the hard to shop fors

The Best Gifts for Chefs, According to 24 Chefs and Restaurant Owners

Find a gift so good, they’ll throw their brussels sprouts in the air. Photo: John Dominis/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty

Finding the perfect holiday gift can be maddening — is this the color they’d want? Is it something they already have? Is it so last year? — but really, once you have a sense of a person’s taste, it’s not impossible. This season, we’ll be talking to members of various tribes to find out exactly what to get that golf dad, teacher, or expecting mom in your life. Think of it as a window into their brain trust — or at least a very helpful starting point.

Even if you think of yourself as handy in the kitchen, it can be hard to find a gift for a chef or serious home cook. You don’t want to give them something they already have — no one needs two Vitamix blenders in their home kitchen — but you also want to find them something that they’ll actually use, which is easier said than done. After all, chefs often have exacting standards, with refined preferences for salt, knives, and even vegetable peelers and storage containers. So to point you in the right direction, we surveyed over 20 chefs, including James Beard Award-winners and Michelin star holders, about the kitchen items that are on their holiday wish lists this year.

Japanese Copper Tamagoyaki Omelette Pan
$31 at Amazon

“I really want a copper tamagoyaki pan,” says Craig Koketsu, executive chef of Quality Branded, the restaurant group behind Quality Meats and Quality Italian. “I’m really into making omelettes right now, and this pan allows you to roll a perfect omelette that’s evenly filled from end to end.”

Breville BJE430SIL The Juice Fountain Cold
$180 at Amazon

Chad Shaner, executive chef at the Wild Son, is hoping for a nice juicer this year. “I’m usually on the run in the morning,” he explains, “and if I don’t start my day healthy, it snowballs throughout the day. I’m not drinking this month, so I’ve replaced my shift drink with a kale, green apple, ginger, orange, and matcha juice.”

Joyce Chen 51-0220, Unlimited Scissor, Red
$19 at Amazon

“These scissors are small and sharp enough to do fine tasks like cutting herbs, but they are also strong enough to go through fish bones, lobster shells, and chicken backs,” says Mike Reilly, chef de cuisine at NoMad New York. And though scissors don’t seem like the most exciting gift, for a serious home cook, they’ll definitely come in handy, since Reilly insists, “I use these scissors as much as any other tool in the kitchen.”

Microplane 48060 Spice Mill Grater
$20 at Amazon

“Everyone at MeMe’s uses this Microplane spice grinder,” says co-owner Bill Clark. “Behind the bar it’s how nutmeg goes on our classic punch, I use it for baking, and Libby uses it the kitchen. Honestly we are not gadget people, [but] this is worth making space for (though it’s not big!).”

Magnus Design Natural Stone Mortar & Pestle, Natural Carrera
$90 at Food52

According to Marco Canora, the chef at Hearth and Zadie’s Oyster Room, as well as the creator of Brodo, every kitchen needs a mortar and pestle: “The mortar and pestle is one of the oldest kitchen tools in existence today — to my mind it speaks to the connection of food and medicine. Our pharmacological approach to medicine was born from these devices. Pulverizing herbs or spices right before use them enhances [their] flavor and nutrient value dramatically,” he adds.

Bioexcel Corn Grinder
$29 at Amazon

“I found out about this simple, small tool from Alice Medrich’s cookbook Flavor Flours,” admits Camille Cogswell, pastry chef at Zahav in Philadelphia. It’s a nut grater, which “clamps to the side of a table. You put your nuts or seeds through the hopper on top, and then you use the hand-crank to process them through a rotary grater, and out comes your own freshly-milled nut flour,” making it a great gift for the gluten-intolerant baker or Middle Eastern-inspired chef in your life. And though she’s got her eye on a vintage rotary nut grater, there’s also a modern version available.

