Serious home cooks and professional chefs know what they like in the kitchen. They often already have what seems like every tool in the world — not to mention exacting standards for salt, knives, condiments, and even storage containers. Giving a gift to someone with such particular taste can seem like a tall task, but if you get it right, they’ll be especially stoked about a new appliance, gadget, or ingredient they didn’t already own. To help you find those items that’ll surprise and delight, we surveyed dozens of chefs, restaurant owners, recipe developers, and cookbook authors about the goods they like to give, as well as the stuff they have on their own wish lists. Below, they recommend specialized high-end equipment, the absolute best versions of affordable staples, and so much more. And as always, we also took a look through our own archives to pull additional items worthy of the pros, including interior-designer-recommended tableware and some Strategist staffers’ own go-to tools.
If you know the general category you’d like to browse, you can jump straight to gifts for cooking, gifts for drinking, gifts for reading, gifts for eating, gifts for decorating, or gifts for kitchen comfort. Or take a look at the whole list for plenty of thoughtful, smart, and unexpected suggestions. And for even more holiday gift ideas, head here.
Gifts for cooking
Flynn McGarry, the owner and head chef at New York City’s Gem restaurant, told us that one of his favorite things to give people who like to cook is this miniature copper pan from heritage French cookware brand Mauviel — the high-end, always-recommended, gold-star standard for professionals. While it’s made for warming butter, McGarry says, “You can heat up any sauce with it.” He adds that the pan is “just adorable,” which makes it even more giftable (as does the fact that a pan as specific as this may be something that even an experienced chef or home cook might not buy for themselves).
“This is my go-to gift for anyone who requires something a little extra special,” says White Bark Workwear founder Charlie Pennes. He notes that the knife feels good in your hand — “lightweight but well-balanced” — and that the stainless-steel blade is superthin and sharp. Plus, the brand’s YouTube channel has tons of helpful videos on upkeep.
If you want to take the plunge and get the chef in your life something they can actually cook a meal with, Mike Lata, the chef and owner of FIG and The Ordinary in Charleston, South Carolina, says you can’t go wrong with this 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.”
Professional chefs know there’s no such thing as owning too many sheet pans. While the more industrial ones may not make the most glamorous gift, this set of two quarter sheets from Great Jones are particularly attractive and useful. When talking about the half sheet (the same in every way as this one, except in size), recipe developer and cookbook author Erin Jeanne McDowell says, “Its beautiful appearance hasn’t caused its capabilities to suffer in any way. It hasn’t warped, scratched, or chipped.” But the advantage of gifting the smaller version in one of the three vibrant colors means they can also act as platters.
Food writer and avid cook Amiel Stanek, is obsessed with his flat-top outdoor grill. “It’s essentially a propane-powered restaurant plancha,” he says. While your food won’t get smoky in the way it does when you use a charcoal grill, this gives you the pleasure of cooking outside, just like with a gas grill — but with way more ease of use and flexibility. “Because it’s just one big surface, you can move things around, cook more than one food at a time, have some burners on and some off. It’s perfect for everything — smash burgers, pancakes, a whole plancha meal, steak,” he says. “Plus, it’s collapsible if you ever need to put it away or take it with you somewhere, and super-easy to clean.”
“I want a copper tamagoyaki pan,” Craig Koketsu, the executive chef of Quality Branded, the restaurant group behind Quality Meats and Quality Italian, told us. “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.” As it’s smaller than most pans (at six-by-six inches), it’ll also please any chef in your life whose kitchen isn’t as big as they’d like.
Chef Sohla El-Waylly told us this fish weight — a stainless-steel press designed to sit on top of fish in a pan, allowing for even cooking and a crispy skin — is one of her favorite tools. According to El-Waylly, it would make a thoughtful gift whether or not your recipient cooks fish, because it is quite versatile in the kitchen. “It’s heavy enough to weigh a fillet down, but not so unruly it bruises the flesh, with a thick body that retains and transfers heat,” El-Waylly says. “This makes it perfect for more than just fish — I use mine for everything from grilled cheese and quesadillas, to smashed crispy potatoes and chicken thighs.” While the silver one she has is out of stock, Josh Niland makes the same one in an iridescent rainbow finish that varies slightly from weight to weight.
Editor’s note: Josh Niland lists prices in Australian dollars, so the price below is an approximate conversion in U.S. dollars.
Chef Jeremy Blutstein told us this charcoal grill setup makes a great gift for chefs of any experience. “I just bought this combination for my sous chef,” he says. “It has tons of applications, can achieve a high heat, it’s compact, and produces a great flavor.”
