What chefs are exchanging for the gifts they really need
By Wil Crutchley

Photo by Michael Harlan Turkell www.harlanturk.com

Hooray, it’s finally the new year!! Those 16-hour work days in the food business have dwindled down to ten hours a day and two days off a week. With all of this excess time, I can finally refuel my batteries and go about tackling other pressing issues, namely what to do with the less than stellar gifts that I received over the holiday season.

My friends and family mean well with their gifts, but how many weenie roasters do I really need? And of course, I am not the only chef to succumb to tacky gifting. Tammy Fox, Executive Chef at Shiraz Catering in New York City, has also been the recipient of subpar gifting. She shared that her Mom this year gave to her quite literally the cheesiest gift she has received to date, a fondue set. “That fondue pot was a fon-don’t,” said Fox. “It reminded me of the 70’s; I am more of an 80’s-90’s girl.”

English Executive Chef and Owner, David Hart, at Desmond’s (Manhattan’s newest gastropub, opening early February 2011), says that he has received a number of thoughtless gifts, “A girlfriend’s mother once gave me a cookbook of all banana recipes. Banana is the only food I cannot eat – it makes my throat swell up and gives me a terrible rash!” It appears “Mummy” was sending David mixed messages with her gift…

Re-gifting is tacky and frankly, who has the space to spare, hoarding thoughtless recycled presents? So, once again, I will spend the first week in January liquidating my unwanted underwear, socks, Olive Garden gift cards, and yes, weenie roasters. With my new-found dough and the fact that most things will probably be 30-50% off at the stores, I have decided to go on a mini shopping spree, blowing my wad on all things chef related. Here is a list of my chefy must-haves for the post-holiday season.

Crocs ($40) – The official footwear of suburban weekend warriors happens to be the best shoe for chefs. What??? Try 16 hours of walking on hard, ceramic kitchen flooring without a break, you’ll understand why.
Crocs Flagship Store, 270 Columbus Avenue, NYC, 212.632.1655, www.crocs.com

Kitchen Aid KHB Immersion Blender ($49.99) – This portable pal does everything a standing blender does, but without the mess, fuss and cleanup. It’s the number-one lifesaving item in the chef’s toolkit.
Gracious Home, 1992 Broadway, NYC, 212.231.7800, www.gracioushome.com

MAC Knives, Chef Series ($32.50 – $130) – Speaking from experience, these affordable Japanese knives will be your chef’s favorite. Forged from durable, high-carbon stainless steel, they keep a sharp edge forever.
Korin, 57 Warren Street, NYC, 212.587.7021, www.korin.com

Chef’s Choice Electric Asian Knife Sharpener ($99.95) – Maintain your Japanese knife’s razor-sharp edge with little effort. Worry no more about sharpening with messy, cumbersome stones or pricy knife sharpening services. Williams Sonoma, 10 Columbus Circle, NYC, 212.765.0001, www.williams-sonoma.com

“Convert” iPhone App ($.99) – Working chefs are continuously converting weights, temperatures and lengths. This app converts every unit of measurement. This happens to be the most practical item in the list and the most affordable as well.
Apple, www.apple.com/iphone/apps-for-iphone

Chef Pak Backpack ($98) – A must for any chef on the go. Not only is there a section to keep one’s knives, but there is an area for a computer, uniform, cooking utensils, etc. Basically, every item recommended in this article will fit in the Chef Pak (with room to spare).
JB Prince 36 East 31st Street, NYC, 212.683.3553, www.jbprince.com

***To trade with Wil and swap your unwanted gifts for his weenie roaster you can reach him at www.wilcrutchley.com.