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Wednesday, April 9, 2008

A Cook’s Best Friend

Local chefs talk tools

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A chefwithout tools is no chef at all, but merely a cave man who discovered the advantage of cooking with fire. Yes, some chefs will tout their self-sufficiency and creativity and their utter lack of dependence on kitchen utensils, but throw a furry carcass at their feet and observe what mere hands can do. As we have evolved, so have the tools we use to prepare our meals. Fire is contained; it’s temperature controllable. Sharpened stone is now sharpened steel. Ten Milwaukee chefs give credit where credit is due, and tell us about their favorite kitchen utensils.

Marc Bianchini, head chef: Osteria del Mondo “I love making homemade pasta, so it would have to be my pasta sheeter to roll out the pasta dough. It’s from Phase II Pasta Machines, which imports it from an Italian company called Imperial.”

John Chitko, head chef: Yaffa Restaurant & Lounge “My CD player. I like to jam out to music when I’m cooking. You get a good song on and you can get into a groove. Good music means good cooking.”

Jason Gorman, head chef: Dream Dance Restaurant “My Masahiro, a single-sided carving steel knife.”

Tatsuya Goto, head chef: Izumi’s Japanese Restaurant “His Masamoto sushi knife,” says Fujiko Yamauchi, owner of Izumi’s and Goto’s partner. “He’s been using the same knife for 10 years. He has other knives, but that knife is his main knife. He sharpens it on a Japanese sharpening stone a few times a week. A sharp knife is a major player in cutting fresh fish, because some of the fish have very strong muscles. Otherwise you end up smashing the meat.”

Peggy Magister, head chef: Crazy Water “A really good knife sharpener. Chefmate is a good brand that you can buy at a grocery store and it works really well. This one might be a Chefmate, but I can’t read the handle anymore because I’ve used it so much.

Shawn Monroe, executive chef: Mader’s “When it comes to being a chef, you have to have the best knife. If you don’t have that, you’re nothing. It’s what makes a chef. I’ve always prized my knife—it’s sharp, it’s ready. Also, the Chinese mandoline is awesome. It’s really interesting. It’s a very thin mandoline from which you can get really, really ultra-thin cuts.

Peter Sandroni, executive chef: La Merenda “I love my Japanese mandoline-style vegetable slicer by Benriner. We use it here to make french fries and salads. You can make chips with it and scalloped potatoes. I use it for everything. It’s easy to use, it’s versatile; you can take the blade out. It’s great.”

Manjit Singh, head chef: Mayura “My chef’s knife. I can use it for multiple purposes, to cut small things or big things. If you have a good knife, you can make anything.”

Dan Van Rite, sous chef: Hinterland Gastropub “My tongs. I use them the most because they’re so handy to grab everything with. I also like my Microplane zester to finely grate ginger or garlic.

Jarvis Williams, head chef: Carnevor “We have an infrared broiler that gets up to 1,600 degrees. It’s flash cooking, so it gives beef an immediate sear that locks in the flavors right away by trapping the juices. As soon as they redistribute, it’s time to go to town. Then, also, my favorite tools are my co-workers. They’re my favorite and best tool.”