Seattle-area chefs on what to splurge/save in the kitchen


Over ten years ago, my mother bought me a fire engine red KitchenAid stand mixer. It felt like I was unboxing my own version of a golden ticket, one that would unlock a whole world of mixing, kneading, whipping and, given the additional accessories I chose to purchase , grinding, pasta and much more. Of course, it didn’t necessarily do all of that. But I still love it and believe it was a splurge I would gladly have spent my own money on.

In this age where we are constantly bombarded with targeted ads and influencers showing us the latest “must-have” kitchen gadgets, where seemingly every celebrity (chef or not) has their own line of kitchen utensils, which is worth a look. money and where can we save?

I posed this question to more than a dozen Seattle-area chefs, restaurateurs, and cookbook authors: In the kitchen of your home, where do you save and where do you splurge? The results were, unsurprisingly, very personal. most divider publish? Knives.

Eli Dahlin, chef and co-owner of Capitol Hill’s Light Sleeper natural wine bar and restaurant, says that while knives are specialty tools and “some are incredible works of art,” people only need to some of the most expensive.

“I use the Wüsthof or Victorinox brands as often as Shun. You can’t buy knife skills,” he said.

On the other hand, “Pieometry” author Lauren Ko, known for her beautifully intricate pies, says knives are the perfect splurge.

“I have a Japanese chef’s knife made by Tojiro, and having something durable, hard, and super sharp is key for all things pie art (as well as personal cooking),” he said. she declared. “If I ever had to replace it, I wouldn’t compromise on quality or cost.”

Victor Steinbrueck of trendy Fremont seafood spot Local Tide agrees with Ko, saying, “I sure like to spend money on knives and I would never go short there. There’s nothing better than cutting a single meal’s worth of vegetables (as opposed to enough to supply a restaurant) with a nice, sharp knife.

The “backup” that almost everyone had on their bucket list? Mandolines – those razor-sharp tools.

As Donald Adams, co-chef and co-owner of Phinney Ridge’s fried chicken hot spot, The Chicken Supply, puts it: “The $25 green Japanese-style mandolin is as good as any other expensive item you could possibly go with. do the same thing. ”

Ditto for the vegetable peelers. “Don’t buy the most expensive and expensive ones, go for the multi-colored cheaper ones,” says Brian Clevenger, chef and owner of General Harvest Restaurants.

Everyone agrees that you should always splurge on high-quality ingredients.

“I prefer to pay the money to local butchers, farmers and growers, and I love stocking my pantry with quality spices,” says Rupee Bar chef Sarah Monson.

Here are more savings and splurges that these chefs and restaurateurs suggest you keep an eye out for the next time you’re looking to switch things up in the kitchen. Responses have been edited slightly for clarity.

where to save

Cast iron pots

While you can spend a ton of money on fine enameled cast iron cookware like Le Creuset, cheaper brands like Lodge offer relatively similar cooking performance at a fraction of the cost. Their cast iron products are pre-seasoned, oven safe and will last forever if you take care of them properly.

Kinga Borkowski, Chef and Owner, Good Morning

Coffee maker

My #1 gadget is definitely my coffee machine! I currently use a Mr. Coffee with a simple on/off switch. If I’m looking for something more than a simple drip I’ll leave it to the pros, a simple milk frother will also help improve your favorite latte.

Chris Ingmire, Executive Chef, Thompson Seattle

Maldon salt

I really appreciate good finishing salt. Nothing crazy, just having a box of Maldon salt at home. This is currently a household necessity for my wife as well, who is pregnant and often craves chocolate chip cookies and always finishes them with salt.

Donald Adams, Co-Chef and Co-Owner, The Chicken Supply

food waste

We do our best to use the entire product once purchased! This “saves” in many ways, including “saving” the Earth from more food waste! A simple carrot is a great example: most vegetables are roasted and used in a dish, but the juice is then used to make a hot sauce, the extra pulp is then dried and made into pasta dough, and the green stems are used in pesto, dukkah or other sauces and seasonings. Another example: the Dungeness crab! The meat is used in our pozole, but the bodies are used to make a nage (or broth) which is turned into crab butter. So yes, we extrude every bit of use (and flavor!!!) of every item we can, which saves money and also creates less waste!

