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Great Gifts for Budding Chefs

It’s that time of year again: time for seeking out presents for our loved ones. I love shopping for the people I love and getting things I know they will enjoy.

Last year, I highlighted my favorite cookbooks in anticipation of the holidays. This year, I want to tell you about some of my favorite products that would make great gifts. Stay tuned for more posts like this.

Who is the budding chef?

It’s the person you know who likes to cook but is still learning basic techniques. This person will eventually appreciate the best of the best stuff, but for now, they just need a few good tools to help them get started.

What is a good present for the budding chef?

The budding chef isn’t ready for cookware that takes longer to clean than use and doesn’t need gadgets to be great in the kitchen (though gadgets might save time, it’s ultimately better to know how to do things by hand first). Think entry level. The budding chef needs things to help them get started and develop their love of cooking.

Here’s a few ideas to help you along your gift-buying way:

1. Cuisinart 5-Inch Santoku Knife – I bought this knife a few years ago after hearing much about the ease of chopping with santoku knives. It’s a great starter knife for a budding chef because it’s sturdy and doesn’t cost a fortune.

2. An apron – Aprons are a necessity in the kitchen for anyone who cooks. Who wants to end up with sauce on your nice blouse or a streak of oil on your oxford? A fun or practical apron for the budding chef in your life would make a great gift. Check out the ultra-hip (and retro) Jessie Steele line of aprons. They are very fun. For the guy in your life, he might prefer a more basic apron. And waist aprons can be a good alternative too. Me? I collect special aprons (read: no weird sayings or bizarre slogans for me) and have a few hanging in my kitchen — one from my days working at Williams-Sonoma and one from my last trip to London, from Harrods.

3. Cuisinart Chef’s Classic Stainless Steel pan set – This is the set of pans I started out on, and still cook with. Love them. They aren’t top of the line, but they are very good. They’re durable and have withstood some big mistakes (a few scorchings, in fact). They clean up nicely, even stuck on stuff, with the scrubber pad on the back of the sponge (though I do have a box of Brillo beneath the sink, just in case). This is a great starter set that can be used for years to come.

4. A cookbook – Well, duh — that’s a no brainer, but getting the right one can be a little more tricky. Everyone needs inspiration sometimes. Here are a few good cookbooks for those who are just starting out as budding chefs:

  • How to Cook Everything – This cookbook is great for the person who wants to cook well, but just doesn’t know how yet. It’s clear and easy directions made it a huge hit when I gave it to a friend at a bridal shower several years ago. There is also the new volume, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, which has gotten good reviews.
  • The Good Home Cookbook – I was lucky enough to get a review copy of this book a year ago and I loved it. It’s a thick round-up of classic recipes that everyone should know how to make. It’s been used many times by me in the past year and I definitely recommend it for anyone who likes to cook.
  • Betty Crocker Cookbook – This is another great general starter cookbook. I’ve been using it for years and still find some great ideas for baked goods, meals and more. The newest edition (this one) is the best yet (I’ve owned several editions).
  • Joy of Cooking – This is a little more advanced in technique, but overall a great kitchen bible. Everyone should have a copy of this on their shelves.

5. a cooking class – Sorry, no links for this one. But to find cooking classes in your area, check any local community colleges, culinary schools (for noncredit courses) and even Williams-Sonoma stores. You can also check the James Beard Foundation for special foodie events in your area. Is there a Ritz Carlton hotel near you? Check there too, as the spas often offer classes as well. This is a great gift, since it can broaden your budding chef’s experience through hands on learning.

Roasted Pesto Cauliflower
Garlic Ginger Portobello Mushrooms