Atlanta chefs dish up holiday gift ideas for the home cook

How’s the holiday shopping going for you? If you’re trying to cross off the names on your ‘nice’ list and are stuck on what to buy for the cook in your life, some of Atlanta’s best chefs have a few ideas for you.

We asked top toques around town to tell us the cooking implement that can’t live without. A mortar and pestle get the majority vote, but, says this group of seasoned chefs, there’s also nothing like a cast-iron pan, a trusty tasting spoon, Vitamix or Instant Pot to save the day.

My mortar and pestle. My kitchen wouldn’t function without it. I usually work with whole spices and need my mortar and pestle to grind my spices. Yes, I do it the old-fashioned way – no electric spice grinders for me. My daily dose of chai needs freshly ground cardamom.

Asha Gomez, founder, The Third Space and cookbook author, "My Two Souths"

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

My essential gadget is a good scale, preferably one that reads to .00 grams. It gives me an efficient way to document new recipes and ideas while being able to cook freely, instead of tediously measuring things by tablespoons, cups, etc. And, it allows my cooks to be consistent in replicating recipes and gives them the highest chance of success. For any creative home cook, it is essential to document what you do, so that in those times where you strike gold with a new recipe, you have the most accurate way to replicate it over and over.

Brian So, chef-owner, Spring 

Credit: Yvonne Zusel

Credit: Yvonne Zusel

I always say a wooden spoon of great quality – and a food mill.

Billy Allin, chef-owner, Bread & Butterfly

Credit: Yvonne Zusel

Credit: Yvonne Zusel

My favorite tool by far is my Vitamix. I make breakfast smoothies every day with lots of additives, such as matcha, peanut powder, whey protein, antioxidants, açai, veggies and fruit because, during the day, I seldom sit down and eat. What I eat is often not a meal; I count on breakfast being good for me.

Ian Winslade, chef-owner Mission + Market

Credit: Mia Yakel

Credit: Mia Yakel

My gadget is my pilón, a mortar and pestle made out of a caoba tree from Puerto Rico. I use it to smash garlic, aromatics, spices and of course, to make mofongo. I have a smaller one made of stone I have used to make aioli. The pilon works great to make wet rubs into paste as well.

It’s essential to me because I can create great flavors to add to my food. It’s also essential because it’s a part of my culture. When I travel, I try to find some made out of local wood to add to my collection. I have a big one here at the restaurant which used to be my grandmother’s.

Andre Gomez, chef-owner, Porch Light Latin Kitchen 

Le Creuset terrine. I love cooking terrine, especially foie gras terrine. It’s essential for French cooking.

Remi Granger, executive chef, The Brasserie at Bazati 

My favorite kitchen gadget currently is my mini offset spatula. The tool of choice seems to change restaurant to restaurant based on specific demands of the job. I use my mini offset spatula to plate savory dishes as well as desserts. I also use it as a mini fish spatula. It fits perfectly in the hand or breast pocket. We chefs are trained not to use fingers to taste food, so it’s also a good sanitary extension of the hand. 

Daniel Chance, executive chef, Watchman's Seafood and Spirits 

Credit: Yvonne Zusel

Credit: Yvonne Zusel

My favorite tool right now is the Instant pot. It is essential for saving time. I work 12-hour days, and oftentimes, cooking needs to be fast for me when I get home. I love cooking dried beans and this tool is amazing for this. Or if I want to braise something, especially in colder weather, it is an incredible tool. 

Savannah Sasser, executive chef, The Expat 

There are two things that I have that are very precious to me.

I love plating and cooking spoons. I collect them. My favorite are Gary Kunz spoons or ones I find at antique stores. The different shapes allow me to plate differently and taste, as every cook should. Tasting at every step of adding something to whatever you are cooking is a very important step that some cooks forget to do. Being able to plate beautiful food you need a great spoon.

A mortar and pestle speak to my heritage – remembering and watching my mom using it to make sauces or grind up seasonings. It something that will never need replacing, and the more you use it, the more you are seasoning the mortar and bringing back flavors to whatever you are making. And, in your home kitchen, it’s a beautiful piece of art. It’s essential to how I cook because I can control how much of a grind I need for the dish I am preparing. 

Christian Perez, executive chef, City Pharmacy 

First: my chef knife that I use for almost all of my prep work. Second: my tongs (for) when I need to grab proteins in a hot skillet. Third: my whisk – for all my sauces. Last: my chef spoon for plating. It’s like my paintbrush, and the plate is my canvas. 

Scotley Innis, executive chef, 5Church 

Credit: Yvonne Zusel

Credit: Yvonne Zusel

The most durable and versatile tools I use are my cast-iron pans, or what my grandparents called a “Grizzwald.” Cast-iron pans are very efficient, as they hold a consistent temperature and are easily cleaned. They are very durable and can be handed down for generations as a family heirloom, of sorts. As far as gift ideas go, Lodge makes some really nice ones that I think anyone would love to receive. If you’re going for something even higher end, look into Staub cast-iron skillets from France.

Jeb Aldrich, executive chef, Tiny Lou's 


ExploreMust-buy food and cooking products
ExploreBest made in Georgia food and drink products
ExploreBoutique OTP shops offer unique edible gifts for the holidays
Explore5 gift ideas for kids who love to cook and bake
ExploreTry these metro Atlanta holiday cooking and baking classes
ExploreRead the 2018 AJC Fall Dining Guide: Dining on Buford Highway

Read more stories like this by liking Atlanta Restaurant Scene on Facebook, following @ATLDiningNews on Twitter and @ajcdining on Instagram.