Remember your first encounter with kitchen “technology”? Chances are, it occurred at floor level and involved banging utensils against pots and pans to find out how much noise you could make.
Kitchen gadgetry holds a special fascination for many of us, from that first happy experience in toddlerhood through the years as we learn to wield increasingly sophisticated tools and machinery. Some of us, naturally, are more successful than others at mastering the culinary arts.
Which brings us to the award-winning kitchens of Canyon Ranch, where chefs are always tinkering with recipe ideas in search of the next gastronomic Aha! moment. As in any profession, chefs employ certain indispensable tools of the trade, so we asked ours to name their favorite high-tech kitchen gadget.
The winner? A high-speed blender/ food processor.
Corporate Chef Scott Uehlein considers his Blendtec® machine a bit of an indulgence, but well worth the price. “I can make velvety soup, perfect smoothies, and fresh tomato sauce without having to worry about taking out the seeds.” When turnips harvested from his garden turned out to be a little tougher than expected, Chef Scott simply tossed them into the Blendtec and voila! Delicious mashed turnips.
Tucson Executive Chef Justin Morrow concurs, naming the Vitamix® as his favorite.
James Massey, Executive Chef in Lenox, also loves his Vitamix for its versatility. “I use it to make things from soups to sorbets,” he said. “I often use it more in the summertime for the kids to do fun sorbets like coconut mango and strawberry lime. Those are their favorites. A few years ago I did a seminar for 350 employees of Vitamix International. They let me use two machines and I made Peach Ancho & Rosemary Sorbet for their conference. The machines worked extremely well considering the volume of production, and the recipe was a hit! I couldn’t believe the machines didn’t overheat.”
Also high on the list of nominees for Most Useful Kitchen Gadget is a multipurpose chef’s knife. Chef Justin admits he’s not a “big gadget person,” so he appreciates the utility of a sharp, comfortable-to-hold blade. “Knife skills were the first things I learned in the kitchen, and I had to practice a lot to become very skilled,” he said. “I can dice up small pieces of carrot for a salad, mince garlic to a paste for a soup, finely chop parsley for a garnish, or break down a chicken for an entrée.”
Another relatively low-tech kitchen item earns accolades from Giovanni Arias, Executive Chef at Canyon Ranch Grill™ in Miami Beach. “One of the best timesaving tools in my kitchen is the hand-held mandoline. There’s nothing quite like it for slicing veggies fast.” Chef Giovanni noted that the tool is undergoing a resurgence in popularity as home cooks rediscover its value and ease of use.
Chefs’ Favorites: The Classics
We asked our chefs: Do you have a sentimental attachment to any particular old-timey kitchen gadget? If so, is it for decorative purposes? Can a peculiar-looking appliance from yesteryear still be of use in today’s kitchen? Turns out their answers are yes, yes and yes.
Scott Uehlein, Corporate Chef: My favorite “classic” gadget is the countertop aluminum citrus press squeezer, which extracts lots of juice and just the right amount of essential oil from the skin. I picked one up at a garage sale many years ago. Juicing lemons or limes for homemade lemonade is a favorite job for my 8-year old daughter, Anabelle.
Justin Morrow, Executive Chef, Tucson: My butcher block cutting surface is a favorite old-fashioned item for the kitchen. It’s solid wood, 18 inches thick. It was in my parents’ house for my whole childhood, and a few years ago when my mother was moving back to New York from Florida, I had the block shipped out here. It cost just as much to ship it as it would have to buy a new one! But this one comes with the unique character, nostalgia and memories. It now sits in my kitchen, and I love it. I actually don’t really cut on it. I use it more for a countertop, but it is beautiful and makes me smile.
James Massey, Executive Chef, Lenox: The fun kitchen gadget I remember as a kid growing up was a French cutter my greatgrandmother had on her vegetable peeler. We would go out to the garden and pick green beans, come back to the house and clean them. We spent many summers on our family farm sitting on the back porch watching the sunset while ‘frenching’ green beans. Another favorite is a Dutch oven – nothing better for getting back to basics. As a Scout Leader I used these many times; they are a mainstay of Scouting. The great thing about these ovens is when the heat is controlled right, you can do anything with them: sauté, boil, bake and fry. All it takes is a good campfire and patience.
Kitchen of the Future
What kinds of high-tech appliances can we expect to see in a kitchen of the future? It’s sooner than you think – Items #1, #3 and #4 are available now!
- Gaggenau’s 36-inch Induction Cooktop: Instead of limiting your pots and pans to four or six stationary burners, place them anywhere on your electric cooktop to cook your food perfectly. The heat remains directly under the pot and nowhere else. Take the pot off the stove and the surface cools instantly. Move cooking pots around to make room for additional pots. The more, the merrier!
- The BioRobot Refrigerator: A fridge without doors or compartments? This appliance of the future won Electrolux Design Lab’s 2010 “Kitchen of the Future” contest. About one-fourth the size of today’s refrigerators, it “cools biopolymer gel through luminescence.” Items are suspended in the nonsticky and odorless substance that refrigerates them individually at their optimal temperatures.” Sounds like something from The Matrix.
- The ultra-smart LG Food Manager refrigerator allows you to program your smartphone to communicate with it. When away from home, you can review what’s in the fridge, get ideas for meals that can be prepared with available ingredients – even check when their expiration dates are up. The information enables you to bring home exactly what you need to whip up the evening meal.
- The Whirlpool Dishwasher with 6th Sense Live Technology lets you know when your dishes are done, helps you manage energy usage and control your console – all from your computer, tablet or smartphone.
- The Kitchen Hub, another winner of the Electrolux Design Lab’s annual contest, is a small interactive device plus app designed to help the whole family eat better, healthier and reduce food waste. Attached to the fridge, it uses touchscreen and/or voice activation to connect users with food from shopping through kitchen storage and consumption.