Ralph Lauren Home Metropolis Decanter
$195 at Neiman Marcus

Mario Carbone, managing partner at Major Food Group, which owns and operates Carbone, The Grill, and Dirty French, among several other restaurants, wants some new glassware. “Ralph Lauren came out with these gorgeous art deco, old-world bar wares. They are a must-have for your next Gatsby party,” he says. “At The Grill, we use similar crystal decanters to keep our premixed martinis in the freezer and serve them into a frozen glass at the perfect temperature,” which is also a good holiday entertaining trick.

Baccarat Harmonie Crystal Triple Old-Fashioned Glasses, Set of Two
$370 at Neiman Marcus

Edward Lee, culinary director at Succotash in Washington, D.C., would also like some nice glassware, specifically these old-fashioned crystal glasses from Baccarat, “because after a long day in the kitchen, my favorite thing is hanging out in comfy slippers and having a bourbon.”

Sigma Power ‘Select II’ Sharpening Stone with Aluminum Mounting
$72 at Amazon

Richard Ho, chef-owner of Ho Foods in Manhattan’s East Village, wants some sharpening stones for his knives: “Either the Sigma Power Select II sharpening stones, or the Debado Splash and Go sharpening stones. No matter how long or short the work day is, there’s always something calming about sharpening knives at the end of a night. By no means am I a stone expert, but these are the ones at the top of my list right now.”

Mabel Home Paella Pan and Paella Burner
$200 at Amazon

Mike Lata, chef and owner of FIG and The Ordinary in Charleston, South Carolina, wants a paella burner. “It’s a very compact unit that’s lightweight, portable, and super easy to clean,” he says, assuring us that it’s a more practical gift than you might think. “If you want to have an impromptu dinner party and you only have rice, vegetables, and some meat, you can easily impress a crowd.”

Thai Fruit and Soap Carving Knife
$52 at Amazon

Uncle Boons co-owner and chef Matt Danzer wants this Thai fruit carving set, says his co-chef and co-owner (and wife) Ann Redding. “He recently has been learning the art of Thai fruit-carving from my mother,” she explains.

Wine Enthusiast Silent 48 Bottle Double Door Dual Zone Wine Refrigerator
$699 at Wine Enthusiast

“I’d love a new small wine refrigerator. I just got back from Napa and need somewhere to put all the wines I just bought,” says Matt Hyland, chef and co-owner of EMILY and Emmy Squared. “I’ve got my eye on the Wine Enthusiast 48 Bottle Wine Refrigerator,” which is on the expensive side, but it’s a brand of wine refrigerator that’s favored by many sommeliers and beverage directors.

Vitamix A3500 Ascent Series Smart Blender
$550 at Amazon

“Right now, I’m really into the new Vitamix Ascent,” says Brandon Jew, chef and owner of Mister Jiu’s in San Francisco, California. “I like the blender’s timer, which is built right in. The auto functions are great, too.”

Estela
$23 at Amazon

“We have a huge cookbook collection that we’re pretty proud of, and cookbooks are usually all that we ask for during the holidays,” explain Scott Tacinelli and Angie Rito, the husband-and-wife chefs and owners of Don Angie. They add, “We skipped a wedding registry when we got married and asked for cookbooks, too.” Two books top their list this year: “A Very Serious Cookbook, by Fabian von Hauske and Jeremiah Stone, a chef duo that has always inspired us with their unique, artful dishes, and Estela, by Ignacio Mattos, as Estela has been our favorite restaurant in the city for a very long time.”

Matty Matheson: A Cookbook
$21 at Amazon

Riad Nasr, co-chef and co-owner of Frenchette, also has a bunch of cookbooks on his wish list this year. “There is essential reading coming out of Canada,” he says. “First and foremost, the late great John Bil’s Ship to Shore,” which pulls back the curtain on the commercial fishing industry to help both home cooks and professional chefs make better seafood decisions. Joe Beef: Surviving the Apocalypse, from the Montreal restaurant of the same name, is “really a celebration of life and community,” says Nasr, calling it “inspired work from the most talented collective I know. And Matty Matheson’s cookbook is as infectious and fun as he is.”

