When it comes to holiday shopping for a chef in your life (notoriously particular folk), it can be hard to know where to start—especially if you don’t know your boning knife from your bread knife. So to get some inspiration, we asked five prominent Boston toques to remember the best gift they’ve ever received. (Unsurprisingly, tools of the sharp-edged variety topped the list.) May it benefit your own epicurean elfing!
Adrienne Wright, executive chef, Boston Urban Hospitality (Deuxave, Boston Chops, dbar)
“Every year our kitchen does a Secret Santa gift exchange. There are some rules and regulations, of course, to keep things clean in the workplace, but everyone always pulls through in the end with the items that every professional chef—and home cook—should never be without. A new Y vegetable peeler, a mini offset spatula, and a new Microplane is the best way to elevate a foodie’s cooking experience for the year to come, and are the most coveted gifts each year in the Deuxave kitchen Secret Santa. More specifically, the best culinary gift I have ever been given is a seasoned cast iron pan from my colleague Maurizio Odermatt, a very talented German baker. It is a gift that keeps on giving for literally decades to come. And the best part of this gift was that it was not a new pan he simply purchased, but a lonely cast iron he found in the mix at a Salvation Army that he put in the time to clean up and lovingly season so that it had a place in our home kitchen.”
Steve DiFillippo, chef/owner, Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse (locations in Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania and Georgia)
DiFillippo recalls receiving a Big Green Egg, a ceramic Kamado-style charcoal grill, from his good friend Herb Chambers (of Herb Chambers car dealership fame), who left the grill on DiFillippo’s back patio as a surprise. It’s one of the the best gifts he’s ever received, he says, because it’s an incredibly versatile piece of equipment that can be used as a grill, oven or smoker—and he uses it often to cook at home and spend quality time with his family.
Doug Rodrigues, executive chef, North Square Oyster in Boston, Massachusetts
“The best gift that I can remember would have to be my first chef and paring knife. Simple gift, but it was more of what it meant to me than what it was. It was given to me by the first chef that I had worked for, Erik Stenfors. I guess he saw something in me that he thought had potential. I had worked with him for a few years at that time but I was still on my ‘I’m gonna be a professional skateboarder’ kick and hadn’t considered cooking to be my future. That was probably the first time that it had hit me that I could and wanted to take my culinary career seriously. It was an 8-inch steel Wusthof chef knife/paring knife. I thought it was the sickest!”
The best gift that I can remember would have to be my first chef and paring knife.
Robert Tobin, chef, TAMO Bistro + Bar in Boston, Massachusetts
About six years ago, Tobin was given a 270mm steel Glestain Sujihiki slicer as a Christmas present from the executive chef he was working for at the time. He says it’s one of his favorite tools that he uses it in the kitchen daily, as it cuts effortlessly through meat, poultry and vegetables, and is ideal for slicing fish filets. He notes that the dimples in the blade’s surface also reduce surface tension allowing for faster and more efficient cutting.
Jason Santos, chef/owner, Buttermilk & Bourbon, Abby Lane, Citrus & Salt, all in Boston, Massachusetts
“My fiancée Thuy gave me a Euro Garden last year for Christmas, for our kitchen. It’s the best because I can consistently grow herbs and small vegetables all year long with proper light.”