I recently caught up with our cookware and cutlery buyer, Diana Gringle, for her views on Cartesian dualism, pop music and giving cookware as gifts. She mostly wanted to talk about cookware. Here’s how our conversation went:
Bill: First, what are some core cookware pieces you would recommend giving to beginning cooks or someone who’s just moved into that first apartment? Basically, what’s in your kitchen starter kit?
Diana: If I’m giving a gift to someone who hasn’t completely outfitted their kitchen, my list of absolute must-haves is:
So on the opposite end of the spectrum, what do you get the person who has everything? Something obscure but useful?
My latest go-to is a specialty piece from Staub called the famille pan. It was originally designed as a large paella pan, but it has so many more uses than that! It has a large 4.5-qt capacity and wide diameter of 14”, so it can be used as a large griddle, sauté pan and skillet. It’s the pan everyone loves and never knew they needed, especially for those who like to entertain or cook for a crowd.
Another opposite-end-spectrum question. Let’s say one doesn’t have a lot of money to spend. Maybe not “Gift-of-the-Magi” destitute, but on a budget. What’s a good value piece? What gives the most bang for the buck? And on the other end, you’ve just broken the bank at Monte Carlo and you want to knock someone’s socks off with your wealth and taste. What do you give them?
For a great gift at a price that won’t empty your savings account, I’d recommend Scanpan Classic. It’s amazing cookware at a great value. Skillet prices start at $59, and it is the world’s best nonstick surface. All of our Scanpan products are metal-utensil safe and can go into the dishwasher.
On the other hand, if I really wanted to impress someone, I have only one word: COPPER. Mauviel produces the finest copper products, sold to professional chefs and hobby cooks the world over. Each piece of Mauviel copper is a true work of art, but my personal favorite is the copper champagne bucket. That piece is definitely on my list this year.
Would you recommend giving someone something that you love to cook with personally, or something you think they’d love to cook with? (For example, say you’re a diehard cast iron fan, but the person you’re buying a gift for puts everything in the dishwasher? Everything.)
I think it’s always important to keep your audience in mind, but also keep quality top of mind. As an actual diehard cast iron fan, I always try not to be overly pushy with my friends who are not quite as passionate as I am about kitchen products. That said, Emile Henry bakers are always a safe bet. They last forever and are the absolute best quality.
How about upgrades? Is it ok to give someone a better-quality version of cookware they already own? Or is that snobby and wrong?
I don’t think that’s snobby and wrong! Cooking is more enjoyable with better tools. That’s just a fact.
Do you have any favorite pieces to give, cookware or otherwise?
My favorite gift to give, hands down, is our Villa Mondori balsamic vinegar. It’s life changing and worth every penny.
Do you remember the first cookware you got as a gift? If it came from a boyfriend, did you clobber him with it?
I don’t, actually, but I vividly remember the first kitchen gift I gave! It was before I worked for Sur La Table. I was living in Philadelphia and got my boyfriend (now fiancé) a Shun Classic chef’s knife for Christmas. He cut himself on it almost instantly (slicing a cheesesteak in half, of course). I have had a lot of knives come and go since then, but that one is still in heavy rotation.
What’s the worst song of the 1990s?
“Barely Breathing” by Duncan Sheik
So what cookware gifts are you giving this year? (Or hoping to get?) And seriously — is “Barely Breathing” the worst song of the ’90s? Or is it something else … ? Let us know in the comments!
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