The best part about going to culinary school? You get a brand-new, shiny set of knives! Okay, sure, you also get to fulfill a lifelong dream of mastering mother sauces, shimmying the airiest of omelettes, and dicing impeccable mirepoix. But I was honestly very excited about the knives. On the first day of class, when they handed me my kit full of kitchen tools, however, I flipped it open like a book, and did a little bounce in my clogs. Perusing the contents, there wasn't a ton in there — just a few essentials.
This was the first of a series of revelations: Professional cooks don't have more tools. They don't even have more expensive tools. Honestly, they just have the right tools for the job.
After a month or two of running around the school kitchen, I started to like the sensation of always reaching for the right saucepan. In turn, I began to get suspicious of the clutter in my home kitchen. Suddenly, I saw it with fresh eyes: The flimsy knives. The scratched pans. The silly aprons. How could one person accumulate so many spatulas — and why were they all pink?
Everything I Threw Out of My Kitchen After Culinary School
It was time to make some deep cuts. Here's everything I threw out of my kitchen after I went to culinary school.
1. Dull, Flimsy Knives
My instructor says you only really need two knives: one big, one small. And maybe a bread knife. Invest in a quality chef's knife and paring knife, and keep them sharp. (Note: Throwing away old knives is freaky! But wrap them securely in cardboard or bubble wrap.)
Buy It: Wusthof Classic 8-inch Chef's Knife, $150
2. Scratched Nonstick Pans
Every 20-something has gone to Target and bought a set of cheap nonstick pans that they will inevitably scour to death and spend more money to replace. The only nonstick pan you need is an omelette pan. Get a good, hard-anodized one. Never scrub it. Just wipe out with a damp dish towel.
Buy It: 10-Inch All-Clad Nonstick Pan, $111
3. Crusted Cookie Sheets
If your baking sheets have lost their luster, it's not your fault. Most just have a certain lifespan. My pans were lightweights to begin with, picked up at the grocery store. I thanked them for their years of service, and replaced them with two hardworking half sheets — one rimmed, one not.
4. Novelty Baking Pans
I once made the mistake of sharing an article about homemade Twinkies with my dad. The Amazon box arrived two days later. (Thanks, Pops!) Did I ever make snack cakes? Uh, no. Did I at least try the marshmallow injector thing-y? Still no. I'm not proud. But the moral of the story is: Never buy a pan you're planning to only use once. (Or encourage enablers.)
5. Silly, Frilly Aprons
Don't get me wrong — I love looking through the Anthro sale section as much as the next aspiring domestic goddess. But friends and family have given me so many aprons over the years. You only collect more when you start working in a restaurant. Plus, my taste has gotten more utilitarian: I like aprons in solid colors and sturdy materials. And kind of like with underwear, I pretty much want to pick them out for myself. (If any gift-givers are reading, thanks for the thought! But how about some fancy baking chocolate or vanilla, instead?)
6. Too Many Spatulas
After upending the kitchen drawers, it was time to face facts: I owned at least a dozen spatulas — most of them pink. Why? I don't know! They just want to come home with me! I kept a few big ones, a few small ones, and set the rest free. And I started relying more on my bench scraper and mini offset spatula for jobs like scraping anything off your board, or smoothing batters and frostings.
7. Tangled Takeout Containers
My favorite tool from cooking school is plastic and costs 25 cents. Yes, I mean deli containers! A deli container can do so much more than just hold takeout. It's a prep bowl, a measuring cup, a water bottle (just sniff for garlic, first). I threw out every other storage tub in my home. Tupperware, tiffins, and bento boxes, sayonara. Just start ordering noodle soup from a place that uses good ones and keep stacking.