The southern belle chefs featured are practical, busy, and unpretentious women just like the rest of us, and their kitchens reflect as much. Their kitchens also represent the hearth of their homes, a place where visitors can sit at the table enjoy coffee, tea and a good bite. If you think their must-have kitchen tools are hi-tech and fancy, guess again. We think you will be pleasantly surprised and inspired.
Our first belle is the southernmost in Tasmania, Australia. Chef Toni Burnett-Rands is the owner of Honey Child’s Creole Catering and Honey Child’s Mobile Creole in “the land down under.” Her culinary and hospitality styles are tributes to her Louisiana roots.
Toni says, “In my opinion, one of the most essential things in a home cook’s kitchen is a large electric skillet. It can mimic a flat top grill and gives a great temperature-controlled surface from making pancakes, to smash burgers, to searing large cuts of meat. You can use it to feed a crowd anything from Bolognese sauce to fried rice. Also, if you live alone, it is a great tool for meal prep, as you can get the batch done all at once.”
Shreveport Louisiana-based chef and Northern Louisiana food ambassador Hardette Harris cannot live without two items: her sturdy wire whisk and a fine strainer. “I cook from scratch and believe in using a whisk for almost everything. My fine strainer makes it easy to strain pot likker from greens, blanch vegetables for freezing, and sifting through shelled peas and beans.”
Chef Adrian Lipscombe of Uptowne Café had to ask her husband which of her kitchen tools she uses the most often and he told her that she used her coffee grinder the most. “I like to use the grinder for those spices, coffee, or chocolate bibs. It’s a quick use if I don’t want to put the pestle and mortar out or I’m in a hurry.” The pastry chef even offered a good way to make dirty chai tea by grinding spices to brew with chai for an extra spicy blend.
James Beard award-winning book editor and culinarian, Shaun Chavis loves her kitchen scales. She says, “You know, I have a digital and an old school scale. Sometimes I prefer the old school because it won’t go to sleep but the digital is more precise. The most important thing is the tare feature, so you can eliminate using measuring cups.”
The swiftest answer received came from pastry chef and ACF 2nd term vice-president, Kimberly Brock Brown. “No contest. My Dutch oven.” Kimberly suggests getting one that is heavy, has sturdy handles or a bail handle, and a copper bottom for even baking or cooking. “You can use a Dutch oven for so many things from cooking perlou (one pot) dishes to baking breads and dressings.”
Last but not least, Jovan Sage of Sage’s Larder, says she cannot live without a cook’s staple, the cast iron skillet. “I feel the number one thing that a home cook should own is a nice cast iron skillet. There’s nothing like cast iron, it can go from stovetop to tabletop, you can cook on open fire to an induction cooktop. My cast iron traveled with me from Brooklyn to Brunswick; I’ve even shipped pieces from antiquing in Iowa. It’s an expensive journey but so worth it.”
Six chefs and eight must-have kitchen tools: an electric skillet, a wire whisk, a fine strainer, a coffee grinder, a mortar and pestle, kitchen scales – traditional and digital, a Dutch oven, and a cast iron skillet. And guess what? They all own every last item.