We reached out to thousands of independent chefs to get their top culinary gift recommendations. This isn’t a typical promotional list like those published every holiday season in magazines. This list is curated by getting feedback from actual professional chefs working in residential kitchens.

These Personal Chefs and Private Chefs have a lot to say about what they think is essential to have in your kitchen drawers, on your countertops, and in your cooking library. Now you can nab their recommendations for the perfect gifts–not only for that hard-to-please client but also family, friends, and little chefs in the making! 

No more agonizing over product reviews. No more endless searching. It’s all assembled here. 

(And read to the end for one tiny gift you should get for yourself!)Thank your clients, give to loved ones, treat yourself . .  . with Holly’s Favorite Things.

Four Gifts You Will Be Remembered For

Replacement Parts

There’s no actual link here for this fantastic gift idea but it’s a super powerful concept chefs would be wise to pay attention to.

When you’re working in someone’s kitchen it’s a real hassle to reach for a piece of cooking equipment only to find that it’s missing one of its parts. That’s where you come in, chef. What a thoughtful gift for you to give: look up the product and the part number and gift them with the replacement handle for their pasta maker or the lid for their Cuisinart food processor. Whatever it is, you’ll be a hero every time they reach for their pressure cooker and remember you were the one that fitted the lid with a replacement o-ring. O, what joy!

A Nice Knife

Chefs can argue this point til the cows come home so I’m giving this recommendation from the best chef I know – my husband. He says for the size, comfort, utility and value the Victorinox Swiss Army Cutlery Rosewood Chef’s Knife, 8-Inch knife is the best all-around knife for your roll (and a great gift for someone who needs to stock their kitchen but is blindsided by the sheer number of knife choices): 

Cook’s Illustrated – the Magazine Subscription

We swear by this publication – for our business and our home. Not only is Cook’s Illustrated Magazine a beautiful and intelligent read, it’s the definitive source for tried-and-true recipes. (Hint: if you love this bi-monthly magazine as much as our family does, not only do we order the magazine, but somehow every Christmas Santa puts a hardbound version of the entire year’s publications (and the Master Index) under our tree. You can just call them up at 800-611-0759 and order your copy.

Echo Show with Food Network Subscription

For the tech savvy food lovers in your life, the wildly popular Echo Show comes with a one-year Food Network subscription so it’s a gift that gives all year round.

Things every kitchen needs that no one ever thinks of (imagine if these were in your client’s home!)

Imagine working in a client’s well-stocked kitchen. As in, their spice cabinet isn’t filled with six-year old jars and they have quality food grade storage containers with matching lids. Small items like these make a big difference so you have everything you need to make your talent shine.

Water Pitcher

At my local company HeyChef! our in-home team of chefs, servers and bartenders confirm what chefs told us: homes need to be stocked with a good looking water pitcher. Here’s your choice between a 2-quart artisan hammered stainless steel pitcher, a Libbey-Yucatan glass pitcher or trendy cobalt brew bottles that make for stylish tableside service.

Treatment for Hard Working Hands

Chefs weighed in on how they care for their dry hands and cracked fingers at the end of the day and these stocking stuffers are great for the kitchen people in your life. The top salves recommended by chefs were Corn-Huskers Heavy Hand Lotion (heavy-duty, oil-free), Beekman 1802’s Pure Goat Milk Whipped Cream is a favorite for chefs who want to feel a little spoiled while caring for their skin, and the practical chef will appreciate O’Keeffe’s Working Hands Cream for its no-nonsense appeal.

I’m weighing in here too: these are great stocking stuffers!

Butane Torch

With a good torch (‘good’ means no wimpy temps) you can brown, burn, brulee, roast, toast and smoke. Remember torches sold online do not typically come with the long-nozzel gas cyclinders needed to fuel and refuel them. This torch is our favorite! So be a good gift giver (remember getting a toy but no batteries?) and always include a gas cylinder to make the gift instantly usable!

Heavy Sheet Pan

Chefs know how frustrating it is to try and put out good product using the bad sheet pans and trays clients have in their homes. So it makes sense this USA warp-resistant, nonstick baking pan is a great gift for any kitchen you’re cooking in (it’s like a gift for the client that’s really for you, chef)!

Silpat Baking Mats

Silpat baking mats are a PERFECT gift from a chef to her clients. At Just $20.95 for a four-pack, you can split these up and give them to three clients (keep one for yourself). Voila, your gift giving has never been easier or more affordable!

