Being a chef is one of the toughest jobs there is. They’re on their feet all day, under time pressure to deliver in scalding temperatures. Working in confined spaces they have little time for faff and love streamlined solutions that help show off their skills. Here’s what some of Ireland’s keenest cooks like to use at home.
Neven Maguire – Miele four-ring induction hob, skillet, swivel potato peeler
Neven Maguire needs little introduction. A TV chef, author of 16 cookbooks with a combined sales of over a quarter of a million copies, cookery school and restaurant with accommodation all under his belt he uses a Miele four-ring induction hob at home.
“It’s one of the ones with the under-counter extractor so you get clean visual lines above counter but really induction is two to three times faster than gas so it gives you instant heat but also makes it easier to stand the heat as it doesn’t make the kitchen as warm as gas does. A lot of professional kitchens are turning to it.”
Maguire tests his cookware range for Dunnes Stores, at the cookery school, using samples of everything for a couple of months to see which items stand up scrutiny.
One of his favourite pieces of cookware is the skillet, €50 for a 28cm diameter. Along with the rest of the range it is made in the same factories as big cook and knife brands Zwilling J A Henckels and Wusthof. A smaller version, €40, 24cm wide, has been launched to suit households of one or two.
For blending soups or sauces he uses the Bamix Gastro 200, about €219, because it “delivers a semi-professional level of speed to create a cappuccino effect that can add froth. I make hot chocolate for the twins using it.”
As a citeog Maguire’s tool range includes a swivel potato peeler for the left-handed, €8. He recently introduced a “knuckleduster” garlic press, €8, for crushing cloves that is easy to clean and microplanes.
"I have a long one, for grating Parmesean cheese into light as air whirls and a coarse one for nutmeg or chocolate." Each costs €10. He also likes a mandolin, one with safety guard that he stocks up on from Nisbets and loves the anti-scratch pan protectors, about €8 for a set of three, that can be bought from UK-based Lakeland. He slots them between non-stick pans to protect the surfaces from getting damaged.
Gwen McGrath and Ken Doherty of Assassination Custard – Bialetti stove-top moka maker, tawa pan, KitchenAid
The piece of kitchen kit that Gwen McGrath and Ken Doherty, owners of Assassination Custard use most in their kitchen is the Bialetti stove-top moka maker. “It makes the best coffee,” says Doherty who adds hot milk to his, warmed in one of Gwen’s copper pans, which she says are also really good for making jam and cooking sugar.
A passatelli maker is a recent purchase.
“It’s a form of rice maker that using pasta dough of flour, cheese and eggs, makes worm-like forms that we drop into broth, made using a pressure cooker, which shortens the cook time from 10 hours to five. You can also use it to mash potatoes,” Doherty explains.
A recent purchase was a marble slab, from Hogan’s Butchers on Wexford Street, which closed its doors for the last time in January.
“I tried to buy loads of things off him, including the butcher’s block and neon sign but they were already gone. It’s about the size of the top of a standard fridge,” he says.
They use it for making pastry and sometimes pasta and on sunny days have taken in out to the back garden to give them an alfresco prep station. They’re also considering installing one in the restaurant.
They have a wooden butcher’s block that they love and clean using salt. Theirs was a gift but Dublin 11-based McDonnell’s, a supplier to the catering trade, sells a range starting from a three-foot wide maple block, that you can set into a countertop, from €1,370.
Doherty likes a non-stick pan for frying fish and a favourite purchase was a tawa pan he got in a shop on Clanbrassil Street. He uses it on the hob to make paratha bread, a flaky Asian flatbread. The Triggerfish Cookshop, Blackrock, sells a carbon steel version for €20.
