Good Food’s Holiday Gift Guide

We spoke to six L.A. chefs and sommeliers about their holiday gift recommendations for home cooks, so you didn't have to! Find out what the minds behind the City of Angels' hottest restaurants can't cook without.

Honestly, getting people the right gifts isn’t always easy or fun. But after chatting with a few a chefs around Los Angeles about their favorite kitchen tools, things are looking up. We’ve made a list of gift recommendations from some friends, sure to make the amateur chef in your life feel like a pro. Don’t worry; we don’t care if you’ve been naughty or nice.

Good Food’s “Good Gifts” of 2017:

Taylor Parsons, sommelier. Hearth & Hound, formerly of Republique.

Sommelier Taylor Parsons

Taylor Parsons pops a lot of bottles. But getting cork in your wine is never a treat. The Durand wine opener is perfect for older wines with more fragile corks. The innovative design supports the cork’s infrastructure while allowing users to twist it out of the bottleneck. The patent-protected system was engineered by wine collector Mark Taylor after years of struggling to extract older corks intact. Along with this device, Parsons touts a magnum of champagne just as highly. Casual.

 

Johnny Zone, head chef at Howlin’ Rays.

 

Howlin’ Ray’s chef Johnny Zone
Cast iron skillet by Flickr user Chiot’s Run

Zone says a quality cast iron skillet is essential to every home kitchen. The more you use them, the more seasoned the pans become, infusing your food with an unparalleled depth of flavor. So in theory, it’s a gift that keeps on giving (you great meals), and they make your dishes look impressively rustic. Pictures of your food are bound to get as much social media love as Howlin’ Rays at 11 am on any given Saturday. These pans are widely available anywhere kitchen supplies are sold, not to mention the occasional yard sale.

Food Network stove dutch ovens.

Another Zone recommendation comes from his wife’s arsenal. Recently the couple purchased a stove top dutch oven, and now Zone says they can’t live without it: “You can make chicken soups by searing off things and covering them with a broth. You can also braise things in the oven because [the pots] can hold the heat really, really well.”

For stocking stuffers, Zone suggested mini-strainers and tongs as a couple of budget friendly ideas.

Diep Tran, chef and owner at Good Girl Dinette.

Good Girl Dinette’s chef Diep Tran.

Holiday gift giving doesn’t have to be sexy. Chef Diep Tran thinks it’s more about giving presents with boundless utility. This is why she recommended two items that she uses and finds to be valuable time-savers in a home kitchen.

The first is an Instant Pot. Recently, Tran gifted one of these programmable, multi-use pressure cookers to a friend to make daily cooking easier.

Chef Tran’s second recommendation is a pair of long wooden chopsticks. These babies don’t melt. They help plate your dishes and are versatile utensils. Why not go the extra mile and have them personalized?

Zach Pollack, chef and owner at Alimento, Cosa Buona, Sotto.

Zach Pollack, chef and owner of Alimento, Cosa Buona, and Sotto.

 

Baking Steel griddle fits most stovetops.

Chef Zach Pollack immediately answered “Baking Steel griddle,” when asked which kitchen items he’s giving to others this year. “You can use it on the barbecue, on the stovetop, or use it as a pizza stone,” he says. Pollack also says he fries eggs on these griddles  just for fun.

 

Japanese mortar & pestle by Flickr user Lil’ Dee.

 

Pollack’s name is associated with wonderfully spiced flavors and his thoughtful use of herbs. Creating these flavor profiles wouldn’t be possible without a Japanese mortar and pestle. The ridges in the mortar bowl efficiently pulverize herbs, making it easy to add new dimensions to your dishes.

 

Nyesha Arrington, chef and owner of Native.

  • Microplane. Major retailers. $9.95 to $15
  • Antique silver spoons. Flea markets. Prices vary.
Chef Nyesha Arrington by Jake Ahles.
Photo of microplane “ginger snow” by Flickr user Kid Missile.

When describing what she finds most versatile in the kitchen, Arrington explains that a “beautiful microplane” is one of the easiest ways to impart delicate flavor notes to dishes. She says microplanes are essential at her restaurant, Native: “We do this thing where we salt and dehydrate radishes and use a microplane to grate them. It essentially becomes a radish salt.”

 

Antique spoons by Flickr user Alison H.

Another thoughtful suggestion from Arrington requires a little hunting. Digging through crates of silverware at a flea market might not sound appealing to everyone, but for treasure hunters, it’s a chance to score a unique and cherished item. Antique silver spoons will frequently go for 10-for-$10 at most markets. Chef Arrington recommends spending the time to find someone a special gift with a lot of character to personalize their kitchen.

 

Roy Choi, ‘a.k.a. Holiday season papi,’ chef and owner at Kogi, Chego, Locol, Pot, Pot Pizza, A-Frame.

Chef Roy Choi by Travis Jensen.

Roy Choi cooks every single day, at one or more of his many LA eateries. This year he recommends keeping it simple when shopping for home cooks looking to work on their craft.

Photo by Flickr user Marco Verch.

In particular, he’s a champion of the humble wooden spoon. Choi says, “If I’m going to give a kitchen utensil, I love giving you something you can use all the time.” Wooden spoons are suitable for everyday use and are easily customized. Secondhand spoons can also make especially personal and meaningful presents.