Chefs are, in a sense, a funny group of people to buy gifts for. Some have all the essentials they could possibly need already stocked at home, while others — if they really spend most of their time on the line — prefer to keep dinner to popcorn and a beer from the fridge. Also, the definition of what makes a professional has changed: It’s no longer just white-coat-wearing pros, but cookbook authors, recipe developers, and content creators who spend most of their time in the kitchen. No matter who you’re shopping for (and how much gear they already have), the following 35 gifts are special, unexpected, and truly useful items I’ve curated from years of talking to professionals about their own favorite items, as well as constantly cooking and vetting products myself.
I’ve sorted each of these ideas by price, so whether you’re only looking to spend $18 on a tin of stainless-steel book darts they can use to mark recipes in cookbooks, $40 on a (sexy, we daresay) Alessi citrus peeler, or go all out with a splurgy cheese delivery that will save them on nights they’re too tired to cook, I’ve got you covered. If you know your range, you can skip ahead to the corresponding section or browse everything from top to bottom.
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The Kuhn Rikon is truly a chef-standard kitchen tool, made with a super-sharp and long-lasting blade. One former prep cook even told us the tool was comfortable to hold while peeling multiple 50-pound boxes of potatoes in a sitting. If that’s not enough to convince you this utilitarian tool is special enough to give as a gift, know that it’s also the one used on the line at the French Laundry.
Preserved lemons are the kind of secret-weapon ingredient chefs know will liven up any dish — but in paste form, it’s even readier for experimentation (chef and writer Lauren Joseph, who introduced us to the condiment, even stirs some into drinks). Not to mention it comes in a very pretty jar for bonus giftability.
Some chefs are known for never cooking at home — but even if that’s the case, they still need hot sauce to drizzle on takeout. There’s no better duo for that job than Zab’s, a brand loved by Strategist staffers and pro cooks alike (the St. Augustine has a slightly sweeter edge than the Original, but both are vinegar-based without overpowering the heat of the chiles).
If they’re partial to chili crisp, consider this spicy, crispy condiment (it has less tingly spice than Fly by Jing and no fermented beans like Lao Gan Ma). I first spotted it in Carla Lalli Music’s kitchen earlier this year and recently had two other pro cooks tell me they can’t stop spooning it on top of nearly everything they eat because the crunch-to-oil ratio is so addictive.
A friend gave this to me as part of a care package a couple of years ago, and I found it to be the most unexpectedly delightful present — I now use them exclusively to mark recipes I’m interested in making in cookbooks. I used to do this with Post-its, which stuck out of the pages and made my dedicated shelf look like a mess, but the slim metal profile of these disappears.
If they’re not already in the know, this vanilla paste — which so many pro bakers and I both love — is made from a blend of actual pods and extract, so it’s seriously deep and rich but still easy to measure out. The company follows sustainable growing and fair labor practices, too.
These tiny blades bring serious snipping power, “strong enough to go through fish bones, lobster shells, and chicken backs,” says Mike Reilly, former chef de cuisine at NoMad New York. Still, they’re precise enough to delicately trim herbs, says me, an herb-obsessed home cook.
Opinel’s knives make great gifts because they don’t fall into the standard categories (chef’s, paring, bread) that a pro is likely to already own multiples of. If they’re into seafood, I think this one would make such a special present with its beautifully carved wooden handle and folding blade.
I’ve gifted Anthropologie ornaments many times over the years — they make great host gifts for anyone with a tree, and sometimes I like to wrap another present with one tied to the top. You can be very on-the-nose with this chef hat, or pick from the many other food-themed options they offer (seriously, it’s a joy to scroll through).
A real pro has likely heard of Kunz (the most common spoon chefs carry for tasting, basting, drizzling, and transferring food) — but Gestura’s take on the utensil is a relatively new, gorgeously designed version that has become one of my most prized kitchen utensils. It’s a bit smaller (one tablespoon instead of two and a half) for easy measuring, has a pointed tip for more precise pouring, and comes in stainless steel as well as gold.