Kitchen Gifts Kids Will Get Excited About

Subscription Box

The best Christmas gifts aren’t just stuff, they are thoughtful gifts that create lasting memories and keep on giving long after the holiday ends. We think subscription boxes are great gifts for kids and families who value variety and time together in the kitchen. Here are three gift subscription boxes that give kids (and their thoughtful parents) time together around the table. All because of your thoughtfulness, chef.

For adults who want their children to explore flavors and entrées from around the world the Eat2Explore Box is a kid-friendly adventure.

For a subscription box that accommodates Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Vegan, and Vegetarian modifications customized each month, try the Raddish Kids Cooking Subscription.

For little kids who love to bake the Kidstir Cooking Kit is a great way to keep them exploring in the kitchen.

Cookie Making/Cooking Set

Speaking of baking, here are some great cooking sets and cookie making sets for the aspiring Chef for Baker.

These single activity baking kits for 6-12 year olds have everything in a box.

The Baketivity kits include pre-measured, dry ingredients for kids who want to try a single baking activity like chocolate chunk cookies, bagels, cinnamon buns, blossom cookies, granola bars and even whoopie pies.

For an all-in-one baking supplies gift Risebrite’s 38-piece Cake Decorating kit includes amateur-level cake decorating tools, complete with a chef’s hat, apron, pastry bags and tips.

For fans of MasterChef Junior, their 9-piece branded Cooking Essentials kit could be just the motivation to get them cooking up a storm.

If you want something with actual knives for the curious child, try the Tovla Jr. Kids Cooking and Baking Gift Set with Storage Case. The baking set comes complete with cooking supplies for junior chefs, including real accessories and utensils.

Gift Baskets of a meal to prep together

Hello Fresh, Blue Apron, Mosiac Foods, Freshly Daily Harvest, Martha and Marley Spoon are mise en place delivery services for people who love to cook but who love the convenience of hand-picked recipes and pre-portioned ingredients without the hassle of shopping. 

As a personal chef you may be concerned that these box services could replace you, but we’ve found a few creative uses for them. When HeyChef! hosts corporate events with teams who want a hands-on cooking activity we use these boxes to creative black-box cooking parties and contests that chefs referee and guide. And these do-it-yourself boxes are the perfect gift for the young cook to give to their parents. 

The other primo idea for these boxes comes directly from our kids. From about age 10 on up my kids have gifted us these boxes with a gift certificate that says they’ll do the cooking! Few gifts are better than watching our kids whip up an excellent meal for us.

Need to know which ones are best and their pricing? Here’s a great article to get you started.

Hand crank ice cream maker

People like me (who are no longer spring chickens) remember with fondness the summer days of lining up with my cousins to take turns on the hand crank of a homemade ice cream machine (remember rock salt?). If you have clients looking for something more memorable than a S’mores experience there’s nothing like making ice cream together (and this one is saltless!) with the Donvier Manual 1-Quart Ice Cream Maker (comes in white and cotton-candy pink!)

Nine Classic Cookbooks Every Home Must Have

If you could only have nine cookbooks (and who can?) then this is the definitive list of must-haves. We asked thousands of chefs which books they can’t live without and which books they recommend for clients or give as gifts. This is such a power-packed list there was no way to rank them except to put them in alphabetical order.

The Flavor Bible, by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page

Its subtitle of The Flavor Bible says it all: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America’s Most Imaginative Chefs.

Joy of Cooking, by Irma S. Rombauer

Since 1931 the Joy of Cooking has been an indispensable guide –  a warm, encouraging presence in American kitchens teaching us to cook with grace and humor. Fully updated it’s fundamental for generations to come.

Larousse Gastronomic, by Prosper Montagne and Auguste Escoffier

Larousse Gastronomic is the internationally famous bible of cooking, once available only in French. With 8,500 recipes and full information about all cooking processes including how to cure, treat and preserve as well as the history of food and cooking; articles on table service, banquets, food values and diet cover nearly every culinary topic, make it the world’s encyclopedia-cookbook authority. Ask any chef, any cooking expert. This alphabetically ordered and fully cross-referenced (in English and French) resource needs to be on the shelf in every cook’s library.

