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How to play Santa to the chefs in your life


Only 18 days left to finish your holiday shopping. But there’s

still time to find some wonderful gifts for the cooks on your list --

both practical items for every day and small extravagances for


special occasions.

Forget the image of mom turning up her nose at a toaster under the

tree. Serious cooks are always on the prowl for new tools and

equipment to improve their performance, and all kinds of things for


serving their creations. It’s easy to play Santa to a significant

other or close friend. Just check out their kitchen or break down and

ask. My list has been posted on the refrigerator for months.

Here are some gift suggestions for both kitchen novices and

experienced cooks available at Crate and Barrel, Williams-Sonoma, Sur

La Table, Coast Hardware, Chef’s Catalog (also, and Many of them are also in department



Emerging Epicures and New Nesters are the easiest to shop for.

Stuff a stocking with small tools like a digital meat thermometer,

Adjust-a-Cup/Spoon measuring set, small bottles of Bourbon Vanilla

Extract or citrus oils. While your stocking may be too small to hold

one, an apron with the cook’s name or initials is sure to please. A

beautiful set of heavy ceramic mixing bowls also make a great gift.

If your budget can stand it, a KitchenAid Professional stand mixer

is a primo present. However, this is a serious piece of equipment


that can’t be stored away for occasional use. Be sure the cook has

plenty of space available to make this a permanent counter fixture.

Both beginners and pros will welcome a nonstick-coated waffle

maker. Some have inter- changeable plates for making toasted

sandwiches and thinner waffles in different shapes and patterns.

Buying knives and cookware for someone else can be tricky, unless you

get very specific requests. If your favorite cook doesn’t already

have one, a French classic copper roasting pan will certainly show

how much you care.

The experienced cook probably has more than the basic equipment,

so you might want to think about items for the bar or table.

A digital wine thermometer that can be programmed for specific

kinds of wine and inserted into the bottle for an instant temperature

reading is a great stocking stuffer. Martini sets for drinkers who

prefer those classic cocktails either shaken or stirred, and a

“rabbit” corkscrew are also good choices.

Cooks who are serious about food are just as serious about the

table on which it is presented. Crisp, white monogrammed linen dinner

napkins are an elegant touch, and something most cooks never buy for

themselves. A set of 12 white, square salad-sized plates will always

be a welcome addition for dinner parties. Dishes with long, thin

compartments for olives are also nice.

I don’t know many cooks who would splurge on restaurant-style chef

attire, but those double-breasted white jackets and houndstooth check

pants, along with a pair of chef’s clogs are high on my list. What

fun to serve guests a truly spectacular meal in clothes that complete

the image.

Back to the kitchen: There are a few other things that all cooks

will find useful.

I really like the small cordless hand blenders. They’re great for

pureeing soups and sauces right in the pot. The home bakers on your

list will love a marble pastry board and some unusual molds for cakes

and other desserts. Everyone who works in a kitchen will appreciate a

cookbook stand.

There seems to be an explosion of new kinds of espresso machines

out there to make any coffee lover’s heart beat a little faster. A

regular coffee maker that delivers brew right into a carafe is a

great idea for someone who works at home and still wants fresh hot

coffee at noon.

If you still can’t figure out how to please the cooks on your

list, consider a gift certificate or order some gourmet food item.

Harry and David has gorgeous gift baskets, and their pears and other

fruit are legendary. And, of course, a tin of caviar under the tree

is a not-too-shabby gift.

A subscription to a good cooking magazine (like Fine Cooking,

Eating Well, Cook’s Illustrated), or gift certificate for cooking

classes (Laguna Culinary Arts and Sur La Table) would be welcomed,

too. Latitude 33 has some excellent cookbooks.

One last bit of advice to Santas who don’t work in the kitchen --

get help from someone who does. You’ll be amazed at how many other

suggestions they’ll offer. And, if you’re very good, they may even

tag along for a trip to the store.

* LILLIAN REITER is a Laguna Beach resident. A self-described

“shameless foodie,” she is currently co-authoring a cookbook. She can

be reached at reitersinc@ or P.O. Box 248, Laguna Beach,

CA 92652, or via fax at 494-8979.