We’re very lucky here at SquareMeal to be able to call some of the best cooks in the country our friends so when it came to writing a list of the best gifts for chefs, we knew who to turn to: the experts themselves.
To us everyday people, chefs can seem like a complicated breed. They work long, late hours and typically come with an obsessive compulsion to keep going long after their shift has finished, grafting to come up with new dishes, menus, or concepts in their own time. Because they’re so often engrossed in their world of gastronomy they can – we think – be tricky to buy for when it comes to Christmas, birthdays or celebrations. But equally, we’re pretty sure their demanding jobs and unrelenting quest for perfection means they’re more deserving than most of a good gift.
Instead of a panic purchase, why not get the chef or chefs in your life their perfect present by taking the lead from their peers? An interesting factor for us was that actually food is a welcome gift. Bit of a busman’s holiday we thought originally, but actually when you spend your life cooking for other people it makes sense that it would be a welcome change for someone to make food for you for once.
We’ve loved combing through the suggested gifts for chefs, with everything from UK-made leather aprons through to garden snips given their place on the list. Despite the diversity of the list, there’s a common factor in that everything has been carefully thought through by the very people who know what gifts chefs covet the most. Handily their suggestions mean that if you have a chef in your life who you’re looking to treat, you can now purchase them the perfect present without the hours of stress that searching for something sentimental can bring.
Stalwart Crafts Leather Aprons: Will Murray and Jack Croft – Fallow
If you’ve ever had the joy of enjoying a meal at Fallow you will have spotted the team wearing their signature leather aprons, and it's these that co-owners Will and Jack think would make the perfect gift for chef friends. They’re the ideal uniform for busy kitchens as they’re so durable and easy to keep clean, plus they look pretty suave too.
Why Will and Jack love it: “We love our Stalwart Crafts leather aprons as they are durable and provide proper protection between us and the scorching grills at Fallow. They’re handcrafted in the UK, can be personalised with branding and logos, and will last a lifetime.”
Buy it, £161.32, stalwartcrafts.com
Book Fallow, the gold-awarded sustinable restaurant headed up by Will and Jack
Little Kasai Konro Grill: Tommy Banks – Roots, The Black Swan and Made in Oldstead
Tommy Banks – the chef proprietor of a Michelin starred Yorkshire pub – knows a thing or two about what a busy chef might like. This grill might be petite in stature, but it certainly pulls its weight when it comes to the cooking. It can get up to 750C and is small enough to use at home or out and about, as well as being powerful enough for a professional kitchen.
Why Tommy loves it: “The Kasai Grill is a BBQ inspired by the famous Japanese blueprint of the Konro but made here in the UK using the best materials. It’s ideal for outdoor cooking and I recently took mine to the beach. It gives you excellent control over temperature and once used, the coals can be cooled, left to dry, and used again and again.”
Buy it, £419, sousvidetools.com
Book The Black Swan, the Michelin starred pub owned and run by Tommy
Tsurumiso Dried Rice Koji 500g: Helen Graham – Bubala
Turns out buying for chefs isn’t all about high-end cooking gadgets or expensive aprons, Helen Graham from Bubala would be happy with a bag of specialist rice. As she says, it might sound weird but giving the gift of a raw ingredient allows the recipient the joy of getting creative with something they (potentially) haven’t used before. Making ingredients from scratch is at the heart of every good kitchen, so this starting point for making common ingredients like soy and miso means you'll help to create foundational building blocks of flavour, for all kinds of dishes.
Why Helen loves it: "I’d be really happy to receive koji, aka mould-inoculated rice. This may sound like a very weird gift but it's such a cool product that allows you to make things such as miso, sake and soy sauce. In Noma's Book of Fermentation (also an amazing gift), it's described as 'indistinguishable from magic' - beat that."
Buy it, £9.99, sushisushi.co.uk
Book Bubala, the Middle Eastern vegetarian restaurant Helen heads up
Katto Chefs Knives: Will Bowlby – Kricket
If there’s one thing guaranteed to make the job of a chef easier, it’s a set of decent knives. While they’ll of course have a full set already, a really special knife or knife set is always going to be a welcome addition, as they’re a bit of a splurge item. We love that this is a personalised option for that special little extra.
Why Will loves it: “For chefs starting out, a set of knives is always a great ideas like Katto Knives. Their knives are handmade in their workshop in London and they offer a free sharpening service as well as a monogramming service, a nice touch for a personalised present.”
