If I could be anybody at 70 years old, I would want to be Ina Garten. Actually, scratch that — I'd want to be her at any age. I want her Hamptons house and her $15,000 French stove, and I want to smile all the time and look 25 years younger than I am — just like she does. The last part I'm still optimistic for, but the Hamptons house and the shiny oven are things I might just have to be content with by watching Ina on TV. She has beautiful things, but a person doesn't need Ina Garten-level cookware to make food like she does. A few quality pieces will do it for most of us.
It's obvious from watching Ina's shows and Instagram that she has beautiful taste, but in the end, what she really cares about is quality.
"You don't need a lot of equipment, but you do need good equipment," she said in a recent interview with Food & Wine.
Ina's list of must-have cooking equipment includes sheet pans — a lot of sheet pans — and a good set of knives. A person doesn't need to have a dozen specialty knives, she says, but a few good, sharp, useful knives are great. She also says a person should have a good set of sturdy, hard-working pots that will last a lifetime (but that don't need to be expensive).
"If you can't afford a good set of pots, you can go to a restaurant supply store," Garten said. "Simple, really good equipment that you can have forever is really the best."
Going to a restaurant supply store for cooking equipment is great advice. The cooks at your favorite high-end anniversary restaurant may turn out exquisite steaks and souffles, but they're not using $1,220 casserole dishes. Restaurants put their cookware through the wringer, and they operate on tight margins and don't want to spend money where they don't have to. Restaurant-quality pans are comparatively inexpensive, and they're basically immortal in a home kitchen.
That's also true of glassware. I was discussing stemware with my favorite local bartender recently, and he suggested I buy them from a restaurant supply store. It's a good way to get nice-looking, inexpensive glassware designed to survive a cycle in a commercial dishwasher.
Having eight Le Creuset French ovens like Ina is nice, but if you don't have those, restaurant supply store-bought is fine.