Stone The Chef’s Notebook
$23 at Borough Kitchen

Henry Lu, executive chef at Loosie’s Kitchen in Williamsburg, keeps a notebook with him at all times: “Whether I am walking through the market or working on recipes in the kitchen, if I get an idea I need somewhere to jot it down.” And this chef’s notebook is pretty hardcore, since it’s both waterproof and greaseproof. “I’ve ruined so many notebooks while working in the kitchen,” says Lu, “and this one really holds up. I don’t have to worry about that one sauce getting onto my pages and ruining everything.”

Galen Leather Leuchtturm1917 A5 Notebook Cover - Crazy Horse Brown
$65 at Amazon

Kevin Adey, chef-owner of Bushwick’s Faro and General Deb’s, has his eye on the A5 notebook cover from Galen Leather, which fits over his Leuchtturm notebook: “They are a combination of worn leather and just the right amount of pockets so your journal doesn’t get too bulky but you still have room for essentials.” (The brand also makes leather notebook covers for Moleskine notebooks and the Strategist-approved Hobonichi Techo.)

ChefSteps Joule Sous Vide, 1100 Watts, All White
$179 at Amazon

Preeti Mistry, author of the Juhu Beach Club Cookbook, has a slightly more tech-y item on her wish list. “I have some ideas I want to play around with on a home sous vide machine,” she says. “I’m not big on modernist cuisine, but I do think a sous vide machine’s interesting when it serves a purpose.”

Ambrosia Lazy Susan
$260 at Coming Soon

“I care deeply about building community, and to me that begins around a table,” says Camilla Marcus, owner of all-day café west~bourne. She adds that in both the restaurant and her own home, “communal dining and gathering is central to taking care of others and providing a space that feels like home. There’s no better way to connect as humans than sharing a family-style meal, which epitomizes the spirit of the holidays.” That’s why she’s asking for this marbled concrete lazy Susan from Canadian designer Concrete Cat. “I love this piece as a clever retro throwback with a naturally-inspired, high-design edge, serving as a unique centerpiece and hopefully a conversation starter to bring people together.”

Murray’s Cheese: The French Connection
$135 at Murray’s Cheese

Nobu 57 executive chef Matt Hoyle has a slightly more practical — and edible — wish list: “I live in New York City, so no room for more pans, knives, or KitchenAids. I want something to eat. Cheese, for example. A nice selection from Murray’s would do the trick. Half a Stilton, big wedge of Parm, Montgomery’s Cheddar, a triple creme and a Raclette to melt, a bit of something soft and goat-y.” Or, if you don’t want to choose, Murray’s also offers some pre-selected gift sets, like this one that’s got funky Roquefort, nutty Comte Saint Antoine, and a goat bucheron.

Tribute Tea Genmaicha, 100 Grams
$13 at Tribute Tea

Michele Goldsmith, executive pastry chef at both Nobu 57 and Nobu Downtown, agrees with Hoyle that edible gifts are best, but she’d like some tea. “Tribute Teas supply the ceremonial-grade matcha which we use in our green tea ice cream, and generally carry the best-quality Japanese teas we’ve found,” she says, noting that the Genmaicha and the matcha are her two favorites.

Brighter Blooms Improved Meyer Lemon Tree
$50 at Amazon

Or, you can give the gift of fruit all year round. Greg Baxtrom, chef and owner of Olmsted in Brooklyn says, “I love growing citrus at Olmsted, and I currently have a few citrus plants in my apartment. Surprisingly, they’re doing really well, but Meyer lemons are awesome, and I would love to have a small tree in my place.” And lucky for us all, Amazon now ships live plants — including Meyer lemon trees.

The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best women’s jeans, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, ultra-flattering pants, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.

Every editorial product is independently selected. If you buy something through our links, New York may earn an affiliate commission.

The Best Gifts for Chefs, According to 24 Chefs