Features on StarChefs    

tools of the trade
What's in your Toolbox?

issue #4
The Hottest Kitchen Equipment of 2007

By Heather Sperling and Tejal Rao
December 2007

Seiji Yamamoto of Ryugin in Tokyo blew our minds with a lemon verbena and mint iced tea at the International Chefs Congress: as he poured the liquid into the chilled cocktail glass, it turned to slush at room temperature. It didn’t make sense until he explained the “Magiquoal” refrigerator, an insulator that has the technology to keep liquids liquid even at below-freezing temperatures. Once agitated, or even poured, the liquid turns into a solid – except it’s not really solid, it’s a “freezy” as Japanese TIT Consulting Inc (the makers of the product) have christened it. This magic trick, which holds liquids as low as -6°C, will cost you 472,500 yen. To speak to a representative, call 011-81+3-3723-8586.

Playing with the Smoking Gun at the International Chefs Congress
Playing with the Smoking Gun at the International Chefs Congress

The Smoking Gun
Katsuya Fukushima of Café Atlantico used a smoking gun this year to trap smoke tableside for diners. Conclusive evidence (from Fukushima himself) suggests that he bought his at a head shop in Washington DC, where a similar tool built for smoking, oh let’s say tobacco, functions like so: a small handheld gun with a pipe bowl burns the desired material as an internal fan sucks the air from the bowl into a barrel with the power of two AA batteries (not included) rather than your lungs. Ken Oringer played with a more sophisticated version of the same tool, one built especially for chefs by Polyscience (in collaboration with Grant Achatz of Alinea), at the International Chefs Congress, but it’s still in its prototype phase. Early next year chefs can order it directly from the company website for $50. Until then, practice with an even cheaper version to heighten your diners’ sensory experience.

Hobart SlicerHobart Slicer 3000
In kitchens where pastry shares the slicer with garde manger, this slicer will be especially coveted: the blade comes off easily and goes in the dishwasher. The bottom of the machine, which lifts with a lever, means you can clean the crumbs too (let’s not argue about who left them there, gardemanger). Hobart’s latest model Select-A-Stroke™ technology means that you can choose the stroke length based on the diameter of the product (which wouldn’t be the same for ultra thin rounds of zucchini as it would the widest part of an iberico ham) – this means higher productivity and no wasted motion.

Kendal Duque flexes his FlexiCold drawer at Sepia in Chicago
Kendal Duque flexes his FlexiCold drawer at Sepia in Chicago
Randell FX Series
Randell’s “FlexiCold” refrigeration system has a series of separately controlled drawers that can be switched from refrigerator to freezer, or set anywhere between – and new additions to the old form include a blast chiller setting and a thawing system. Space is a luxury in the kitchen; these multi-temp drawers help maximize it.

Don’t be put off by its infomercial-like website: if the Vita Prep is the tough loveable Mr T of the kitchen, then the Thermomix is its smart resourceful MacGyver. With only a steel bowl and single blade, the Thermomix can weigh, grate, blend (while heating!), steam, whisk, emulsify, hold tempered chocolate, and probably, if you learn its intuitive interface, use a paper clip and duct tape to bend the security laser sensor that monitors Daniel’s white truffle safe. The clever little machine is only the size of a drip coffee maker, and has been a staple in European kitchens for years now for making hollandaise, custards, and the like. It’s not available yet in America but you can get it shipped from the UK. Of course, genius has its price: a Thermomix will run you 752 pounds, or about $1500.

Bamix Wand Mixer
It’s a stick…it’s a blender…it’s a blender you can stick in things! This tool is by no means new or revolutionary, but it is damn handy, and it just so happens that we’ve heard many a chef proclaiming their love as of late. It’s a quicker clean than a blender, it gives you hand-held texture control, it’s perfect for frothing (and everyone knows that froth was this year’s foam).

F Dick Sausage Stuffer
Chris Lee of Gilt loves his F Dick Sausage Stuffer, and his bratwurst is one of the best of its kind. F Dick has been helping chefs hand-stuff their sausage for over 100 years, and with more and more interest house-made charcuterie, these aren’t going out of style anytime soon. Nor will they break down – this is one sturdy, and pricey, hand-pumped piece of stainless steel sausage machinery.

Confectionary GuitarConfectionary Guitar Cutter
Pastry chefs with a penchant for confections covet guitar cutters. They’ll cost you, but will save enormous amounts of time, not to mention make cuts clean enough to make an OCD-type’s heart flutter. Says Pastry Chef Meg Galus of Tru: “I love my confectionary guitar – lately I’ve taken to looking around the kitchen for things to cut into perfect little squares, just because I can…” And with sweet techniques being integrated into savory, a la Sam Mason and Pichet Ong, it has the potential to be a favorite tool of both sides of the kitchen.