Tools of the Trade

Local chefs dish on their go-to kitchen essentials—here’s what you need to cook like a pro.

They say poor workman blames his tools, but no good cook would credit success to a kitchen device. Still, there’s much to be said for having just the right trusty gadget—the one that not only does its job elegantly and dependably but also reassures you with its authoritative feel and gets your whole culinary rhythm going. Below are some of the tools we heard about when we asked Monmouth County chefs: “Which one would you be lost without?” 


The Knife 

“What tools do you really need if you don’t have a good knife?” asks chef mike d’angelo. this fall, d’angelo is pre-paring to open up a new Italian restaurant in highlands, Lago, and he’s equipping his kitchen with his trusty knives—to cut his meat just the way he likes it. “A good chef has to know how to be a butcher,” d’angelo ex-plains. “You have to be able to cut the meat the way you want to prepare it for the customer.”

Claudette Herring, chef/co-owner of Via 45 in Red Bank, agrees. “A paring knife gives me accuracy for cutting the little stuff,” herring says. She fondly recalls watching her 93-year-old mother holding a vegetable in one hand and a paring knife in the other. “A paring knife has this old-school feeling to it.” 


The Vitamix

“I can’t substitute anything for my Vitamix,” says Nicholas Harary, chef/owner of Nicholas in Red Bank. “A little blender doesn’t have the same horsepower—the sauces won’t come out smooth and velvety. I can cook on any stove, and pans are important, but not as important as my Vitamix.” 


The Strainer

“I make sauces in-house, so a chinois is my go-to for achieving creamy glazes and reductions,” says Jonathan Vukusich, executive chef of Just restaurant in Old Bridge. 


The Grater

“I like to use fresh citrus zest on everything, from fish to baked goods. The oil from the lemons gives off a rich flavor,” says Lauren Phillips, chef/co-owner of Via 45 in Red Bank. 


The Staff

“My staff is my essential tool. We sit down together and figure out menu items. They’re the heart and soul of the restaurant,” says Rachael Cicalese, executive chef of Raven and The Peach in Fair Haven. 


The Knife Sharpener

“My knives are important to me,” says Danny Murphy, chef/owner of Danny’s Steakhouse in Red Bank. “I take good care of them by using a diamond-plated knife sharpener.” 


The Mortar and Pestle

Says Shanti Mignogna, chef at Talula’s in Asbury Park: “I like to use whole spices and fresh citrus, so I can’t live without my mortar and pestle. I grind down whole cardamom or nutmeg, and it brings out so much flavor.”

Categories: Homepage Features, Monmouth Health & Life, Shopping Features