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Professional chefs and industry pros regularly get to work with top-of-the-line kitchen equipment, but when they’re in their own homes, you may be surprised to find that many of their go-to tools are accessible and inexpensive. Here’s what is in the arsenal of a dozen of Indy’s most influential women in food—along with some tips to help set you up for culinary success.
ERIN KEM, EXECUTIVE CHEF
AT SCARLET LANE GASTROPUB
“My favorite kitchen tool is my 10-inch cast iron skillet. It’s sturdy, it holds heat well, it doesn’t warp, I can cook with it on the stovetop, in the oven, and even the fire pit—I use it for sweets as much as savories. My grandmother gifted me her mother’s OLD unmarked skillet, and that’s when I fell in love with cast iron. My husband and I could open a small cast iron boutique with the pieces we’ve collected!
Lodge is my go-to brand; it’s super affordable and lasts forever if it’s taken care of—hell, ones that HAVEN’T been taken care of can be revived with some TLC! Here’s a picture of a cherry clafoutis that I baked in my skillet recently.”
JANINE BOOTH, TOP CHEF ALUM AND CO-OWNER OF ROOT & BONE INDY
“I love to make pizza in my restaurants and at home! Throwing together flour, yeast, water, salt and olive oil and seeing it rise into soft and doughy perfection brings me so much joy! The best way to get that crunchy wood-fired base, chewy bubbly crust, and perfectly gooey top is with an inexpensive pizza stone. Place the pizza stone in your cold oven and preheat it to 450-500 degrees for pizza, or lower for other breads.”
ERIN GILLUM, EXECUTIVE CHEF AT SPOKE & STEELE
“Secret weapon and ‘must have’ in the kitchen? An extremely sharp knife! I use the Japanese Mac Knife, which is my favorite, but that is just a personal preference. It’s really about the edge and sharpness of the blade. Along with the knife, you MUST, MUST, MUST have a sharpening stone—I use an oil stone. Everyone can buy a new sharp knife, but it is no good if you don’t know how to keep the edge clean and slick! Dull knives are dangerous and inefficient. Stay safe with the right tools and knowledge to keep them like new!”
TWINKLE VANWINKLE, EXECUTIVE CHEF OF THE PATACHOU FOUNDATION
“Well, there isn’t just one tool I like the best. But there are two that I can’t really do without. One is a Microplane. It’s funny that this woodworking tool became one of the most coveted tools in the kitchen. You can get it in different sizes, too. Now that it is more popular for chefs and home cooks for cooking and baking, it’s easily found where you shop for that kind of stuff. When I first got one—one of my dads gave it to me as a gift—years ago in the late ’90s or early ’00s. Most people did not use them and were still grating away on a box grater or using a zester. (And those both have their worth, so I’m not hating on them.) But it was a life-changer how easily I could zest a lemon peel or fresh nutmeg or other things like that. It will definitely take the skin off your knuckles, so beware of that.
The second is a Lazy Susan. Is that capitalized? Should be, because it is worth the accolades. Mine is square, it’s about a 2-foot by 2-foot handmade one my granddad made out of plywood for my grandmother when she was elbows deep in the wedding cake era of her life. I had to make a place to store it in my kitchen because of its size. But not only is it worth the ease and accuracy during cake making, there is just the total nostalgia wrapped up in it as well. It’s definitely not pretty, but it is beautiful to me. Look for a lazy Susan that is at least a foot across for good balance and that turns very smoothly. Make sure to test them out before you purchase if possible. Any little bumps in the turning will create an unleveled cake or uneven icing.”
CANDACE BOYD WYLIE, CHIEF FOODIE & SPICE SLANGER OF FOODLOVETOG
“The one piece I can’t live without and will absolutely stand on is a heavy-bottomed pot, aka the Dutch oven. I’m partial to the Le Creuset brand, but I’ve got others in my kitchen arsenal, too. What I love about them is their ease of use and they can literally do it all: Braising, baking and frying. They also conduct heat well and are pretty easy to keep clean.”
JORDAN JUSTICE, PASTRY CHEF AT KING DOUGH INDY AND OWNER OF JAJUSTICEBAKES
KINGDOUGHPIZZAS.COM, @KINGDOUGHINDY, @JAJUSTICEBAKES
“My most beloved kitchen staple is the bench knife: I love how versatile it is and I always have one on hand. Any tool that can go from cutting butter to smoothing icing on a cake and then helping to clean up any messes left on the table afterwards is always going to rank high in my book!”
RELATED: 11 OF INDY’S MOST RESPECTED WOMEN IN FOOD SHARE THEIR FAVORITE RECIPES
ALISON KEEFER, CO-OWNER OF THE GALLERY PASTRY SHOP
“One of my top kitchen items is my propane torch; it has opened a whole other world of possibilities with dishes. Our brûléed Tulip Tree Trillium croissant is a best seller and you can easily make it at home with a slice of Trillium cheese and some sugar: Just torch your sugar until it caramelizes (melts) on top of the cheese. You can also do this with fruit—the possibilities are endless! If you want to look into getting your own torch, you can purchase the TS4000 Bernzomatic Trigger, and you just attach it to a propane tank that you can get from any hardware store or camping section.”
TAWANA GULLEY, CHEF, CATERER AND FOOD VLOGGER AT BLACK BOWE BISTRO & BAKERY
“My favorite go-to kitchen utensil, hands down, is my T-Fal Professional Nonstick Fry Pan with Thermo-Spot Heat Indicator. I purchased this little beauty from Costco and I absolutely love it! It heats up quickly and evenly, it’s non-stick, and it’s so easy to clean after use.”
BETH BELANGE, PROMOTIONS DIRECTOR AT SUN KING BREWERY & SPIRITS
“I love making cocktails, so a quality cocktail shaker is a must-have at my house. Since I have been social distancing and doing Zoom house parties with my gal pals, I’ve been using my shaker to whip up a Pachangarita or two for myself —they’re made with Sun King Pachanga Mexican-Style Lager. If you want to go all out and make a pitcher’s worth, here’s the recipe. Cheers!”
RUCHI SHAH, PLANT FORWARD PERSONAL CHEF AND FOOD PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE TIFFIN KITCHEN
“My favorite piece of equipment right now is a French press—mine is from Bodum. I had no idea how versatile it is, and I honestly don’t use it for coffee often. I have used it to make almond milk, brew tea, and even whip cream. It’s such a great tool to have!”
ASHLEY R. BROOKS, CULINARY CURATOR & CONSULTANT AND CO-FOUNDER OF INDY WOMEN IN FOOD
AROSEINDY.COM, @A.ROSE.BROOKS, @INDYWOMENINFOOD
“For me, the tool I use almost daily is my Silpat nonstick baking mat. I use it all of the time, and it especially comes in handy baking cookies, roasting potatoes or making fudge. You can even knead dough and form your loaf on it. Pro tip: Never cut anything on your silicone baking mat—you’ll never make that mistake twice!”
MANDY SELKE, CO-OWNER OF JUST POP IN!
“My favorite and most used kitchen tool is the mandoline slicer. Although hand-chopping is my therapy, I love the mandoline to quickly and evenly slice. I have been pescatarian for nearly 30 years and prepare vegetarian or vegan cuisine about 98 percent in my home—my veggies love the mandoline technique! My mandoline is a little handheld that I purchased from Chef JJ’s a million years ago.”
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Stephanie Groves is an Indianapolis-based freelance writer whose go-to kitchen gadget is a handheld Chef’n citrus juicer that her mother-in-law gave her.