Buy it, from £125, katto.shop
Book Kricket, Will's wildly popular Anglo-Indian restaurant
Berenjak Ultimate Kit: Chet Sharma – BiBi
Turns out us ordinary people aren’t the only ones who like a good feed, chefs are also keen on being catered for. Take the stress out of the situation by getting another chef to do the hard work... genius really? The Berenjak kit has been a firm favourite of ours from our selection of the best meal kits, and includes incredible professional-looking kebab skewers that can be used again and again, and loads of delicious Persian food. For £100 you get enough grub to cater for 5-6 people, or it’ll make a meal plus plenty of leftovers for smaller parties.
Why Chet loves it: “Gifting chefs food is always a brilliant idea. I think the Berenjak Ultimate Kit is a fun present and works well for a big family meal. It features pre-marinated Kababs and Clay-baked lavash bread alongside much more.”
Buy it, £100, berenjakbazaar.com
Book BiBi, the latest restaurant from JKS restaurant group and Chet's first solo venture
Taste: My Life Through Food by Stanley Tucci: Jun Tanaka – The Ninth and Salisterra
The chefs we speak to are almost all obsessive about research, so gifting them a book from another highly esteemed gourmand, chef or restaurant is the perfect thing to get their creative juices flowing. This light-hearted memoir takes the reader through Tucci’s foodie escapades, with plenty of recipe and restaurant inspiration along the way.
Why Jun loves it: “My suggestion would be Stanley Tucci’s new book, Taste: My life through food.
I love his recent cooking series "Searching for Italy" where he discovers the secrets and recipes of the country’s regional cuisine. After watching this, I want to know more about his connection with food.”
Buy it, £20, waterstones.com
Book The Ninth, Jun's Michelin starred modern European restaurant
Koi Artisan Signature Range 6 Piece Professional Knife Set: Rohit Ghai – Kutir and Manthan
It might sound stupid, but we hadn’t thought that most chefs might change up their tools each year – turns out that’s exactly that they do. A solid set of Japanese knives, or one very special one is just the thing to set them off on a solid path for the next twelve months or so.
Why Rohit loves it: “I usually change my personal kitchen tools around Christmas every year because of the good deals available during the festive season, so it would be a nice set of Japanese knives and a personalised chopping board.”
Buy them, £399, koiartisan.com
Book Kutir, the entrancing modern Indian restaurant from Michelin-trained Rohit
Niwaki Gardening Tools: Stevie Parle – Pastaio and JOY
Getting their hands on the best ingredients will forever be the starting point for the best chefs in the UK. Growing their own fruit, veg and herbs helps to cut out the middleman and is a common hobby for passionate produce-led chefs it turns out. Treating them to a few key pieces for their garden is a nice touch, and if you play your cards right you might even get some of the spoils come summer.
Why Stevie loves them: “Most chefs I know are also gardeners and growers so a trip down to the Niwaki store on Chiltern St to buy some beautiful Japanese gardening equipment would be nice for lots of chefs. They also have some excellent Japanese cooks' knives and some scary looking axes as non-gardening options if nothing else takes your fancy.”
Buy it, items from £5, niwaki.com
Book Pastaio, Stevie's pocket-friendly restaurant that deals in incredible plates of pasta
Restaurant Gift Vouchers: Joshua Owens-Baigler – Angelina
As might be expected, we’re big fans of the gift of a good meal, and what better way to treat a chef than to let them hang up their April for the night and allow them time to put their feet up? At SquareMeal we offer restaurant vouchers that can be used at a whole host of the top restaurants in the UK – ranging from casual gastropubs through to fancy fine-diners.
Why Joshua loves it: “A ticket or gift card for a nice meal is a perfect gift. I love to eat out, so does my partner and to get looked after rather than doing the looking after is such a treat. Also, when the food is covered, the wine budget increases!”
Buy it, from £10, squaremeal.co.uk
Book Joshua's Angelina, the slick Japanese Italian restaurant in east London
Ooni Pizza Oven: Ben Boeynaems – The Colony Grill Room and Le Magritte
It’s official, everyone loves pizza. Even fancy chefs. These great unifiers are the thing that bring old and young together round a table and we’re willing to bet a lot on the fact that they’ll never go out of fashion. Being able to make your own pizzas at home is the ultimate dream, because frankly we’re tired of receiving slightly cold, hardened cheese-topped pizzas via Deliveroo. Edinburgh based company Ooni has very quickly established itself as the market leader for at-home pizza ovens with its dinky, movable machines that produce perfectly puffed crusts, a good, charred edge and the fastest turnaround time that you could hope for. This would be a winning gift for any foodie, chef or not.
Why Ben loves it: “My Ideal Christmas Gift would be the Ooni pizza oven – so I can upgrade my Family Friday pizza nights.”