"The most expensive gadget we ever bought was a Kitchenaid," says McGrath. She uses it for meringues and is currently making home-made walnut whips by adding gelatin to the meringue, which is set onto a biscuit base and put on a wire rack to be coated in chocolate. You can buy the mixers from about €579 from suppliers including Harvey Norman.
facebook.com/assassinationcustard mcdonnells.ie triggerfishcookshop.ie harveynorman.ie
Cúán Greene – spoons, Wilfa coffee grinder, ceramic bowl
Since the surprise closure of Bastible during lockdown one, its chef Cúán Greene has been busy selling cosmic taco kit boxes and setting up a website, Ómós, which will sell cool homewares, ceramics and glassware. While most would think he got his appreciation of such tableware from the restaurant environment at Copenhagen’s Noma, where he worked for four years, it was growing up, at the family table, that he got his love of the hand-made. His mother is glass artist Róisín de Buitléar.
“We never had shop-bought glasses. Many were wonky hand-made pieces by artists from all over the world that would come stay with us.”
Ómós is a place to tell these stories and to sell such unique products, which we have designed together, he says. Upcoming collaborations include one with Fermoy Pottery; another with Kilkenny-based ceramicist Katharina Treml and breadbaskets with Tipperary-based Hanna van Aelst.
Some of his favourite pieces include several spoons by Éamonn of O’Sullivan of Ennistymon-based Hewn.
“The big birch one with the blunted lip, €28, is great for getting into the corners of pots, where porridge sticks, for example. I eat my porridge from a ceramic bowl and like many I own, it is made by friends. The sound of a metal spoon against the ceramic surface isn’t too pleasing to the ear whereas the wooden spoon sounds beautiful.”
For his morning brew he likes to use a Wilfa coffee grinder, which, he says, is really accurate. An old Irish bog brush with a black handle and Tampico bristles, €48, is by Two Wooden Horses, which is based in Delgany.
“I use it for dusting flour.”
He also has one of its bog oak chopping boards that he cleans with hot, soapy water. He buys Japanese knives through Paris-based Kama Asa but has also ordered a knife from Sam Gleeson, an Ennistymon-based maker that uses old forge techniques.
The bowls and vessels he uses in his home have been made by friends and when one breaks he mends the breakage with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, a Japanese practice called kintsugi. Designist sells a kit for €27.
Omos.co hewn.ietwowoodenhorses.comkama asa.co.jp/en/thisiswhatido.ieshop.designist.ie
Karl Whelan – Kamodo Classic Joe, Electrolux steam oven
Chef Karl Whelan of Hang Dai Chinese says he has always been into cooking over fire.
“It’s a really real form of cookery with a primordial vibe. I have cooked over fire for years in professional restaurants and it delivers layers of flavour, a cuisson of cooking, that you don’t get with gas or induction.” He wanted to get a really good home barbecue so bought a Kamodo Classic Joe about six years ago.
“Airflow is the biggest concern and its heavy ceramic dome traps the air, preventing it from leaving. You can cook low and slow. In summer I use it every day. If you barbecue you use the same dishes so there’s less wash-up. A wire brush is all you need to clean the grill and the lumpwood charcoal burns to a fine powder with a good distance from the grill to the firebox.”
In his kitchen he has two large chopping boards, each big enough to hold a large turkey that he bought in TK Maxx, which, he says, is a great place for kitchen bits.
“I’ve gotten some great deals there including several pieces of Staub including a cocotte, utensil jars, olive oil bottles and a garlic press.”
He uses Kilner jars for storage, everything from nuts to sugar and pasta is put on open shelving.
“It looks pretty but chefs get a bit twitchy when open bags are not decanted into jars. It will just spill.” He also uses the rubber seals from the jars to steady his chopping boards.
He bakes a lot too as a result of lockdown doing baguettes, brioche and milk rolls in his Electrolux steam oven.
“Sour dough is better in the cocotte than the oven. My white one is destroyed and gnarly looking now.”
He likes kitchenalia.
“I’ve a soft spot for French vintage gear. I got an antique terrine mould for Christmas from Mac’s Warehouse for €10. I made a whole duck terrine, which included marinated fois gras. Another gift was a mustard-coloured 1970s Le Cruset fondue set from my parents-in-law.”
Inspired by his time at Tetsuya Wakuda in Sydney he's working with some Irish ceramicists to create serveware for dishes to help frame a new restaurant aesthetic. "Chefs want to control everything."