"The best meals are made at home," said my man the other day. I wasn't sure whether the comment was just an observation or a gentle hint to start cooking for him more.
Either way, I couldn't disagree -- except I would add that the best home-cooked meals are the ones with a gourmet touch. The problem with creating such meals is that they seem to require two luxuries I have so far had to do without: time and the right kitchen equipment.
On a recent afternoon, I headed to the Culinary Institute of America in the lush Hudson River Valley to remedy the latter problem. I've had a lifelong love of cooking. As a child, I entertained myself in my parents' kitchen by pretending I was the hostess of a cooking show. But I've never had formal training nor spent much time considering the quality of my kitchen tools. So spending an afternoon with two of the world's 61 master chefs is a rare opportunity. (Becoming a master chef takes more than 10 years of schooling and apprenticeship and then a rigorous test in every cooking competency.) Watch the master chefs work
Add to that the fact that I will learn to pull off said gourmet meal in under an hour using the $5,000 Masters Collection -- a new 80-piece set of kitchen equipment custom-designed by the CIA faculty -- and the experience promises to hit a new height of luxury. The real question, of course, is whether I'll be able to re-create what they teach me when I get home.
Victor Gielisse and Ronald DeSantis, two master chefs at the CIA, designed the collection after asking each of the 85 faculty chefs to imagine their ideal set of kitchen tools. Gielisse and DeSantis considered everything they heard, and developed a collection to suit the needs of their fussy colleagues.
They created a way for liquid to drain from a colander without leaving a puddle at the bottom. They made a pepper grinder in which you can adjust the size of the grinds, a spoon with curves that fit perfectly into the curve of a pot, and a saucepan with a handle that is an ergonomic ideal, so it doesn't strain your wrist when you lift it. Check out the gourmet kitchen set
They lined their pans with a thin layer of copper that evenly distributes heat. They designed a whisk with wires loose enough to create proper aeration. Even the mixing bowls have measurements carved into the side in order to save the step of using a measuring cup.
"I don't call them gadgets or equipment. This is my kitchen jewelry," says Gielisse, standing over a saucepan of bubbling chicken stock. We are cooking saffron-infused risotto with porcini mushrooms and veal scaloppine. "You want cookware that is an extension of your arm, a natural part of your body."