David Nichols, Chef/Owner, Eight Row

Sparkling water

We have a SodaStream and buy the store brand cans/whatever is on sale when we want a little flavor. Maybe there are subtle differences in bubble size or flavor potency, but I wouldn’t know!

Kate Willman, Managing Director, Eight Row

Storage containers

All my storage and containers come from CHEF’STORE. I’m a fan of deli containers. My dry products are in Cambros and my cooking oils are in sprays. All of these items are inexpensive and incredibly functional.

Sarah Monson, Chef, Rupee Bar


Apart from the classic Kunz spoon that every professional cook should have, buy your spoons from a thrift store. You can get great spoons for a fraction of the price.

Brian Clevenger, Chef/Owner, General Harvest Restaurants

cutting boards

Instead of opting for fancy butcher blocks, I turn to simple, dishwasher-safe boards – those made of composite materials are preferred.

Lauren Ko, author of “Pieometry”

Where to splurge

Cast iron pot

A simple solution is to save on cheap non-stick pans, but splurge on a really nice cast iron pan! In our home, nonsticks are used every day, from making eggs for breakfast to heating up leftovers. And they can scratch or lose their “non-stickiness” quickly, so we just move on to another cheap one. But we’ve collected Staub pots in several sizes over the years and their age makes them all the more reliable! Having braised meat, soup and roast at the same time in winter will not only fill your fridge but your soul!

Rachel Yang, Chef/Owner, Revel and Joule

Raw materials

I usually don’t hold back when it comes to my raw materials – whether it’s produce from the farmer’s market, oils, vinegars and mustards from specialty stores, spices from the spices.

Polina Chesnakova, author of “Everyday Cake”

rice cooker

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention it because it’s a kitchen staple because making perfect rice is essential to my life.

Victor Steinbrueck, Chef/Owner Local Tide

cleaning supplies

We have noticed a big difference in atmosphere and health (animal/human) since switching to plant-based products. These less aggressive products are more expensive, but for us, it is worth it. Better for our hands, our lungs, our pets, the smell of cooking and our stuff! Knives stay sharp longer and we see less corrosion on many cookware in general. We also use herbal sponges etc. Yippee, plants!

Kate Willman, Managing Director, Eight Row

Marble rolling pin

For baking at least, this is the best way to go. It’s naturally heavy, the marble keeps the paste cold and it lasts forever.

Eli Dahlin, chef/co-owner, Light Sleeper


I think people often have a cheap blender for their home kitchen. I fell in love with Vitamix blenders while working in my first professional kitchen. These mixers are so powerful they have up to 2.2 horsepower! Most people have a crap blender in their kitchen that will never properly blend soups, sauces, smoothies, or anything. The Vitamix tackles any blending task quickly and is incredibly durable. I bought one 10 years ago for my kitchen at home, and it works as well today as when I bought it. Another great thing about Vitamix is ​​that you can easily purchase and install individual parts to replace a broken blender cup, cracked blade, or stripped blender bearing. All parts are available on Amazon, and Vitamix offers video tutorials on how to change parts.

Nicco Muratore, Executive Chef, mom group

Masticating juicer

These are not cheap. The model I use sells for around $500, but it’s worth every penny.

Eli Dahlin, chef/co-owner, Light Sleeper


You can at least sharpen cheap kitchen knives to get by, although when I met my wife she had large knives which became ours so we were set. If you don’t have large pans to work with, that perfect crispy fish skin is much harder to achieve.

Aaron Tekulve, Chef/Owner Surrell

We will pay almost any price for a good cheese, and in the most privileged way we cannot bring ourselves to buy it on the cheap. I have a tattoo of a block of cheese on my wrist and – well – that alone should explain my relationship to this “madness” article. No price is too high!

Kate Willman, Managing Director, Eight Row

Legacy items
I choose to splurge on durable tools like knives, equipment, and ceramics. Things I can take care of and use for years.

Sarah Monson, Chef, Rupee Bar


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