“A donabe is just my favorite thing,” says chef Lauren Stanek. “I find myself wanting more and more of them. It’s the most beautiful version of a steamer that you can keep out on your counter. It feels handmade, with no brand name in sight. Plus, you can also use it as a Dutch oven.”
Genevieve Ko, deputy editor and columnist at New York Times Cooking, says she would love to be gifted a Yaki Yaki San smokeless indoor grill. Its clay material (heated over an electric or gas stovetop) prevents smoke while a reservoir of water captures excess fat. “I’m fascinated by how it works and would love to be able to grill indoors without smoking up my kitchen,” says Ko. “Also, it’s gorgeous enough to bring to the table as a serving piece.”
If you’d like to splurge on a top-of-the-line blender as a gift, Brandon Jew, the chef and owner of Mister Jiu’s in San Francisco, told us he’s “really into the Vitamix Ascent.” Among its many features, Jew “likes the blender’s timer, which is built right in,” he told us. “The auto functions are great, too.” If you think your chef would like a blender, but want to shop around, we’ve written about plenty of other options at various price points.
Preeti Mistry, the author of the Juhu Beach Club Cookbook, has a slightly more techy 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.” Grub Street editor Alan Sytsma has written about this very gadget for the Strategist, calling it one of only “two real contenders in the at-home sous vide game.”
If you’re going to sous vide, you might also want a vacuum sealing machine. Heck, even if you’re not going to sous vide, it’s nice to have one, according to Ko. “Whether or not you want to sous vide, you want this home cryovac machine,” she says. “I use mine to cure salmon, marinate meat, and, more often than anything, to save and seal ingredients and leftovers. The airtight seal prevents freezer burn and the sealing function works on any bag, so open packages of chips stay fresh without wasting a Ziploc bag.” For more vacuum-sealer options, head right this way.
If you want to see a grown chef cry, gift them an Ooni. “The Ooni oven is brilliant at achieving very high temperatures near 900 degrees,” says Nik Sharma, author of The Flavor Equation and Season. “And not only is this oven wonderful at cooking pizza, I’ve also found it to be an amazing tool to replicate the conditions inside a tandoor oven. Naan, tandoori chicken, and all sorts of kebabs turn out wonderfully.” The oven also comes in wood and gas varieties and can easily be transported for cooking on the road.
This Microplane spice grater is a similarly affordable and useful gift for chefs, and comes recommended by chef and A Piece of Cake author Bill Clark. Everyone at MeMe’s [his now-closed restaurant] used this spice grinder,” he told us. “Behind the bar, it’s how nutmeg went into our classic punch; I used it for baking, and Libby used it in the kitchen. Honestly we are not gadget people, [but] this is worth making space for (though it’s not even big).”
While this was originally suggested by chef Kristin Kish as a gift for novice cooks, it would work just as well for the pro who needs a salt-cellar upgrade. It’s simple but beautiful with an angled opening that keeps the granules contained but is still easy to grab from.
A few years ago, chef Felipe Donnelly of Colonia Verde and Cosmico was gifted a knife roll from Boldric by his wife and business partner, Tamy Rofe, and he thinks it would be a great gift for any chef. “Not only is it a good looking bag, but it has the capacity to carry all the knives and tools I need safely,” says Donnelly. “Plus it has compartments for other constant use kitchen equipment.”
There’s no such thing as having too many cutting boards for a serious cook — especially when they can build a collection in a variety of materials, shapes, and sizes. This one, made from recycled scraps of plastic, lives up to the Instagram hype. It’s durable, gentle on the blades of their precious knives, and can double as a serving vessel because of the striking pattern.
“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, former 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. “I use these scissors as much as any other tool in the kitchen,” Reilly says.
If they’d prefer larger kitchen shears that come apart for easy cleaning, Material Kitchen makes these handsome stainless-steel ones that come in gold and silver. The edges are exceptionally sharp, with tips fine enough to maneuver delicately, and the silicone handles provide comfort when cutting.
Another small but mighty gift idea: this peeler that Pennes says is the best he’s ever found. “When I was doing prep work in kitchens, I would go through multiple 50-pound cases of potatoes all day long with this,” he says, calling out the nice grip and carbon-steel blade that stays sharp. “It will be with you a long time,” he says.
According to Marco Canora, the chef at Hearth and 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,” he told us, and “speaks to the connection of food and medicine. Pulverizing herbs or spices right before we use them enhances [their] flavor and nutrient value dramatically.”