Buy it, from £249, uk.ooni.com
Book The Colony Grill Room, The Beaumont's hero restaurant where Ben is the head chef
Chickens and a Coop: Shuko Oda – Koya
Okay, you should probably (definitely) get permission from the recipient before you go all out and buy them what is essentially a small holding, but we thought this is one of the most fun suggestions we received. Imagine how life changing fresh eggs each day would be, and when there’s a glut, you’d have to get creative with your recipe repertoire which in itself is a fun challenge. Chickens – we feel obliged to point out – aren’t just for Christmas (or birthdays, or anniversarys, or Valentine's Day) though, so make sure they’re a welcome gift, going to a long-term home, before you seal the deal.
Why Shuko would love them: “Chickens and a coop - I'd love to have fresh eggs each day, so have thought about getting them for my back garden, maybe as a joint thing with my next-door neighbour.”
Buy it, £449, ideas4pets.co.uk
Book Koya, Shuko's slick udon bar with its impressive a la carte
Whetstone Sharpening Stones: Joe Moore – Crust Bros
There are few things more irritating than going to make a meal and your knives being blunt. This restorative handy little helper in the kitchen quicky takes the edge off of blades to keep them super sharp and efficient, helping to cut down on precious prep time. There’s no way this wouldn’t be well received by any chef, because even if they have one in the kitchen they can then add this to their at-home kit.
Why Joe loves it: “I’d say a whetstone knife sharpener because there’s nothing a chef hates more than blunt knives!”
Buy it, £49.99, santokuknives.co.uk
Book Crust Bros, Joe's trendy pizza restaurant in the heart of Wandsworth (there's also one in Waterloo)
The Hawksmoor Originals Cocktail Set: Ashley Palmer-Watts – Artisan Coffee Co
Those in the know will recognise Ashley from his time working with the inimitable Heston Blumenthal. Now though, Ashley has joined the Artisan Coffee Co to help direct the team on how to conceptualise coffee in a revolutionary yet accessible way. If his choice of gift is to be taken into account, it sounds like the daily grind (sorry) is leaving Ashley in need of a different kind of drink come the end of the evening. We love the idea of treating the chefs in your life to a selection of bottled cocktails, the perfect way to make any night at home feel extra special.
Why Ashley loves it: “I love getting a cocktail kit and am hoping someone might send me the Hawksmoor one this year. I never seem to have all the ingredients for a specific cocktail so it’s great when someone sends you a kit with everything you need to make something delicious.”
Buy it, £48, shop.thehawksmoor.com
Find out more about the Artisan Coffee Co
Estela by Ignacio Mattos: Dmitri Magi – Davies and Brook
Another recommendation for a foodie tome makes us think that gastronomic literary is a really solid choice. While it might be a couple of years old now, Estela offers timeless appeal in its simple but flavourful recipes. At the front of this restaurant cook book there is also a handy ingredient encyclopaedia which makes for our kind of evening browsing.
Why Dmitri loves it: “I love the cookbook Estela by Ignacio Mattos – when I first walked into Estela in NYC, I was amazed by the simplicity of the plating and the deep flavour. I bought their book the very next day. I loved how simple and delicious the cuisine was… nothing extra. It reminds me of what we’ve been doing at EMP, and what we’re doing now at Davies and Brook. Our philosophy of food is similar – food needs to look effortless, but also needs to be complex in flavour. When you read this book, you want to make all the recipes. You understand how delicious it all is and wonder why didn’t I come up with this myself?”
Buy it, £26.99, waterstones.com
Book Davies and Brook, Claridge’s innovative fine-dining restaurant where Dmitri is head chef
A Konro Grill: Stuart Deeley – Smoke
Food geeks might already know all about Konro Grills, given that they’re used by all kinds of high-profile chefs – from Paul Ainsworth through to Sat Bains. These incredibly powerful grills are extremely efficient yet small enough to sit on a countertop (either at home or in a restaurant). Cooking over fire takes a little practice, but once it’s mastered this technique produces some of the most flavoursome food.
Why Stuart loves it: “I would love to get a Konro Grill, plus the right English charcoal. Not so great if it snows this year, but it’s awesome for cooking in the back yard. Rustling up steak sandwiches on weekend nights for supper would be my go-to! Avoid boring dinners ??.”
Buy it, from £365, chefslocker.co.uk
Book Smoke, the restaurant at Hampton Manor which MasterChef winner Stuart heads up the kitchen
Looking for something with a little more mass-appeal? Let us point you in the direction of the best cheese gifts