Wednesday, June 13, 2012

In the kitchen

Favorite cooking tools

Express Staff Writer

Craig Barry’s 15-year-old commercial gas stove and oven is the centerpiece of his culinary endeavors..
Express photo by David N. Seelig

Guys and gear are like peanut butter and jelly—especially when it comes to the kitchen. Whether it's firing up the grill or "MacGuyvering" a masterpiece from incompatible ingredients, these valley men know what tools it takes to get the job done.

Valley Man asked four local guys to tell us about the favorite tool in their culinary chest.

Craig Barry, manager, The Gold Mine thrift store

Gold Mine thrift store Manager Craig Barry's recycling roots show in his top choice for the piece of gear he uses most in the kitchen. The former executive director of the Environmental Resource Center does all his home cooking on a 15-year-old commercial gas stove and oven that he bought secondhand.

"I got it out of the paper," Barry said. "It's gorgeous, I think. It really cranks out the heat, so that appeals to the guy in me. And you can cook a lot of stuff on it, of course."

The stove is the standout piece in Barry's kitchen, which was remodeled in 2010 to put the stove at its center. Since then, it's cranked out everything from boeuf bourguignon to Barry's most recent kitchen accomplishment—salmon with anchovy sauce, a recipe from English chef and food culture advocate Jamie Oliver.

"I love doing fish now," Barry said. "It's just a little bit healthier. I like steaks, but they're not as challenging."

Cooking is complicated when making meals for a crowd.

"I enjoy cooking for others much more [than for myself]," he said, and credits the people he cooks for—old friends and co-workers, mostly—for keeping him interested in food.

Barry's passion for cooking started during college, when he did a junior year abroad in Montpelier, France, and had a resident director who inspired him to experiment with the culinary arts.

"I never thought I could cook," he said. "But he told me if you can read, you can cook. I've always remembered that."

Scott Hartman, writer

Though Scott Hartman has been cooking for decades, he had a hard time picking a favorite item of kitchen gear—mostly, he said, because he has cooked in so many places and is used to making do with whatever's available.

So rather than relying on gear, Hartman began relying on a book called "Culinary Artistry" by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page. It's less a recipe book than a guide for experimenting with flavors, Hartman said. For example, the combination of basil, balsamic and olive oil is well-known, but Hartman said he became bored with that eventually and began seeking more unique pairings.

"I drowned in that!" he said with a laugh. "So you start to think, what else is good with balsamic? That book is the one thing I wouldn't cook without."

Keith Perry, co-owner, Perry's Restaurant

Keith Perry's restaurant in Ketchum might be best known for breakfast and baked goods, but at home, it's all about the barbecue.

"When I'm at home, more than anything, I barbecue," said Perry. "I like a good rib steak. I'll do twice-baked potatoes and sauté a bunch of mixed vegetables."

While Perry said he loves his gas grill, it's only one of the three things he uses most often when cooking at home. The second is a good, stiff grill brush.

"A good grill brush is really important, a wire brush with a scraper on the end to keep the grill in good shape," he said.

As for traditional kitchen tools, he said his favorite—and most reliable—is a 12-inch nonstick skillet, which he uses for nearly everything, including the vegetables he serves with most of his barbecued masterpieces.

Perry said he got his start cooking at the age of 9 or 10, when he and his older brother embarked on a summer project.

"One summer we just decided that we should cook!" he said. "It was maybe a little unusual, especially in the '50s."

But Perry had a role model in his father, who had a specialty of his own—an earlier version of Perry's potatoes served at the restaurant.

"My dad always did Sunday breakfast, which was a family tradition," he said. "He used to do potatoes like we do at the restaurant, sometimes he'd do pancakes. [Cooking] was kind of ingrained in me."

Scott Mason, chef and owner, Ketchum Grill

None of these valley men are particularly high-tech chefs, but Ketchum Grill owner and chef Scott Mason puts them all to shame with his gear choice—his hands.

"I'm a low-tech kind of cook," he said. "I like to feel my food from the start [of the process]."

In addition, he said, it's cool to think that his hands are completely custom, passed down from his parents and completely unique.

As for more traditional gear, Mason said the wood-burning grill at his restaurant is probably his favorite kitchen tool. He often burns different types of wood to infuse his food with various subtle flavors, and the grill has been with Mason and his restaurant for 21 years.

"I could not do without it."

Mason's passion for food started early in life. He began cooking at his grandparents' house, where they would pull up a stool for him to sit and watch at while they patiently showed him the ropes.

"Scrambled eggs were my first solo meal," he said.

But true dedication to cooking for a living came on his first trip to Italy, where he is currently. He's inspired by the simple flavors, he said, and how passionate Italians are about food.

"I was cooking professionally already on that first trip," he said. "I knew after a plate of ravioli al pesto in Vernazza that I was destined to be in the kitchen."

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