Restaurant Concepts Determine How to Choose Cookware and Bakeware
Every kitchen has a standard batterie de cuisine, the essential cookware and kitchen tools to carry out the day's production list and execute on the line. A kitchen wouldn't be a kitchen without knives, which means you also need cutting boards. And stainless bowls, sauté and hotel pans, tubs and lids for storage, and, of course, masking tape and markers for labeling prepped product. But once you move beyond the basic batterie, your concept dictates choices.
Fine dining restaurants are technique-driven, so tools for refining and presenting are critical. Before you get lost in a dreamy haze of perfectly placed mirepoix and swaths of brilliantly colored sauces, back up and consider the equipment required to create those lovely images. Start with a stove. “With fine dining, you need it all: burners, ovens, tilt braiser, grills,” says chef Sarah Stegner, co-owner of Prairie Grass Café in Northbrook, IL. Other critical fine dining restaurant kitchen supplies include:
- Cast Iron Pans: “There's nothing better than a good piece of beef seared in a cast iron pan. It gets a really nice crust that melts in your mouth,” says Stegner.
- Plating Tools: “Nowadays, lots of fine dining chefs use Japanese-style utensils, like long, thin tweezers and narrow tongs, which allow you to do very precise plating,” says Chef Alma Cocer-Thomas of El Alma Restaurant and Bar in Austin, TX.
- Commercial Blender: “I love my blender and do a lot with it,” says Stegner. “It's great for finishing soups and making sauces.”
- Rondeau: These round, wide pans are workhorses. “We use rondeaus a lot,” says Cocer-Thomas. “We make rice every day in one and limit its use so it stays nice.”
- Chinois: ”If you want a sauce that's beautiful and smooth, you need a chinois,” says Stegner.
A pizziaolo spends hours perfecting his craft, learning to make the dough just right, tossing and stretching it to the perfect thickness. You can bet he won't use just any old kitchen tools. “My experience has been that the best equipment generally assists in creating the best foods,” says chef/owner Mike Cordero of Bronx Pizza and Subs in Arlington, VA. Must-have pizza kitchen tools and appliances include:
- Wood-Fired Oven: Cristiano Bassini, chef/owner of BigChef Burgers in Schaumburg, IL, makes his pizzas Neapolitan-style, in an American-made oven. “Fire code is a big issue, so you want to make sure your oven complies with regulations.”
- Gas or Electric Oven: Cordero uses a commercial pizza oven for his Bronx-style pies. “We don't compromise when it comes to the oven,” he says. “It's the most important part of a crispy and well-cooked crust.”
- Food Scales: If you make doughs in-house, an accurate scale ensures the right flavor and texture. “I like to keep a scale handy to make sure we keep the product consistent,” says Bassini.
- Marble: He stretches his dough on marble. The surface stays cool, easing the transition of dough from counter to board.
- Boards & Cutters: Whether metal or wood, you need boards for moving pizzas in and out of the oven. Quality commercial cutters speed slicing the pies, which is critical when doing high volume.
- Pizza Pans: Whether you're selling Chicago deep dish or New York thin crust, having the right pans—and in a quantity that matches your volume—is essential.
- Boxes & Delivery Supplies: Customers love pizza's portability. Stock up on boxes so people can take it to go. And if you plan to offer delivery, don't forget insulator bags in a variety of sizes.
In the flour-dusted world of the baker, the necessary appliances vary depending on the focus: bread or pastry. Bread requires a steam injection oven; pastry needs convection heat. Other crucial bakery equipment includes:
- Display Cases: The French phrase for window-shopping is faire du leche-vitrine, which roughly translates to “licking the window.” A well-lit display case can make your customers want to do just that.
- Baker's Racks: Two types of racks work well in the bakery. Wire shelving allows air circulation, ideal for cooling hot loaves. A wheeled “speed rack” holds up to 20 sheet pans of product and moves throughout the kitchen.
- Sheet Pans: While baking pans are a staple in any kitchen, they're in even more demand in a bakery. Karen Portaleo, sugar artist at Highland Bakery in Atlanta, GA, suggests buying “more than you think you need.” Pans are cheaper than labor, so stock up.
- Rulers: This standard office supply item helps uniformly portion sheet cakes or bar cookies. Buy clear plastic for visibility and sanitation.
- Offset Spatulas: These handy tools are critical for everything from smoothing buttercream to leveling lemon curd.
Whatever your concept, details count. Think through your menu and required prep to make lists of the specific equipment and tools required for each dish. Tailoring your tools to your concept allows you to execute far beyond the basics.
Anne Nisbet has spent her career working with chefs in restaurants, catering and event production, absorbing their tips, tricks and tales along the way. She is the culinary director for the International Pinot Noir Celebration in McMinnville, OR, where she lives and dreams of some day having chickens and honeybees. You can find her at Google +Anne Nisbet.