Welcome to “Kitchen Essentials,” a new series from Chowhound where chefs and bartenders from around the country invite viewers into their kitchens and bars, unveiling the five tools that are simply essential to their work.
You may recognize Antonia Lofaso from her stints on Top Chef, Chopped, Cutthroat Kitchen, and Restaurant Startup. But the California-born celebrity chef isn’t simply a big name on TV; she’s the chef and brains behind three restaurants in Los Angeles, too: Black Market Liquor Bar, Scopa Italian Roots, and DAMA.
During an afternoon spent at DAMA, her Latin-influenced restaurant in LA’s Fashion District, Antonia spoke to Chowhound about how her kitchen essentials are actually deeply influenced by her time in culinary school.
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“The interesting thing about tools for me is that the culinary school that I went to, I spent a lot of time with old European chefs,” she explains. “They didn’t believe in fancy tools. I’ve always tried to keep it very simple, so my go-tos are not anything that have a lot of bells and whistles.”
And she’s right: Many of her kitchen essentials are simple, sometimes unassuming necessities for the kitchen—rather than a collection of expensive, fussy appliances that few people actually have access to. Below are Antonia’s five kitchen essentials that are perfect for the casual home cook.
Antonia maintains that the number one rule about a chef’s knife is to keep it sharp. Hers is a 10-inch knife, with medium weight, but every person who wields a chef’s knife may have a different version. Knives boast different weights and sizes and align with people based on their own height and the amount of pressure they use to slice into ingredients.Buy Now
Between Antonia’s many restaurants, she guesses that there must be about 2,000 Microplanes that go in and out of the kitchens. “I Microplane anything,” Antonia says, remarking that she loves the fluff of snow that gently falls from the zester onto the plate. For home cooks, Microplanes (also called rasps or zesters) are great for shredding just about anything, from blocks of parmesan cheese to garlic cloves to nutmeg and cinnamon sticks.Buy Now
It may be nontraditional, but Antonia swears by the burner camp stove. It never breaks down and all it needs to function is butane. Antonia most often uses these burners for events—she can toss them in the car—and she doesn’t have to rely on anybody else to make them work. “Keep a camper [stove] with you at all times,” she recommends. “You never know when you’re going to need it.”Buy Now
Antonia does everything with tongs. “The tong is that universal tool that you can flip something with, you can butter baste with it, I’ve picked up the edge of pots with it,” she says. “It’s a universal extension of my hand.” In professional kitchens, the tongs are a coveted tool, and they’re just as versatile and beloved in home kitchens, too.Buy Now
In Antonia’s kitchen, small vegetables are shipped to the mandoline to be uniformly sliced. The mandoline allows for expert consistency and quick speed, and the blade can be changed to allow for thin or thick slices. For those who are worried about losing a finger, there are plenty of guards and gloves that can be purchased to prevent injury. Buy Now
For more about Antonia, watch the eighth episode of “Kitchen Essentials.”
Header image by Chowhound.