Essential kitchen gadgets

Cindy Hutson
Ortanique owner and executive chef Cindy Hutson says her favorite tool in the kitchen is her blender.
“Cooking fresh and light versions of traditionally calorie-laden dishes becomes easy with my blender,” she says. “She’s a workhorse! It’s so easy to whip up healthy sauces thickened with caramelized onions or vegetables instead of roux, cornstarch or cream. Just add homemade stock, blend until smooth and then garnish with fresh herbs. This boosts flavor while significantly reducing calories. The high quality ingredients for which Ortanique is renowned for using pack a flavorful punch when incorporated into these blended sauces. When buying a blender, always check the amps (12.5) and verify that the appliance has high-low switches or dials for multiple usages.”

Eric Ripert
Eric Ripert of Blue by Eric Ripert won’t admit to using cooking ‘gadgets’, but says knives are his most essential cooking tool. “My favorite tools in the kitchen are the knives, and they aren’t gadgets,” he says. “They are sacred. I have about 60 different knives, but the four most essential ones are the chef knife, the paring knife, a long knife to filet fish and, of course, a butcher knife for when I’m boning whole cuts of meat. I don’t like light knives; I like them heavy. I like to feel it in my hand. It’s interesting to see the evolution of knives over the years and now you have all these different kinds of knives made with different metals and alloys, so I guess they could be considered gadgets – almost.”

Maureen Cubbon
Winner of the 2013 Cayman Cookout Cook-Off, Maureen says her most essential tool in the kitchen is a pair of scissors. “They make life in the kitchen a whole lot easier,” she says. “They can be used for a variety of functions such as cutting poultry, herbs, and other ingredients with ease and in some cases, better than a knife. Kitchen scissors are also excellent for cutting puff pastry and pasta, giving cleaner edges. I find that they save me time too. I have two to three different sizes and kinds for different uses. Look for quality and dishwasher-safe options for best hygiene.”

Pressure cooker
Ingrid Hoffmann
Celebrity chef and TV personality, Ingrid Hoffman, showcased her latest cookbook Latin D’Lite: Deliciously Healthy Recipes with a Latin Twist late last year at Books & Books, hosting a gourmet dinner at Ortanique a few days later. She says her favorite kitchen gadget is her pressure cooker, which she has named “My BFF Betty”. “Betty is great because you can put a delicious and healthy dinner on the table in a short amount of time without doing much prep,” she says. “It’s very budget-friendly. You can cook an inexpensive cut of meat and end up with tender and juicy beef or you can cook an entire bag of dried beans and have servings for 14 people for about $2. Cooking under pressure is healthier than slow cooking because you lose fewer nutrients during cooking. You can also make all sorts of dishes in a pressure cooker, from steamed artichokes for an appetizer to rice pudding for dessert.”

Daniel Grausgruber
Originally from Austria, Daniel Grausgruber is the newly installed head chef at Osetra Bay. While he says his chef’s knife is his most important tool in the kitchen, a Pacojet is one of his favorite kitchen gadgets. “If it’s a true gadget you want then I would say the Pacojet,” Daniel explains. “Being a chef is not about being lazy – you have to work 18 hours a day – but you can be a little bit lazy and use a Pacojet because the end result is very good too. For the uninitiated a Pacojet is a device which allows chefs to puree already frozen solid foods without a loss of temperature, as opposed to making the puree and then trying to freeze it. This results in velvety smooth ice creams and sorbets because ice crystals and frozen air molecules can’t form. No nutrients are lost and foods retain their vibrant colors, unlike normal blending when everything turns out brown!”

Luis Lujan
Executive sous chef at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, Luis Lujan says tweezers are his most important tool in the kitchen, necessary for preparing the elaborately plated dishes diners have to come expect from the resort’s restaurants. “Chefs often spend hours building the foundations of flavor into their dishes, but often fail to deliver the vision of their dish as they lack precision when plating,” he says. “Tweezers offer excellent precision when it comes to plating food, ensuring consistency of the finished dish. At the end of the day, customers go back to the restaurants for the consistency of their product.”

Salad spinner
Michael Schwartz
James Beard award-winning chef Michael Schwartz, owner of Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink, is renowned for his straightforward cuisine with an emphasis on fresh, local ingredients. He says that a salad spinner is an essential tool for saving time in the kitchen. “Buy whole leaf lettuce, it’s cheaper, yields more and tends to be better and fresher,” Michael says. “Take a little extra time to wash it and make it easy on yourself. Store it properly with a damp towel in the fridge so it lasts. If you’re in a crunch and need to cut corners, you probably should wash the precut too.”