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Thursday, July 28, 2016

10 St. Louis Chefs and the Kitchen Tools They Can’t Live Without

Posted By on Thu, Jul 28, 2016 at 6:21 AM

Ron Buechele of Capitalist Pig: Chef, ninja ... or both?
  • Ron Buechele of Capitalist Pig: Chef, ninja ... or both?

Every chef has a favorite tool he or she cherishes. It can range from the extremely specialized and high-tech to the ultra-simple. Some are specific to a type of cuisine, others are family heirlooms — but all of them are indispensable. We spoke with ten St. Louis chefs who shared ten unique stories of their most beloved tools of the trade. 

Ron Buechele, chef and owner 
Capitalist Pig

Ron Buechele's father had wanted a butcher knife that was heavier on the back end than commercial knives. Buechele’s grandfather, a tool and die maker, made one for him by cutting down and resharpening a beautiful World War II machete with brass rivets in the handle. The knife was used at every holiday and family gathering, slicing ham paper thin, carving turkeys and parting out chickens until it was handed down to Buechele. He now uses this knife to serve up barbecue at his Soulard spot, the Capitalist Pig.


Matthew Bessler, executive chef 
The Libertine 

Matthew Bessler first became interested in cooking when he was fifteen years old. He'd sit for hours of Ming Sai on PBS (the fried rice he finally mastered is now a family favorite). He first saw his beloved wok on a late-night infomercial when he was supposed to be asleep and was instantly hooked. The wok is made from cut steel drums pounded with mallets by hand on a rounded tree stump to create divots and bumps in a circular pattern that hold food on the sides as new ingredients are added. Bessler’s mother surprised him with the wok for his birthday and he is still using it 25 years later. "It’s now perfectly seasoned and can fry and egg without sticking as well as sear, sauté and boil anything," extols Bessler.

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Sam Hilmer, Owner, Chef and Farmer 
Claverach Farm 

This Red Dragon 500,000-BTU propane torch is used at Claverach Farm whenever a massive amount of focused heat is needed — organic weed control, brush burning or metal working. It's also useful in food prep: to char skins on summer peppers and tomatoes, to perfectly quick-roast a tray of asparagus for a large crowd at a farm dinner, or put just a kiss of crisp on blanched baby carrots. “This tool makes a fool of the Searzall!” says owner Sam Hilmer.

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Stephen Trouvere, Executive Chef 
Bailey's Restaurants 

A chef needs to focus on proper execution, but also repair and recovery. A good whetstone makes both possible. "Your knife, when sharp, will always go where you direct it," says Trouvere, who's in charge of the food for Dave Bailey's sprawling restaurant empire (Bailey's Range, Bailey's Chocolate Bar and Bridge Tap House and Wine Bar among them). "Then, as you master the stone, it will enable you to remake any edge. As a bonus, the patient and repetitive motion of shaping a new edge is a great antidote to the intensity of a hard service." Trouvere remembers the day he finally made a great edge on his Wusthof chef knife – he cut down a dozen live lobsters and then sliced tomatoes with ease. He has never again worried about dull knives.


Tyson Long, Head Chef
Winslow’s Home
Long's favorite kitchen tool is a mason jar for canning and preserving. His University City restaurant has the unique situation of having of its very own farm (Winslow’s Farm) that caters solely to the needs of its kitchen. Using hyper-seasonal produce, however, often results in an over-abundance at peak harvest. Long preserves any extras so that he can offer them year-round. "Being able to use a canned farm-fresh tomato in the middle of winter to me is incredible," says Long.

Turn the page for more chefs and their tools.

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