Richard Ho, the chef-owner of Ho Foods in Manhattan’s East Village, told us he wants some sharpening stones for his knives. Specifically, “either the Sigma Power Select II sharpening stones, or the Debado Splash and Go sharpening stones,” says Ho. “No matter how long or short the workday is, there’s always something calming about sharpening knives at the end of a night,” he explains. Gifting a sharpening stone to the chef in your life could be a nice way to kick-start that meditative practice.
Pennes has owned this nonstick skillet for several years and it has held up beautifully, which any chef knows is no small feat. “I use it for everything all the time,” he says, “and it doesn’t even have a scratch on it.” In fact, Made In’s cookware is so durable and high-quality that Pennes says he knows of several restaurants in L.A. (where he’s based) and Austin (where Made In has its headquarters) that have started using it in their professional kitchens.
Gifts for drinking
If you really love the chef in your life, you could get them this two-pack of Baccarat glasses that Edward Lee, the culinary director at Succotash in Washington, D.C., has his eye on himself. “After a long day in the kitchen, my favorite thing is hanging out in comfy slippers and having a bourbon,” he says. A splurge to be sure, the crystal glasses are objects in and of themselves, with their superior craftsmanship and elegant vertical-line design.
For a more affordable, but still restaurateur-approved set of glassware, this 12-pack is a favorite of Paul Malvone, a co-founder of the Boston Burger Company, who told us he uses them for serving all kinds of drinks at his restaurant. “They’re a little better-looking than a traditional drinking glass,” he told us, “and are versatile enough for water or a soft drink, or a hard beverage.”
If you want to give a non-rocks glass that is super-special, Anna Polonsky, founder of the food-focused strategy-and-design consultancy Polonsky & Friends, loves to set a dinner table with these drinking glasses. “They stand out without being too much. The base makes them special, but they’re also hardy enough not to feel too precious.”
Proper flutes are divisive, and if they’re not a fan, consider giving them this wider vessel meant specifically for sparkling wines and Champagne. “It lets you incorporate more air and smell,” says Grub Street’s diner-at-large Tammie Teclemariam. “It enhances the minerality of all sorts of sparkling wines, from Vouvray to Vilmart.”
A nonstandard jigger will up their cocktail game. “You’re measuring small amounts of very potent ingredients, and even an extra quarter ounce can make a big difference,” says Brooks Reitz, owner of Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. He particularly loves this pewter one because “it’s beautiful and will last forever.”
If they prefer wine, consider this single-bottle wine cooler. According to Peter Mondavi Jr., co-proprietor of Charles Krug Winery, an insulator like this will “do a great job at keeping white wine chilled throughout dinner” — and look great while it’s at it.
Gifts for reading
If you feel your chef really has all the tools they need, our panelists also recommended reading and writing material as thoughtful gifts. Chef Omar Tate told us he’s “always open to receiving books on history, policy, systems, figures, and, of course, black folks and culture.” With that in mind, we reached out to James Beard Award-winning writer Osayi Endolyn — an authority on the the intersection of food, history, and black life — who recommended Dr. Marcia Chatelain’s Franchise, a fascinating history of the longstanding, symbiotic relationship between McDonald’s and black entrepreneurs.
A cookbook is always a good option. One we especially love from this year is Mi Cocina, by Rick Martínez, which features recipes from across Mexico. If you want to make the gift extra special, throw in a package of Martínez’s favorite Oaxacan-sourced masa harina.
Strategist contributor and cookbook author Priya Krishna also suggests giving reading material to chefs. But instead of any one cookbook, she recommends a subscription to Whetstone magazine, which she calls the next Lucky Peach (a publication she has also worked for). “It’s a magazine that explores the intersection between food and storytelling, started by the food writer Stephen Satterfield,” she told us. “For food people, the magazine reminds us that we are all more alike than we are different as eaters.” Plus, of course, a subscription is a gift that keeps on giving.
Less something to write in than something to protect what you write in, this A5 notebook cover from Galen Leather is on the wish list of Kevin Adey, the chef-owner of Bushwick’s Faro, because it can fit over the Leuchtturm notebook he already carries. “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,” Adey told us. (The brand also makes leather notebook covers for Moleskine notebooks and the Strategist-approved Hobonichi Techo.)
Now Serving is a Los Angeles–based cookbook store that Pennes loves to support not just because it’s an independent shop, but because the owners are so knowledgeable. “If you tell them what you want in any way — country or cuisine or ease of cooking — they will find it for you, even if it’s an out-of-print book,” he says. “And a gift card ensures that whatever someone picks out will be special.”
Gifts for eating
If you feel like giving your food-loving friend something they can enjoy immediately, Nobu 57 executive chef Matt Hoyle has a slightly more practical — and edible — suggestion: “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 goaty.” Or, if you don’t want to choose, Murray’s also offers some preselected gift sets, like this one.
