Top 7 Gift Ideas for New Chefs and Culinary School Students
Great news! Your friend or family member has decided to become a professional chef! Or perhaps they have just enrolled in a prestigious cooking school. Even landing a first-time job in the restaurant industry is a big step towards a dream of becoming a professional chef. If you want to help someone celebrate their entrance into the restaurant and hospitality industry, here are a few practical gift ideas.
7 Chef-Approved Gifts for Those Just Starting Out
- Metal toolbox with padlock
- Knife-sharpening tools
- High-quality first aid kits
- Family heirloom cookbooks
- Head coverings
- Exotic spices, seasonings, and extracts
- Kitchen memoirs
1. Metal Toolbox With Padlock
Over a lifetime, a chef can accrue an assortment of quality kitchen knives valued in the hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. Not only are good quality knives expensive, each knife in the chef's collection will have a certain feel in their hand, a comfortable familiarity honed over time. That's why a solid, well-constructed toolbox with a padlock is such a good gift idea. You'll be helping to keep the chef's work tools safe and secure.
If you're also wondering if you should get a new knife as a gift, too, my suggestion is to get a gift certificate for a specialty kitchenware shop instead. There are so many different knives that the chef will need in the kitchen and each one has a specific purpose and function. The gift recipient will make much better use of a knife that he has selected for himself rather than one that was purchased and given as a gift.
2. Knife-Sharpening Tools
Regular professional knife sharpening is essential for keeping a chef's tools of the trade in tip-top shape. But in between regularly scheduled tool maintenance, a small manual sharpening device would be a good idea.
Japanese chefs believe our soul goes into our knives once we start using them. You wouldn't put your soul in a dishwasher!— Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto
3. A High-Quality First Aid Kit
Working in a commercial kitchen or food production facility can be an extremely hazardous job. From burns and cuts to slips and falls, there are many ways a person can be injured or hurt on the job, no matter how much training and supervision they have. Hopefully, your aspiring chef will have access to health and safety equipment on site, but a few extra high-quality first aid supplies are always good to have on hand.
Additionally, you may want to consider offering to pay for a course in first aid and CPR. A chef who has those skills on his resume will have an edge over other job-seekers looking for work in a busy restaurant.
4. Family Heirloom Cookbooks
If you come from a long line of avid home cooks, passing on a well-loved cookbook, complete with handwritten notes, splatter stains, and dog-eared pages would be a wonderful way to show your pride and support for a loved one going to culinary school.
5. Head Coverings: Hats, Caps, Bandanas, or Beanies
Kitchen uniforms may be provided by the employer or the culinary school may require students to buy a specific style of chef jacket and pants. And, like knives, the chef will want to choose something that fits well and feels right. There are long days ahead in the kitchen so being comfortable is key.
That said, chef hats and head coverings are a fun way to dress up a uniform with a bit of stylish color and flare. From multi-colored berets to wildly printed bandanas, find something unique that matches the chef's personality and style. My personal recommendation would be to get a set of high-quality bandanas. They can be worn as head wraps or as neckerchiefs (see video below).
How to Tie a Chef's Bandana
6. Exotic Spices, Seasonings, and Extracts
Here are some coveted flavors, seasonings, and spices that would be valuable additions to any chef's spice rack:
- Saffron: Ounce per ounce, saffron is more expensive than gold.
- Vanilla: Pure vanilla extract, vanilla paste, and vanilla beans are far superior to grocery store vanilla extract which is often just an imitation of the real thing
- Authentic truffle oil: Truffle oil is a controversial item that some chefs refuse to use because it's so hard to find real truffle oil instead of oil that is just flavored with artificial chemicals. But if you're willing to do some research and pay a premium price for real truffle oil, your gift will be greatly appreciated by anyone who wants to be taken seriously in a professional kitchen.
7. Kitchen Memoirs Written by Successful Chefs
Real stories from the heart of the restaurant industry are not only an eye-opener to what really goes in the kitchen, the well-written ones are also incredibly fun and entertaining to read. Anthony Bourdain's New York Times Bestseller is a favorite among both regular restaurant patrons and hospitality industry insiders. Indeed, it's one of my husband's favorite books, sitting alongside his classic cookbooks including Jacques Pepin's La Technique: An Illustrated Guide to the Fundamental Techniques of Cooking and the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child. Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly
Anyone who's a chef, who loves food, ultimately knows that all that matters is: 'Is it good? Does it give pleasure?'— Anthony Bourdain
© 2018 Sally Hayes