A professional already knows that grinding whole spices fresh is the best way to make food taste next-level, and this supremely well-made electric grinder is the best on the market. It comes recommended by Burlap & Barrel founder Ethan Friske, who has pulverized so many spices in his day (because, you know, work) and says this one is standout for its swappable pods, sharp blades, one-button system, and adjustable grind size.
One of my own go-to gifts is olive oil because any cook — whether amateur or professional — will recognize the value of an actually delicious bottle they might not splurge on themselves. This one, which a wine-store owner describes as briny and complex, is made by producers in the southeast part of coastal Sicily who bring the same care to their olives as they do to their grapes.
For the chef who prides themselves on their French omelet technique, a tamagoyaki will inspire them to change things up (for rolled Japanese-style ones, or even for square sandwiches). Plus, the copper finish gives it a classy feel — like Mauviel, but a whole lot cheaper.
Not only does Diaspora Co. make some of the most ethically sourced, straight-up delicious spices on the market, but this package of a build-your-own pack makes a particularly personal gift. You can customize a box of three, six, nine, or 12 tins depending on what your recipient tends to cook with (though I will say, I love the Aranya Black Pepper, the most pungent and fruity-tasting variety I’ve ever tried).
If you feel overwhelmed by the idea of giving the chef in your life an appliance or tool because they have so many opinions about what is best, it can be nice to put your energy toward tableware instead. These beautiful hand-carved salad servers (that we heard about from cookbook author Odette Williams) will only get better with age.
A $40 orange peeler from Italian brand Alessi is the kind of gadget they likely wouldn’t buy for themselves — but that’s what makes it a perfect gift. The heavyweight metal object has a hook at the end that digs into the skin and pith so no gunk ends up underneath your fingernails, offering “a small revelation every time I use it,” cookbook author Fanny Singer says.
This novelty treat — as common as Hershey’s Kisses in Italy, but not so much here in America — is a dark-chocolate shell with an interior coated in sugar that’s filled with slightly sweetened espresso that bursts in your mouth. The pack comes with 12 boxes so you can gift all to the caffeine-addicted chef in your life or divvy them up among multiple people.
For a long time, the vinegars commonly found in the U.S. were mostly imported bottles in straightforward varieties — but several relative newcomers, including the expert-approved Acid League, have started making varieties with unexpected flavor profiles that might delight your chef recipient. This four-pack includes Meyer-lemon honey, garden heat (made with fresh tomato, celery, carrot, and jalapeño juices), strawberry rosé, and cabernet port.
This pitcher, recommended by recipe developer and food stylist Chloe Walsh, makes a great gift because when they’re not using it for water, they can set it out as a decorative object or use it as a vase for flowers. Enamel is especially lightweight and durable, too, so it’s ideal to pass around a big table full of dinner guests.
While they likely already own a salt cellar, chances are this one from one of our very favorite brands will be an improvement. It’s thoughtfully designed with a fluted stand that doubles as a second vessel for additional salt types or other spices, as well as a swivel top that magnetizes shut to keep dust and debris out.
These condiment bowls are a little extra (as in, they probably don’t need them) — but that’s what makes them such a great gift. I can tell you they get a lot of play in my kitchen, where they hold dollops of mustard and mayo, swabs of butter, pools of soy sauce, and spices I like to keep out on my counter.
If they’re a make-everything-from-scratch type, consider this industrial-looking tortilla press made by the same company that sells recipe developer and cookbook author Rick Martínez’s favorite masa. It has a large surface area and a tight calibration so they can play around with a range of sizes and thicknesses.
A beautiful handmade ceramic is a never-fail gift, and we especially love this coiled fruit bowl from designer Virginia Sim (that might also help them avoid scurvy). I own the small size and love to fill it with limes on my bar cart or garlic on my counter (it really just looks so dang pretty), but the medium will fit larger produce.
