Tooled up with kitchen gadgets

By Julie Jacobson

Aunt Daisy may have got by with a wooden spoon and a mixing bowl, but today's cooks are faced with an embarrassment of kitchen riches that cater for every culinary task. Julie Jacobson asks some of the Bay's best-known foodies about their favourites.
For anyone of a certain age, the words "whisk up a treat" will more than likely conjure up images of Alison Holst, aprons and egg-beaters. The jingle - for Greggs Instant Pudding - was the 70s equivalent of today's "everyone gets a bargain".
It came out in an era when just a handful of people would have heard of an espresso machine, when pureeing food for babies was done with a mouli and bread was made by hand, not in a machine.
Nowadays there's a gadget for everything - to zest citrus, pit cherries, boil eggs, cook rice, produce perfect slices of green beans, make icecream.
There's very few of us who wouldn't have forked out good money for some contraption that, after a couple of uses, went either to the back of the cupboard or to the second-hand store. On the other hand, who hasn't discovered the joy of those hinged lemon squeezers, or the usefulness of something as simple as a sandwich press?
Here we talk to six foodies about the kitchen tools they can't do without.
Attila Kovacs, chef, Mills Reef Winery
Probably the most useful piece of equipment is a vacuum machine, which we can use to keep things fresh. We try to order fish fresh every day, but sometimes that's impossible. You can only keep fish for a maximum of two days but, if we have to, with the pump we can keep it as fresh as when we got it for up to four days.
Then there's the kitchen radio.

Without a radio the mood in the kitchen can get pretty down - you need music. There's a bit of fighting over which channel we're going to listen to, but we usually end up on More FM. The pastry chef loves the 50s and 60s - everyone gets a bit sleepy if he's got that on - and the dishwasher guys, the young boys, will sometimes try to change it, but generally it's rock.
I've got a spatula that I use for everything - buttering bread, pan-frying fish, chopping. Seriously, it is just like a third hand. I've had it for years now. It's just a really basic one that you can buy anywhere.
Another really important thing is a bell to call the orders. You can't live without that. I did buy a really expensive knife once for $600. Everyone said it was a really good brand - you know, hand-made, Japanese - but it was really uncomfortable to use.
Belinda Lombard, chef, Lemongrass catering

There are some things in this world that I wouldn't want to live without - the internet, Sky TV (I love those foodie shows and Bear Grylls) and my GPS.
I'm no different in the kitchen. I have gadgets that I use all the time; a very small, flat wire whisk - great for making vinaigrettes, beating eggs and blending sauces quickly - my trusty 18-year-old palette knife, which is used for spreading, lifting and flipping; a peeler/grater which I use for shaving parmesan and zesting citrus fruit; and my mandolin, because no matter how good my knife skills are, it's a lot faster.
There is nothing special or flash about my palette knife. It was the first knife I ever brought and I use it just about every day. It has travelled the world with me - it's been the victor in wooden-spoon sword fights that chefs partake of in quiet moments in the kitchen - and the handle's worn smooth with use.
I bought them all overseas but you can buy them pretty much anywhere. I make a trip to Auckland whenever the food shows are on, just to check out the latest gadgets.
James Broad, chef, Cuisine Concepts

For most chefs, a good set of knives - used by trained hands - does everything most gadgets do.
The set I have is over 20 years old and they're as good today as they were new. They are a German brand called Wusthof Trident and come from Solgen, a steel town famous for its knives. Initially, rather than buying a cheaper, complete set I bought one good-quality, large, all-purpose cook's knife. It cost $250 - two weeks' wages back then - but in real terms, because the knives come with a lifetime guarantee, it was very cheap.
A few months later, when I could afford it, I bought a second knife - a small paring knife from the same stable with the same lifetime guarantee. The toolbox now is overflowing with knives; filleting, boning, carving ... and not just one of each.
Gallons and gallons of blood have been spilt learning to use them, and depending on the amount of use they get, they can be micro-sharpened on a steel up to a dozen times a day. I use a whetstone for major sharpening as required.
Stephen Barry, chef, Mount Bistro
The most important piece of equipment would be a good chef's knife. I mostly use Global knives, as they are light and hold a sharp edge for a long time.
One of the more interesting gadgets I have is my Zyliss icecream scoop and stack. I use it to make icecream, mashed potato, risotto and even diced vegetables.
I've got a spatula that I use for everything ... Seriously, it is like a third hand.Attila Kovacs
The most versatile gadget would be my stick blender. I've been using them for 25 years now. The early models were expensive European ones and had a fixed shaft. The newer ones have removable shafts for easy cleaning and come with a variety of attachments.
They are ideal for pureeing vegetables, soups and sauces directly in the pot you have cooked them in, and they're great for blending dressings or making hollandaise sauce in seconds. My latest is a Kenwood that I have had for a couple of months. It's perfect for making pastry, bread crumbs, chopping nuts and spice blends like dukkah.
I have a cupboard at home full of gadgets that were used for about a month after I bought them and then retired - things like a waffle iron, electric donut-maker, bread-maker, juicer.
Fran Cooper, baker, The Whipped Baker

There are lots of exciting gadgets and thingamajigs around these days that people think they have to have, and while my husband thinks he's the most important thing in my bakery, the thing I really can't live without is my old wooden rolling pin, which he picked up at a local market.
I originally pooh-poohed it because it wasn't as heavy as the one I had - a big stainless-steel thing that for some reason had started to leak. But it's just fabulous, and who knew something as simple as a new rolling pin could make you feel so good?
It's the best stress-reliever I've ever had - I can just lock myself away in the bakery (on the days before we do the markets I'm at work from about 5am) and take all my frustrations out on the dough. Plus it doesn't talk back. It's also the most useful; it can smash nuts, crush biscuits, roll pastries, make wedding cakes. I would be so lost without it.
Simon Holst, food writer

It's funny how in the shop things will often seem like the best thing since sliced bread, but once you get them home they just don't quite deliver all they promised, and they soon wind up languishing in the bottom of a drawer or the back of a cupboard (as any examination of the dim recesses of my kitchen will attest).
While there are a number of little tools that are certainly fun - my sister gave me a new julienne grater thingy recently that works well - somewhat boringly, perhaps, my favourite things are those I use most often; a good non-stick frypan and a sharp knife or two.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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