Today, it’s all about chefs’ ingredients of choice. We’ve covered the topic before, but Bloomberg came out with a new list, asking a whole bunch of famous chefs to narrow down their favorite ingredients to cook with to just one.
One ingredient! How do you pick? That’s like asking a musician to pick their favorite note! Okay, maybe it’s not like that at all. Still, the chefs’ answers ranged from the ordinary to the bizarre.
Take, for example, the answer Pierre Koffman of Koffman’s in London gave: salt. In his own words, “The difference between a good dish and a bad dish is a pinch of salt.” Spoken like a true expert — sometimes all that a cup of bland soup needs is a dash or two of salt.
Marco Pierre White of Corsham England’s Rudloe Arms was in agreement about the salt thing, but added his own favorite to the mix: butter. “It makes everything taste better. Butter and salt are the two ingredients you can’t do without.” Which is great. We always approve of butter, especially when it’s combined with salt.
Jamie Oliver of London’s Fifteen had a spicier suggestion for a must-have ingredient: chilies. “I am actually addicted,” he said. “I add them to pretty much anything. But they’re proven to give you a bit of a lift, so it’s all good.”
Are you ready for some weird ones? Apparently Jonny Lake of The Fat Duck in Bray, England can’t live without smoked water. As he says, “It’s a really great way of getting consistent smoked flavors into recipes, instead of smoking individual ingredients.” So, okay. We’ll go ahead and add that to our master shopping lists right away — along with African sour figs, which chef Margot Janse of Franschhoek, South Africa’s Le Quartier Français said was her favorite ingredient: “The seeds are encased in a salty and sour gel. For me, it’s the umami of South Africa.”
Surprisingly, chefs didn’t overlap too much with their opinions, though Ruth Rogers of London’s River Cafe and Michel Roux Jr. of Le Gavroche, also in London, did both speak favorably of lemons. Rogers says of the fruit, “They’re lovely at this time of year. You can squeeze them on fish or make a sorbet. I just made a peach Bellini with them.” Roux likes using the juice. “It’s essential for all seasoning, be it fish, seafood, crustacea or vegetables,” he said. “Also the zest for stews or to scent a salad.”
Other contenders for most popular ingredient: cucumbers, onions, potatoes, vinegar, eggs…seems like everyone is split on this. And that’s exactly why we love chefs — because they all prefer different things, and they all know how to craft incredible dishes in spite of those preferences.