The holidays are upon us, which means you're likely in a position in which you have to buy lots of things for lots of people. A decision with which you'll be faced: Will you buy things for the people on your list just to say you bought them something, or will you buy things that are super useful and won't be relegated to the re-gifting closet?
Kitchen gadgets and cooking accoutrement are — for most people and within reason — among the most useful gifts. And who's more qualified to dole out advice about the best kitchen things than people who work in them for a living? In that spirit, we asked a slew of local chefs to tell us what they'll be giving the people on their lists this holiday season. So, you can't cook like a chef, but we'll help you give like one.
Todd Richards — The Shed at Glenwood
"Letters to a Young Chef (Art of Mentoring) by Daniel Boulud. This is what I'm giving to all my cooks this year for the holidays. It is one of the best books for developing cooks and chefs."
"I'm into knives. For those who do a lot of butchering, a great knife is key. A buddy of mine, Dan Eastland, makes knives and has a great knife he calls the 'grizzly' that I love using when butchering, especially whole animals. Dan is a great guy making great blades. A custom-crafted blade made by a true artisan is a unique gift. Dan's website is www.dogwoodcustomknives.com."
Kevin Gillespie — Gunshow (2013)
• A box of ammo: Make sure you get the correct type for the recipient's weapon.
• A good hunting knife: Get a KA-BAR with a stag horn handle. Make sure it has a blood groove. That is key.
• A tactical flashlight: I recommend the Surefire E2D Defender. You can adjust the brightness.
(Gillespie's book Fire in my Belly is in stores now and his restaurant Gunshow opens in March 2013)
Joey Riley — Kaleidoscope Bistro & Pub
"The Ad Hoc at Home cookbook."
David Bradley — Lure
• A kitchen scale by OXO — good for baking, coffee, portion control, use it constantly.
• AeroPress coffee system — efficient, easy cleanup, strong coffee for one. Great for home or travel.
• A burr grinder for grinding coffee — makes a huge difference in your coffee. Having the right size grind and an equal grind for what kind of coffee you're brewing (french press vs. AeroPress vs. percolator vs. pour-over, etc.) can be the difference between a great cup and a bitter brew.
• Vitaprep blender — a splurge, but the best blender there is, bar none.
• Y-style vegetable peeler by Kuhn Rikon — good stocking stuffer.
• Bird's beak paring knife by Wüsthof — has a bright green handle and is less than $10. I use it daily at home. Cheap and sharp. Good stocking stuffer, too.
• CSA membership at a farm of your choice — support local food!
"The Edible Selby is my new fave. It's just a super-cool book which highlights all kinds of stuff going on in the food world. This is my gift of 2012."
Chad Clevenger — Alma Cocina
"A new knife, bourbon, tequila, Michelin Guide for New York City, Chicago, and San Francisco, dinner at Eleven Madison Park [in NYC], Kevin Gillespie's new book, Fire in My Belly, Jean Georges' cookbook Simple to Spectacular, Silpat [non-stick baking mats], edible panties, a meal from Alma Cocina."
John C. Metz — Marlow's Tavern
Craig Richards — Ecco
"I think what I would give would be the Faviken cookbook that just came out by Magnus Nilsson, a granite mortar and pestle — which is the only way to make pesto of aïoli — a serious pair of heavy rocks glasses for the aged Irish whiskey we'll probably share on Christmas day, and a cast iron skillet because it lasts for life."
Kevin Ouzts — The Spotted Trotter
• Grow-your-own herb setup
Virginia Willis — My Southern Pantry
"I love salts. I have my own in my product line, but I buy lots of others, too. My new fave and one I plan on giving for the holidays is this small collection [from Didi Davis]. Lots of great flavors and it's very affordable."