Chef’s Choice: 10 Things a Popular NYC Chef Says a Home Cook Absolutely Needs to Own

published Sep 20, 2023
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Stylish interior of modern kitchen
Credit: Kseniya Ovchinnikova/Getty Images

Outfitting or revamping your kitchen arsenal can be tough — especially because there are so many different opinions out there on what a home cook actually needs to own. And, while many of us would love to have the space for a massive knife block, three different stand mixers, and a toaster oven that’s smarter than we are with all the bells and whistles, a lot of us (read: many of The Kitchn staffers) don’t have giant kitchens and endless counter space to work with. That’s why we have to be extra picky about which gadgets and gear we choose to keep in our cabinets. It’s also why we often find ourselves consulting the experts for their takes on which items home cooks should absolutely keep within reach. This week, we spoke to award-winning Chef Shenarri Freeman of Ubuntu LA and Cadence New York about what she likes to have on hand in the kitchen and her recommendations for you, our beloved readers. 

Credit: Overthrow Hospitality

Chef Freeman is the driving force behind Cadence, the award-winning vegan Southern soul food restaurant in NYC, and her new concept, Ubuntu, where she cooks vegan West African-inspired cuisine in West Hollywood. With more than a decade of hospitality experience, a degree from the Institute of Culinary Education, a spot on Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list, and accolades from the New York Times, Esquire, Vogue, and other publications, it’s safe to say you can trust her picks.

1 / 10
Williams Sonoma

A good knife is key, Chef Freeman explains. “It’s going to expedite your prep time, give you precise cuts on your food, and make the entire cooking process more seamless. A good sharp knife really is a game-changer.” She loves Wüsthof, and this 8-Inch Classic Chef's Knife from the trusted brand won’t disappoint.

2 / 10

Of course, you’re going to need something to prep ingredients on, so a solid cutting board is a must. “If you’re going to be cooking in your kitchen, you need a cutting board,” Chef Freeman says. “For cutting, of course, but also to help keep your station tidy.” She recommends this set from the editor-favorite brand OXO.

3 / 10
was $559.95

“Whether you're making smoothies, sauces, or soups, every home cook needs a blender,” Chef Freeman says. She prefers Vitamix — we agree — for their restaurant-grade blenders and high-quality construction. The 7500 model has a 64-ounce capacity with a low-profile design, which makes it easy to blend large batches of food while still fitting under most kitchen cabinets.

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was $69.99

“When you need a break from cooking all the time and want something light and refreshing, you can’t go wrong with a fresh juice!” Chef Freeman explains. “I always do a batch of juices at the top of the week and restock mid-week.” She likes to keep a rotation in the fridge, which is easy to do with this affordable, easy-to-clean model from Hamilton Beach. (It’s also on sale right now!)

5 / 10
Williams Sonoma

“Tongs just make sense in the kitchen, especially when frying anything or cooking pasta,” Chef Freeman says. This 12-inch pair from Williams Sonoma is dishwasher-safe, made from durable stainless steel, and features a locking mechanism for easy storage.

6 / 10

"A fish spatula is my favorite cooking utensil,” Chef Freeman says. “I use this for everything. It’s light, durable, and sturdy; and great for anything delicate.” For the price, you can’t go wrong with this editor-favorite model from OXO.

7 / 10

When it comes to cooking, Chef Freeman explains, the name of the game is organization. “Keeping your prep organized in different mixing bowls helps with the whole process,” she says. “These bowls are also great when baking and mixing ingredients together.”

8 / 10
Williams Sonoma

“To be precise when cooking and following recipes, measuring everything out is really going to save you a headache,” Chef Freeman says. “Every kitchen should have measuring spoons and cups. These are another thing I love to pick up at Williams Sonoma.” This splurgy set looks incredible and is made to last.

9 / 10
was $34.25

“Cast iron is just an all-in-one kitchen staple that is super diverse for cooking,” Chef Freeman says, noting that the ideal piece of cast-iron cookware is preferably one passed down from a family member or one you pick up at an estate sale. If you didn’t get one from your folks, we suggest snagging this classic skillet from Lodge — then passing it down the line and starting a tradition of your own!

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Williams Sonoma

Whisks are essential tools for sauces and mixing, explains Chef Freeman, and this one from Williams Sonoma is made with nonreactive 18/10 stainless steel and has a polished finish. Its handle is also contoured to fit securely and comfortably in your hand while whisking up all of those fall pastry dishes — plus, it's weighted for optimal balance and control.