gifts they might actually want

The Best Gifts for Chefs, According to 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

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 identical 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 more than 30 chefs and restaurant owners, including James Beard Award winners, Bon Appétit test-kitchen personalities, and Michelin-star holders about the kitchen items that they like to give as well as the stuff they have on their own wish lists.

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. 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).

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.”

Another adorable cooking tool — or set of cooking tools — that McGarry likes to give (and use) are these cheery rubber spatulas. “I use them for everything from scraping out containers to cleaning my blender,” he told us. “They can get to the hardest to reach places, and I love how many different colors they come in.”

“I really 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.

Bon Appétit’s assistant food editor Sohla El-Waylly told us this fish weight — a stainless-steel press designed to hold fish in a pan, allowing for even cooking and a crispy skin — is one of her favorite tools. And, according to her, the weight 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.” [Editor’s note: Fortnum & Mason lists prices in British pounds, 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 told us. “It has tons of applications, can achieve a high heat, it’s compact, and produces a great flavor.” If you really want to impress your recipient, Blutstein says to throw in some charcoal. The Binchotan charcoal he recommends is known for burning without any smoke, making it a favorite for chefs who like to hover over their grill and perfect what’s cooking.

Chad Shaner, the executive chef at the Wild Son, says he’d love to receive a nice juicer. “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.” As for what juice he’d make with it, he says he’d replicate his “shift drink” that he has while on the job: a mix of kale, green apple, ginger, orange, and matcha juice. This Breville Juice Fountain also made our list of the best-reviewed juicers on Amazon.

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 in our lists of the best-rated blenders on Amazon and the best blenders for making smoothies, according to experts.

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.”

“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, the 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.

Grinders and graters

According to Marco Canora, the chef at Hearth and Zadie’s Oyster Room (and the creator of cult soup brand 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 (who adds that he’s by no means a stone expert, but that these are the stones on his list). “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.

Personal chef Jennifer Wanous says that a zester can always make for a useful — and affordable — gift. “Any chef loves to zest,” she told us, “and chances are that zester has gotten dull.”

This Microplane spice grater is a similarly affordable and useful gift for chefs, and comes recommended by MeMe’s Diner co-owner Bill Clark. “Everyone at MeMe’s uses this spice grinder,” he says. “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).”

Bioexcel Corn Grinder

“I found out about this simple, small tool from Alice Medrich’s cookbook Flavor Flours,” says Camille Cogswell, the pastry chef at Zahav in Philadelphia. It’s a nut grater that “clamps to the side of a table,” she explains, adding that “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.” It would make a great gift for the gluten-intolerant baker or Middle Eastern–inspired chef in your life.

Gifts for drinking

A couple of the folks we spoke with say that glassware can make for a thoughtful gift, especially for the chef who cares as much about the table their food is served on as the food itself. Mario Carbone, the 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 has these gorgeous Art Deco, old-world bar wares. They are a must-have for your next 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.”

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,” according to Lee. A splurge to be sure, the crystal glasses are objets 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.”

“I’d love a new small wine refrigerator” says Matt Hyland, chef and co-owner of EMILY and Emmy Squared. “I just got back from Napa and need somewhere to put all the wines I just bought.” If the chef you’re shopping for is constantly returning with bottles after their travels, Hyland pointed us to this refrigerator, which he wants in his own home. It’s on the expensive side, but he says it’s a brand of wine refrigerator favored by many sommeliers and beverage directors. For more sommelier-recommended wine fridges at a range of prices, head here.

Reading and writing material

Estela Cookbook
Photo: Retailer

If you feel your chef really has all the tools they need, our panelists also recommended reading and writing material as thoughtful gifts. “We have a huge cookbook collection that we’re pretty proud of, and yet cookbooks are all that we ask for,” Scott Tacinelli and Angie Rito, the husband-and-wife chefs and owners of Don Angie, say. “We skipped a wedding registry when we got married and asked for cookbooks, too.” One of the books that topped their list is Estela, by Ignacio Mattos, as “Estela [the popular Soho restaurant] has been one of our favorites in the city for a very long time.”

Matty Matheson: A Cookbook
Photo: Abrams

Riad Nasr, the co-chef-owner of Frenchette, also says that cookbooks are a reliably good gift for a chef. As for which books, he says “there is essential reading coming out of Canada,” adding that “first and foremost is 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.