as much as my offset [spatula] or my spoons.”
Cluck N’ Cleaver‘s Nicole Gomes is everywhere! Crowned Food Network Canada’s Top Chef Canada: All-Stars winner, Gomes is a regular competing judge on Firemasters and has recently beat Bobby Flay. For this chef, it’s all about a Vollrath trigger ice cream scoop (or disher), which has been their trusty sidekick for 27 years. Not just for scooping ice cream, “I use mine to portion meatballs, drop style biscuits or quick doughs, cookie dough, arancini, and it makes it super easy to portion out muffin batter into muffin tins,” says the chef. “The beauty of this tool is that it keeps things even [when it comes to] portion size and shape. An absolute must in any catering kitchen or any task that requires consistency and speed.”
Born in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Ross Larkin proved you don’t need culinary school papers to belong by taking home the Food Network Canada’s Top Chef Canada season 6 title. Working his way up from to head chef at Raymonds Restaurant, he is about to launch Portage with his co-chef and wife, Celeste Mah. “One kitchen tool that I find myself using and grabbing over and over again is a set of tweezers [from] Chinatown in Vancouver over 10 years ago,” Larkin shares. “I find that using tweezers is not as aggressive as tongs. It’s one of those tools that I find make sense for all kinds of jobs either at home or at work — I use them [for] taking pickles out of a jar, flipping bacon in a pan, [and] for platting dishes [at work].”
Over the years, Biera Restaurant in Edmonton has become quite the culinary destination thanks to the vision of their fire and sourdough-loving Executive Chef Christine Sandford. Having used a Benriner Japanese mandolin her entire 15-year career, ”It’s a great way to quickly prepare salads, veggies, quick pickles, and nice garnishes. It’s fast and consistent.” If you’re new to using a mandolin, Sandford has some solid advice: “I like to press down with the middle and palm of my hand on the item I am slicing, [applying] even pressure to run the item over the blade. This way, if you slip, it’s not going to cut your fingertips!”
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