Mastering the Art of French Cooking, by Julia Child

Mastering the Art of French Cooking is for both seasoned cooks and beginners who love good food and long to reproduce at home the savory delights of the classic cuisine, from the historic Gallic masterpieces to the seemingly artless perfection of a dish of spring-green peas. The techniques learned in this beautiful book, with more than one hundred instructive illustrations, can be applied to recipes in all other French cookbooks, making them infinitely usable. In compiling the secrets of famous Cordon Bleu chefs, the authors produced a magnificent volume that continues to have a place of honor in American kitchens. 

Moosewood Cookbook, by Mollie Katzen

It started as a hand-written, locally published spiral-bound notebook of vegetarian dishes served at the small restaurant co-op in Ithaca, NY and 45 years later the Moosewood Cookbook is considered a seminal book by the New York Times which ranks it one of the top ten best-selling cookbooks of all time.

The New Best Recipe

Would you make 38 versions of creme caramel to find the absolute best version? The editors of Cook’s Illustrated did. There are also expanded tutorials on grilling, baking, stir frying and much more. The New Best Recipe is the ultimate cooking resource for novice and experienced cooks alike.

Ottolenghi by Yotan Ottolenghi, Ixta Belfrage, Tara Wigley

If your specialty is plant-based cooking, this tome by the author of the same name – Ottolenghi – reveals how to create and amplify flavor.

The Professional Chef, by Culinary Institute of America

This is the CIA’s official foundation for its coursework, so if attending the CIA isn’t in your budget this textbook, The Professional Chef, is a must.

The Way to Cook, by Julia Child

The incomparable queen of cooking’s most instructive cookbook The Way to Cook is a treasure trove of creativity structured around master recipes followed by innumerable variations (800 in total), with 600 color photographs to instruct and entice. 

Kitchen Gadgets & Appliance That Are Actually Useful to Have In Your Home

There are so many gadgets out there that claim to make your life in the kitchen easier. Do any of them actually live up to the hype? These are the four gadgets that our chefs agree are totally worth having (and gifting!)

Food Processor

Before you have one you might not be sure that a food processor is going to make such a huge difference. And once you do try it you can never go back! Even a little food processor makes a big impact on the ease of meal preparation. Though at over $700 a Robot Coupe might not be in your budget (at least for giving away as a gift!) there’s a range of prices. Check out this adorable mini Cuisinart available in five different colors and only $39.99.

Silicone Basting Brush & Mop

No one likes a messy, greasy basting brush or mop. Silicone comes to the rescue with these alternatives of this  essential hand tool. Here’s our pick for a stainless steel silicone basting brush and silicone basting mop!

Microplane

Ten years ago your clients hadn’t heard of a micro plane but now every kitchen needs one. This gift clocks in as one of the most affordable options while still being both useful and thoughtful. 

No need to go name brand. This microplane has an easy grip handle, anti-slip footing, and comes in four beautiful colors. It is reviewed as having a nice wide grating surface and very sharp blades.

Knife Sharpener

The most dangerous knife is a dull one. Chefs know this but your clients don’t. At HeyChef! our team makes a point of sharpening knives in clients’ homes so they remember us even after we leave (psst…make sure to warn them that you’ve given their knives a sharpening). We know chefs like a diamond sharpening steel but not every client can use one safely, so we picked this as the next best ‘sharp’ gift (and because it comes in colors your client will love)! 

Immersion Blender

A powerful immersion blender is magic in the kitchen. It saves time and mess and makes cooking a breeze. But finding one with a strong motor is critical. We recommend this affordable Mueller hand immersion blender. It’s very affordable but still boasts enough wattage to get the job done. It comes with a whisk attachment and a food processing bowl. (This is an especially good gift for any expectant parents you might know! It works great for making baby food.)

Finally, this must-have book will change how you look at your business

Chefs who want to start and run and grow their own business owe themselves this read. The subtitle of E-Myth says it all: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It. Yikes. This is one of the most respected business books of all time and it is actually pleasant to read. It gives great examples specific to chefs whether they offer private services or operate a brick and mortar establishment. When you’re done shopping for your loved ones and clients, treat yourself and stick a copy of this in your stocking.

After reaching out to personal chefs and private chefs across the nation and culling through all their recommendations it’s not possible to give you a definitive list of the best and most useful things a kitchen needs. (Don’t worry, we’ll cover the sous vide technique and tools in another article, chef!) In the meantime, happy shopping, giving and sharing of your love for all things creative, utilitarian, educational and delicious. (And make sure you put something in the cart for yourself, chef. Santa wants you to have a great holiday too!)