“Even though I’m the kind of person who splurges on things, it’s kind of weirdly painful for me to splurge on fancy vinegars and condiments and things like that,” says Lauren Stanek, “so I think anything in a category like that would make a great gift for anyone who likes to cook.” She’s particularly fond of exceptionally high-quality tinned fish — and the selection at Güeyu Mar is really something special. “The tins and labels are so beautiful, and the quality of what’s inside will blow you away,” she says. “They taste like someone just made a dish for you at a restaurant right out of the can.”
Editor’s note: Conservas Braseadas lists their prices in euros, so the price shown is an approximate conversion in U.S. dollars.
McGarry says that this spicy chile crisp sauce is “the perfect condiment to put on anything and make it delicious,” and that it will impress any chef who is bored with their spice cabinet. He’s not the only fan: Strategist senior manager of audience development Mia Leimkuhler wrote about how she “panics” whenever she has less than five jars of the stuff, calling it “balanced the way sriracha is, only with more crunch and oomph.” For a breakdown of all the best chili crisps, which range in spice level, texture, and more, read what our friends over at Eater have to say.
If the chef in your life is anything like Michele Goldsmith, the executive pastry chef at both Nobu 57 and Nobu Downtown, they might enjoy unwrapping some tea, and she says this kind, from Japan, is one of her favorites. “Tribute Teas supply the ceremonial-grade matcha that we use in our green tea ice cream, and generally carry the best-quality Japanese teas we’ve found,” she says. For even more tea-related gift ideas, head here.
A bottle of fancy olive oil will never go unappreciated. While this one tastes a bit different year to year depending on the climate and harvest times, olive-oil sommelier and cookbook author Nancy Harmon Jenkins will drizzle it on almost anything. “It has a distinctive fruitiness, but it also has a piquant kick in the back of the throat, which indicates a high level of antioxidants,” she says.
Pennes discovered Zab’s a while back and has since been gifting its hot sauces (and hot honey) to friends. “It’s not too spicy, so I find myself putting it on everything,” he says. “I even keep one at work and one at home.” He also notes the company isn’t trying to do too much or be flashy. “The owner just wants his stuff to speak for itself, and I think it does,” Pennes says. While both sauces are vinegar-based, the St. Augustine has a slightly sweeter edge, each beloved by a couple of Strategist staffers.
“I care deeply about building community, and to me that begins around a table,” says Camilla Marcus, the 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, she says — and that’s why she thinks this marbled concrete lazy Susan from Canadian designer Concrete Cat would make for a truly lovely gift. “I love this piece as a clever retro throwback with a naturally inspired, high-design edge” she told us, saying it would hopefully be “a conversation starter to bring people together.”
For a gift that keeps on giving (and growing), Greg Baxtrom, the chef and owner of Olmsted in Brooklyn, recommends giving a Meyer lemon tree. “I love growing citrus at Olmsted, and I currently have a few citrus plants in my apartment,” he told us, adding that “surprisingly, they’re doing really well.” Lucky for us all, Amazon now ships live plants — including Meyer lemon trees.
Though not a chef, home decorator Carrie Carrollo points out that while salt and pepper shakers are practical, they can also make a visual impact. “One of my best friends sent these to my apartment shortly after I moved in,” she says. “I was in the thick of decorating, looking for accents to bring the space together, and surprisingly, these changed the entire look and feel for the best.”
Another idea for the table: these classic brass candleholders recommended by Girls’ Night In founder Alisha Ramos. They’re not just beautiful, but sturdy, too, making them a practical choice for any serious cook who loves to host. If you want to do even more, gift them a set of tapered candles to go with.
Gifts for kitchen comfort
Since chefs are on their feet all day, McGarry says that another thoughtful gift would be a pair of shoes that offer comfort and support while they’re tending to a hot stove. He specifically recommends Hokas, a brand that’s been brought up to us on multiple occasions, including by Chris Black, who loves the cushioning of his. “I recently got some Hokas to prep in,” McGarry told us, “and they are truly the most comfortable shoe I’ve ever worn.”
Blundstone boots are not only a favorite of Strategist editors — they’re also chef-approved, according to chef Johnny DePierro. He told us he can’t recommend them enough to chefs after getting a pair for himself. “I recently switched over after suggestions from one of my chefs and I’ll never go back to another brand,” he says.
Hedley & Bennett is an industry favorite for aprons. This is its classic design constructed from cotton canvas, which makes it comfortable but durable (and machine washable, too). The brand offers multiple styles and what feels like countless colors and patterns if you want to shop around.
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