Tools of the trade: weapons of choice

By Daniel Woolfson

- Last updated on GMT

Tools of the trade: weapons of choice

Related tags Anglian country inns Chef

Pub chefs tell Daniel Woolfson about their essential pieces of kitchen equipment.

Robert Palmer, head chef at Lewes gastropub the Dorset Arms, says he couldn’t do without a Vogue mandolin.

“It’s pretty robust and durable,” he says. “It’s great for making garnishes and it creates perfect potato. And one will normally last you a long time.

Palmer relies on a set of Wüsthof​ Trident knives. “I’ve had of them for over 20 years,” he says. “The serrated 10 inch pastry knife is fantastic – it’s incredibly versatile and I end up using it on a wide variety of different dishes.”

A stainless steel Mouli is also on Palmer’s list of essential kit. “It’s really the best way to get perfect consistency with a large quantity of mashed potato when you’ve got an exceptionally busy service going,” he says. “We’ve also used it for soups. For instance, you can make a great fresh tomato soup with it without crushing the seeds.

“It’s sturdy and reliable,” he says. “We’ve had it forever.”

treby arms Anton

Anton Piotrowski, head chef of Devon pub the Treby Arms, Sparkwell, which was given its first Michelin star this year, says his Thermomix blender is a vital piece of kit.

“We’ve had ours for four years,” he says. “We use it to make the Treby carrot cake which is a very personal dish and the Thermomix is fundamental for that.”

Piotrowski says he’s strongly considering buying an anti-griddle, which flash freezes foods place on its metal top. “It’s an amazing bit of kit,” he says. “It creates a frozen resin on certain foods so you can do some really interesting stuff.

“Whilst we’re still a boozer, we always like to push the boundaries a little bit and the anti-griddle would be great for that. It does cost about £10,000 though so it’s a bit of an investment.”

Harry Kodagoda, executive chef of six-site pub group Anglian Country Inns, says he can’t fault his Rational combination oven.

“It’s a great piece of kit – whenever I design a kitchen we put one in depending on the offer,” he says. “I got my first one ten years ago and they last a good while.

“What I like about it is that you can do sous vide cooking for joints of meat with it. We use it on a steam setting on a lower heat instead of a water bath and make sure its cooked perfectly.”

For Kodagoda, the oven’s presets are a top feature. “If I put it on the ‘pork’ setting for instance, you can just get the best crackling with little hassle,” he says.

“They’re market leaders and they’re constantly innovating their products. They’re constantly bringing out bits you can add on, for instance there’s a smoking unit we have for ours which is really great for doing things like ribs.”

Kodagoda says he’d be interested in getting a liquid nitrogen tank in future. “It’s part of the ultimate chef’s playground,” he says. “Imagine having a tank of that to do some really wacky stuff.”

Anglian Country Inns site the Cricketers, Hitchin, is currently undergoing a refurbishment. Included in the pub’s makeover is the addition of a Stone Bake wood-fired pizza oven.

“We’re really looking forward to playing around with it,” says Kodagoda. “We’ve got a gas fired pizza oven in one of our other sites which we’ve done really well with but this one will be more artisanal. We’re really going to take it to town.”

James Durrant

James Durrant, chef patron of acclaimed Hampshire gastropub the Plough Inn, Longparish, says his Pacojet unit is indispensable.

“We use it for all our sorbets and ice creams,” he says. “It whips frozen products. For instance, you can freeze a sorbet base or purée as a solid block in a canister and it has a high powered blender which blends through the frozen block and whips it.

“The first year we were open I was buying in ice cream purely because we couldn’t afford to buy a machine,” he adds. “But we finally got one after our first year of trading and instantly started doing homemade ice creams and sorbets. It does a great job and it’s cheaper than a top end machine.”

Durrant says his dream bit of kit would be a new rational to replace his secondhand ones. “They’re just super diverse in terms of cooking, consistency and flexibility,” he says. “And the new ones are even better. Beyond that, I’d be interested in getting a sous vide machine or a water bath.”

But, Durrant says: “To be honest, past all the fancy equipment my most important tool is a spoon. You need to taste every single piece of food that you serve and that’s the most important thing in any kitchen. People know not to touch my spoon - it’s been with me a long time.”

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