Tools are an essential component in a chef’s repertoire. The right implement can make or break a recipe. Hotel Management asked a number of chefs what their favorite item in their hotel kitchen is, and here are their responses.
Red Lion Hotel Pasco, Tri-Cities, Wash.
Favorite item in a hotel kitchen: My favorite item in the kitchen is not a physical object but something that makes a chef known in the industry and that is passion. It’s not just a passion for cooking good food, it’s a passion for creating a memorable experience for all who get to taste and experience it. Without passion for creating amazing food the dishes suffer and the guest feel that they just got another dish that they could have experienced at any mediocre restaurant.
Why: On daily basis, I push myself and my staff to bring all the passion for creating a memorable dishes to ensure every guest remembers our hotel for the food they enjoyed. Whether it is a couple having a first date in my fine-dining restaurant or 500 people eating a six-course meal in a benefit auction, the passion is always there and the guests know it.
Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate
Favorite item in a hotel kitchen: tasting spoon and Cryovac machine
Why: My tasting spoon because it allows me to be one with the food, taste each flavor put into in the dish and be able to adjust dishes to ensure our guests have the greatest taste sensation.
The Cryovac machine, because the technology allows me to save food longer and marinate proteins in a way never thought imaginable—being able to permeate the cell structure enough to infuse the flavors in such a way it creates intensity of taste and flavor profiles. With this tool, we can slowly cook a protein to its ideal temperature without overcooking it or drying the protein out (just imagine steak cooked to the perfect temperature every time, with little room for variances in temperature). We can make a vibrant fruit or vegetable puree without losing valuable nutrients/color lost through traditional cooking methodologies, we can compress a melon or an herb breaking down the cell structure in a way intensifying the flavors and so much more.”
Hilton Waikoloa Village on Hawaii Island
Favorite item in a hotel kitchen: mortar and pestle
Why: The mortar and pestle will always be one of my favorite chef tools. Exposed at early age, this tool was a must to use when my parents and grandparents cooked Spanish and Asian cuisine. I have followed through their footsteps of incorporating deep flavors from utilizing the mortar and pestle. It brings out true essence of herbs and spice through its natural oils. Working this tool has enabled me to not just cook delicious food, but exhibit my dishes as a work of art for the palate.
Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa
Favorite item in a hotel kitchen: It’s a tough call as there are so many great items out there today, but if I had to choose one, I would say an industrial strength Robot Coupe.
Why: This tool is essential for curating recipes such as a rudimentary mousse or even making a simple combination crust, pizza dough or purée. I love it because it is an extremely versatile piece of equipment. If I were under a time crunch or needed to put together a diverse menu with several aspects, the Robot Coupe would help me produce that. We strive to constantly produce winning product, which makes our seven dining options all a jackpot!
Executive sous chef
The Vinoy Renaissance Resort & Golf Club: St. Petersburg, Fla.
Favorite item in a hotel kitchen: global knife/rational oven
Why: I look at the knife as my No. 1 tool for everything around the kitchen—especially to cut, chop and food presentation. Rational oven: I can do almost anything with the rational oven. I can bake, steam, combo bake and steam, roast, fry and much more.
Hilton Hartford (Conn.) Hotel
Favorite item in the hotel kitchen: braising pan
Why: My braising pan is my best friend in the kitchen. I rely on it to create unbelievable food options for all times of the year. It uses a cooking method of a collaborative nature between moist and dry heats with excellent finales. I love this cooking vessel, particularly this time of year as I use it for everything from stocks, sauces, vegetables and my favorite—stews of all types. The braise, to me, is a sensual style of cooking as foods are caressed as they slowly cook, requiring great care and attention to every detail. With tender love, patience and affection, the results can be brilliant. The technique involved reminds me of the classics that I learned in French cuisine and I always pay tribute and respect to the integrity of the finished product. Both the cooking technique and the pan maintain the natural concentrated juices and flavors while tenderizing the ingredients to a deliciously fork-tender textural consistency. Some of my favorite braised entrees are red-wine-braised short ribs, coq au vin and paella, to name a few. Remember to take great care and love the food and it in turn will love you back.
Marriott Hartford (Conn.) Downtown
Favorite item in the hotel kitchen: rotisserie oven
Why: This is a major showpiece in the open kitchen area of our signature restaurant Vivo. It’s one of my favorite pieces of equipment as it is so versatile and really showcases the authenticity of the restaurant’s concept, which is based around fresh local ingredients prepared daily. It is displayed beautifully under lighting in the restaurant and draws the guests’ attention to what item is being featured that evening. We have the opportunity to roast everything from rib roasts, pork loins and lamb shoulders to rotisserie chicken, which is by far one of the largest sellers to date. The visual impact for a guest while watching the slow cooking process and the shimmering of the natural juices self-basting the item almost guarantees a quick sell. From a chef’s perspective, it pretty much does the work for you. No overcooking or burnt chicken coming off from there, just perfection each and every time.
700 Kitchen Cooking School at The Kessler Collection’s Mansion on Forsyth Park in Savannah, Ga.
Favorite item in a hotel: pasta machine
Why: It’s a true enjoyment when I give a class some flour, eggs and watch them create a beautiful dish like fettuccine with a shrimp scampi sauce.
Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs
Favorite item in a hotel kitchen: dough sheeter
Why: It helps us to ensure consistency with our fresh pastas, pita and flatbread dough.
Edgewater Hotel, Seattle
Favorite item in a hotel kitchen: saucing and tasting spoons
Why: Whether working the line or the front of the pass, chef’s spoons are invaluable for plating and tasting dishes throughout the night. All the high-tech gadgets are awesome, but this is definitely on the top of any desert-island list.
Regional executive chef
Omni Hotels & Resorts; Omni Amelia Island (Fla.) Plantation Resort
Favorite item in a hotel kitchen: the simple salt grinder.
Why: Often overlooked as not being as important as its counterpart the pepper grinder, the salt grinder allows you to utilize large rock sea salt and regulate the grind from coarse to fine. Salt has been around for years, generations, eons, eternity it seems, and it has the power to enhance anything and everything on the plate. With its addition, a chef can make savory and sweet applications “pop.” It is the difference between a good restaurant and a great restaurant, in my opinion.
It goes beyond seasoning a steak with salt and pepper, though. Even yesterday, as I was making a simple acorn squash mash with brown sugar, butter and cinnamon, I reached for the salt grinder to make a fine sea salt—balancing the sweetness of the roasted squash and brown sugar. This lifts the palette and allows you to appreciate the caramel nuttiness on the other side. This is why sea salt is a chef’s favorite with caramels (i.e. sea salt and caramel ice cream).
The salt grinder is often overlooked, but most impactful. Salt and salt grinders will take a chef years to refine and in my opinion never will be perfected. They were here before liquid nitrogen, tapioca maltodextrin, immersion circulators and sous vide—which I all use—but salt will enhance all of these. Sometimes simplicity reigns king.
This article originally appears on Hotelmanagement