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.
There’s a modern Korean restaurant in Manhattan’s Tribeca that does dessert a little bit differently. Sure, you could come in to the restaurant for dinner and feast upon royal bibimbap shot through with foie gras and black truffle, or you could arrive for a five-course dessert tasting menu.
That’s where Eunji Lee comes in. The executive pastry chef at Jungsik has been schooled in the art of Korean and French pastry, and that certainly shows in the desserts that she dreams up: You might find flaky pear tarts crowned with two varieties of pear and cool pear sorbet, or a pastry shaped and decorated like a baby banana, but instead of cracking it open to find soft yellow flesh, hidden inside is chocolate and springy cake.
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Everything that’s shepherded out of Eunji’s kitchen is trim and delicate, expertly decorated and garnished. Her pastries boast such perfect symmetry and precision that it should come as no surprise that this pastry chef relies on a handful of tools to get the job done.
For this episode of Kitchen Essentials, Chowhound spent time with Eunji as she revealed the five tools that are essential to her work as a pastry chef. Ahead, discover Eunji’s beloved tools that’ll help turn any pastry lover into a bona fide chef.
Eunji first learned about a spray gun from one of her former coworkers, and now she uses it to employ finishing touches on a slew of pastries at Jungsik. It’s almost like a painting brush to her: She pours chocolate into the gun and sprays chocolate mist onto certain pastries (like the famed bananas), which helps with shading and texture and makes her bananas masquerade as the real-life fruit. Buy Now
After first arriving in New York City, Eunji found this plastic turntable. It’s similar to a cake stand, except that the base can spin. When she has to spray and apply any finishing garnishes on pastries, she plops trays on top of the turntable and easily spins it around to reach all of the sides.Buy Now
Eunji maintains that she can’t live without pastry tips: “I think [pastry tips] are the most essential things for pastry chefs,” she says. Using pastry tips, she can perfectly pipe dots or flowers or stars out of meringue, cream, ganache, and chantilly. There are many different shapes and sizes, allowing you to get super creative and expressive.Buy Now
Pastry chefs are prone to carrying around an offset spatula in their chef coat’s pocket. Eunji is able to carefully and expertly spread soft creams—like chantilly and ganache—into flat lines, without having to worry about fingerprints. Buy Now
“I really like to use tweezers because I can work more on details and precision in my plating,” Eunji says. Which makes sense: The master pastry chef crafts beautiful pastries with intricate details—and she maintains it’s thanks to her tweezers. She can pick up small ingredients and quickly place them on her pastries with her tweezers, a tool that boasts more agility than her fingertips. Buy Now
For more about Eunji and Jungsik, watch the 9th episode of Kitchen Essentials.
Header image by Chowhound.