Despite the fact that it still feels like summer, we can’t be far from the cooler, darker days of winter, right? And with the (hopeful?) change of season comes a new resolve to stay home and cook, for us at least. It’s cold, it’s dark, and who wants to go out? We don’t. But also, we’re not great cooks. So we turned to someone who is: Chef Adrienne Cheatham, Top Chef alum, founder of Sunday Best, a pop-up series held in various locations around Harlem and former Chef de Cuisine for Chef Marcus Samuelsson (good enough resume for you?), who is giving us her selects for the top 7 kitchen tools a real-life chef swears by. Now, let’s get cooking.
1. A Good All-Purpose Knife.
My go-to is a Togiharu Santoku, great for vegetables, herbs and meat. Keep it sharp; do it yourself or take it to be sharpened once in a while, depending on how much you cook. A sharp knife makes everything easier! Korin (57 Warren St, NYC; +1 212 587 7021) is my favorite knife store in NYC.
2. Boos Cutting Board
This is my favorite cutting board! The wood is not too soft or too hard for your knives (too soft and the blades sink in which can degrade the board and let bacteria penetrate; too hard and your knife will dull faster). It’s also double sided, with a well on one side which is great for slicing rested meat and other items that create liquid. Take care of the wood and this board will last forever! I got mine at Bowery Kitchen Supply in Chelsea Market (88 10thAvenue, NYC; +1 212 376 4982).
3. Lodge Cast Iron Skillet
I use my 10-inch cast iron pan for everything — cooking fish, making grilled cheese, searing meat, frying, baking cornbread and poaching eggs. I’ve had mine for over ten years.
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4. Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer
It’s all about the attachments! The stand mixer itself is great for mixing batters, dough, whipping egg whites, and so many other things, but when you start adding the variety of attachments, it becomes the most useful appliance you’ll own. Seriously, there are attachments for rolling pasta, spiralizing, slicing, making ice cream, tempering chocolate, milling grains for flour, and more. I picked one up on sale at Sur La Table.
5. Anolon Non-Stick Pan
Everyone should have one non-stick pan for omelettes and other delicate items, and this is by far the best one I’ve ever worked with. The coating doesn’t scratch and flake off into your food like most Teflon pans, even if you’re whisking in the pan. They can be purchased at most cooking stores and at Macy’s home department.
6. Silicone Spatula
hate waste, even when it comes to scraping sauce out of a pan or batter out of a bowl. A good silicone spatula will help you get every last bit of food, and is heat-resistant so you can also use it to stir things (like scrambled eggs) in the pan without worrying about it melting.
7. Vitamix Blender
This is the blender in every professional kitchen and bar. The motor is very powerful, and whether you’re making smoothies or vegetable purées, you can typically add less liquid and get a smooth, beautiful purée.
Chef Adrienne Cheatham grew up in the kitchens and dining rooms of the restaurants her mother managed in Chicago, Illinois. She would help with bussing tables, running food, washing dishes, whatever was needed, after homework was finished. At her parents’ insistence, she went to college before pursuing her culinary ambitions, attending Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Florida where she studied business and journalism.
While in college Adrienne catered events on campus and in the community but wanted to return to restaurants. After graduating Magna Cum Laude she started working as a line cook at a busy seafood restaurant in Orlando. Wanting to learn all aspects of kitchens, she then worked in pastry production at the Sandestin Resort on the Florida panhandle before moving to New York City. In New York, Adrienne tended bar at night while working for free during the day for various chefs around the city and enrolled in classes at the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE). Adrienne was referred to the kitchen at Le Bernardin where she started as a commis. During her eight years at the three-Michelin star restaurant, Adrienne made her way up the ranks, eventually becoming Executive Sous Chef. During that time she also worked with Chef Eric Ripert on his television show, Avec Eric,as well as the cookbook of the same name, testing and editing recipes. In 2014, Adrienne was a part of the planning and opening team of the restaurant’s Aldo Sohm Wine Bar and private dining restaurant, Privé.
Adrienne went on to work with Marcus Samuelsson as the Chef de Cuisine of the Marcus Samuelsson Group, opening Streetbird, where she received a Bib Gourmand from the Michelin Guide, and Marcus’ Bermuda before being promoted to Executive Chef at Red Rooster. Adrienne also travelled extensively with Chef Marcus for demonstrations, appearances, and festivals. Adrienne curated special tasting menus, including the Black History Month menu at Red Rooster, a multi-course menu inspired by female African-American chefs in the industry. When planning the Red Rooster Cookbook, Marcus tapped Adrienne to test and edit the recipes as well as cook/style all food that was photographed for the book.
Adrienne competed on season 15 of Top Chef, making it to the finale and finishing second. She has been featured as a speaker at Cherry Bombe Magazine’s annual Jubilee festival and was the subject of a New York Times documentary series titled “Tastemakers.” Passionate about nutrition, she works with Schwan’s as part of the Chef’s Collective to develop healthy food for school lunch programs. Adrienne has appeared in Food & Wine, US Weekly, Sports Illustrated online, Food Network’s Star Plates with Mindy Kaling, Grubstreet, Eater, AM New York, among others. Adrienne shares a home in Harlem with her best friend and husband, Stephen Bailey. She is also the founder of Sunday Best, a pop-up series held in various locations around Harlem.