I spent this morning daydreaming in delicious anticipation of Paris Fashion Week, which begins today. French women are universally considered the paragons of style, and rightly so. I’ve often attempted to decipher what it is that uniquely shapes their brand of chic. It seems that rather than snapping up every mind-bending (and later regrettable) trend that bops down the runway, they are renowned for owning a few investment pieces. Parisians know how to rewear these mini-collections with artfulness so divine as to be truly masterful – tying a knot just so and adding an accessory du jour to make the look au courant.
In truth, more skill is required to procure timeless standouts rather than mega-trends. It was the ultimate in French and in fashion, Coco Chanel, who popularized the ultimate essential - “la petite robe noire,” or “the little black dress.” She created nothing less than a pervasive and perennial frenzy for a frock that can go anywhere and always be the chicest dress in the room.
The pinnacle of LBDs is, without a doubt, Audrey Hepburn’s Givenchy from the opening scene of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Audrey’s style in the film has been reproduced by chic women for decades, precisely because it encapsulates essential dressing. Of this phenomenon, the legend herself once said: “My look is attainable. Women can look like Audrey Hepburn by flipping out their hair, buying the large sunglasses and the little sleeveless dresses.” But how does one translate this fundamental accessibility to the realm of culinary pursuits?
The methodology required for building a stylish wardrobe and building a kitchen toolbox have much in common. First, acquire the essentials necessary on a fundamental level. Second, add accessories that delight, inspire, and fascinate. And finally, the dream wish list – so called because every item is neither required, practical, nor affordable, but will elevate your delights, whether sartorial or culinary, to that ne pas ultra of chic.
I will be posting my toolbox in sequence– today, we lay the foundation with “absolute essentials,” tomorrow we explore with the “perfect accessories,” and finally we aspire with “the wish list.” While you certainly do not need all of these items to make a fantastic kitchen, the list is helpful for those starting out, adding to existing collections, or registering for upcoming nuptials! xx tt
*click on the bolded item to be directed to the brand that I use
Good Knives (the ultimate investment pieces) - I use Shun, but Victorinox is a highly-rated inexpensive alternative
- Chef’s: 7-inch knife used to chop/slice/mince and cut meat
- Pairing: allows more precision than a Chef’s Knife for the same jobs
- Bread: you don’t want to flatten your bread while attempting to cut through it, this knife makes it effortless
- Scissors: ideally one pair for cutting food, and another for flowers
- Sharpening Steel: sharpen your set once per week
Nesting Bowls: completely affordable, and useful for mixing + prepping ingredients
Parchment Paper, Aluminum Foil, Plastic Bags, Plastic Wrap (obviously)
Roasting Pan/Rack: pricing ranges hugely on these, if you aren’t a big roaster, look for one under $50 at places like Ross, T.J. Maxx, and Marshall’s
- Large Sauce Pan
- Small Sauce Pan
- Large Skillet (oven-proof handle)
- Lodge Logic Small Cast-Iron Skillet (voted best for browning + flavor by America’s Test Kitchen)
- Saute Pan
- Stockpot (4-8 quarts)
- Grill Pan
- Lodge Logic Dutch Oven or Le Crueset French Oven
- Wood Spoons
- Silicon Spatula
- Metal Spatula
- Heat-Resistant Spatula
- Skimmer (for skimming fat off of things as they cook)
Sheet Pans (2)
Round Cake Pans (2)
Square Pan 8x8
Pyrex 9x13: amazing for mac and cheese!
Timer: even if your oven has one, there may be times where you have two or more things cooking that require timers
Pumping Hand Soap (clean hands are a must, especially when handling raw chicken)
Ramekins: for baking (double as prep bowls)