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What Food & Wine Editor Hunter Lewis Can’t Live Without

Photo: Courtesy of Hunter Lewis

If you’re like us, you’ve probably wondered what famous people add to their carts. Not the JAR brooch and Louis XV chair, but the hand sanitizer and the electric toothbrush. We asked Food & Wine editor-in-chief Hunter Lewis about the boots, fish sauce, and planner he can’t live without.

I got my first pair of Blundstones about 12 years ago, and they became indispensable. I wore them as a professional cook working the line because they were comfortable and easy to clean. I also could wear them hiking, and then when I started working in food media, I could dress them up with jeans and a blazer. I just feel good every time I wear them. They’re so practical, I’ll get shout-outs from other people wearing them. The shoe-shine guys will comment on them. When I met Laura Brown of InStyle, I was wearing them, and she gave them a nod. I feel like that gave me fashion cred.

Everyone needs a wallet, and this is the first one I’ve had that makes me feel like an adult. It doesn’t fit a lot so you have to keep it minimal. It forces you to edit. Simple, sleek, functional.

I’m totally obsessed. I started using the Red Boat about five years ago, and back then it was only in Southeast Asian applications, but now I find it’s the most versatile ingredient in my kitchen. It makes salad dressings taste deeper and bolder. It’s great in any marinade for any type of protein. It just adds a backbone of a savory note. Anywhere you’d use anchovies in Mediterranean or Italian applications, you can use it. It even makes ranch dressing taste better. And it’s rare that you’d ever use it in a way that would have the fishy note come forward. Red Boat makes the very best fish sauce out there. If I’m in a kitchen and there’s no Red Boat fish sauce, I feel like I’ve got one hand tied behind my back.

This is something I started using last year because I’m on the road so much. Most everything I have lives digitally on my Outlook calendar, but I find that if I don’t write something down, I don’t remember to do it. It’s like taking notes in a meeting — if it didn’t come through a pen on a piece of paper, chances are I won’t remember it. I also just like the size of this notebook and how the calendar is built-in.

When I was a cook at Barbuto, there was a period of time when my chef (Justin Smillie, who’s now at Upland) banned all things that had plugs in them. So instead of a Vitamix to make pounds of pesto, we did it with a mortar and pestle. It really taught the cooks about the right consistency of the ingredients and how to use technology that’s centuries-old to do that. I got obsessed with the tactile nature of using a mortar and pestle, whether you’re smashing garlic and anchovies for a dressing or grinding spices. It brings out different oils and flavors because you’re breaking down the cellular structure in a way that’s different than a whirring blade with a motor. You can taste it. I can’t tell you scientifically what’s happening but it tastes like there’s more love. Now I have a small collection of stone and ceramic mortars and pestles. My go-to is this behemoth Thai granite set.

I’m training for Chefs Cycle, a 3-day, 300-mile fundraising ride in Sonoma County this May, and the newish MIPS technology in these helmets gives me a bit of extra confidence to ride on the steep downhills. We’ve been training a bunch almost every day, so you have to have the helmet. With the MIPS, if you fall and your head is rotating, the helmet has a little give to it so your brain doesn’t jar as much. That’s a picture.

The bandana is something I started putting in my back pocket many moons ago, and I think a little bit of it is being a Southerner and needing something to wipe my brow. I feel naked without it. It’s like having a pocket knife. If you’re wearing jeans it adds a pop of color. You can use it as a bib. If things get really dire, you can use it as a tourniquet. There seems to be something that happens every day that I need it for. I buy a couple of them cheaply, wash them a bunch till they get really soft, and the older they are, the better.

The Tom Beckbe brand started in Alabama, and it’s a funny story. This guy was a lawyer, and I saw him at a Christmas party four years ago, where he told me, “I have this jacket I’m going to start making,” and I said, “Yeah, right.” And then I saw the first iteration of his jacket, and it blew me away. They’re very heavy waxed jackets that are great for bird hunting and shotgun shells and are totally rain-resistant. The inside lining is dyed in industrial waters with Alabama red clay so there’s a sense of place, too. I also don’t like wearing things everyone else has on. I see your waxed Barbour jacket on the streets of NYC and Washington, D.C. and raise you a Tom Beckbe.

I think Billy Reid is super cool as a human being, and his style is very classic. I was talking to a guy from Italy at a men’s shop in Birmingham about why so many of the clothes were Italian brands, and he said that Southerners and Italians are a lot alike: we dig soft fabrics, tradition, and unstructured blazers. Billy Reid is based in Florence, Alabama, and often stitched in Italy, and makes the classic, comfortable clothes I want to wear every day.

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What Food & Wine Editor Hunter Lewis Can’t Live Without