Pick your recipient’s favorite spot to eat (when they’re not working) and give them one of artist John Donohue’s simple line drawings to hang on their kitchen wall (or anywhere else). There are more than 600 restaurants to choose from in New York City, plus more in Paris, London, and Napa Valley.
Shoes might seem like a funny gift, but a cushioned pair will save any chef on their feet all day (and besides, they can never have too many to cycle through). Chef Flynn McGarry says Hokas “are truly the most comfortable I’ve ever worn.” (Not to mention they’re Chris Black–approved and come in women’s sizes, too.)
Or opt for these from Mise, a recent recommendation from Joseph, who says the breathable and sturdy pair feel good through 16-hour shifts. They fit what she calls “a certain utilitarian, ugly-cool niche” that could stand out from the clogs and Blundstones their peers may be wearing.
If they use a basic canvas knife roll, Felipe Donnelly, owner and chef of Brooklyn’s Colonia Verde and Cosmico, says this version he once received as a gift will make a welcome upgrade. It’s good-looking, made with a dark brown leather that will wear well with time, and has eight storage slots for all their most important blades, as well as compartments for their other most-used tools.
Last holiday season, baker Tanya Bush told us the most coveted item among the pros she knows was the comfortable and stylish cross-back hemp apron from White Bark Workwear. The idea still stands as a great one, whether you want to add a new one to their rotation or because you’ve noticed theirs is looking a little worse for the wear.
If they work with tiny tweezers all day long, this sleek carbon-steel griddle will help them let loose and channel diner vibes in their kitchen. It comes with an accompanying press for smashing burgers, searing steak, and more (and the handle is outfitted with a leather sleeve to prevent burns).
This gadget that two coffee pros told us is “sort of an industry secret” will let them pull high-quality espresso shots without spending hundreds (and hundreds) of dollars on a decent at-home setup. It’s portable, too, so any chef who travels for work will be especially appreciative.
And if they’re not the type you can see getting into shaking, straining, measuring, and muddling, a nicer-than-their-usual-shift-drink bottle of booze is a good bet. Mark Newton and Jason Julier, editors of the Scotch and whiskey website Malt Review, say this one is “a great all-rounder” that will fit the taste of any whiskey drinker.
If they already own the Joyce Chen shears I recommend above, this hefty pair from Banshu Hamono, which makes tools out of the oldest blacksmithing region in Japan, is multipurpose. They cut, crack nuts, and (surprise) open paint cans.
Sous-viding is common in restaurant kitchens — but for any chef who wants to bring that precision home, no tool has made it easier than the Joule. They can control the entire process from their phone so that perfect medium-rare steak for dinner on a Monday night off is as easy as pouring a bowl of cereal.
A $200 pepper grinder might seem bananas, but according to several pros, it’s worth every penny. We’re willing to bet that the chef in your life will become totally obsessed with how efficient and consistent it is, producing significantly more pepper per twist than any other on the market and delivering a uniform particle size every time.
If their steak knives have gotten dull, this set from Opinel (who also makes the oyster knife I recommended in the first category) is a personal favorite of mine. They straight edge is supersharp (which means no sawing), the handles are comfortable to hold, and they have a modern but timeless look that sets them apart from most other options on the market.
If they rely on an electric rice cooker, this gorgeous donabe that Fly By Jing founder Jing Gao told us makes rice taste even better than her Zojirushi will get them excited to hone a new technique. Its thick exterior controls the distribution of heat, its interior lid adds pressure, and its rounded shape promotes moisture circulation.
Sometimes chefs need a break from cooking, and on those occasions, they’ll be so glad to receive a delivery of handpicked, high-quality cheeses from New York institution Murray’s Cheese. You can choose to gift it for three, six, or 12 months.
Mociun is a Brooklyn-based shop known for its high-end and stunning jewelry — but it also carries an array of aesthetic housewares. This statement carving set is poised to become an heirloom piece and will likely please any chef who loves hosting with a good cut of meat.
$300 and up
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