For anyone who’s ever dreamed of being a chef, here’s an insider’s guide to the latest tools, ingredients and fantasy experiences.
Innovations for the high-tech kitchen
The lids on German company Fissler’s stylish, induction-friendly Intensa saucepans have temperature indicators, heat-resistant melamine handles and a slot for prop-up storage ($150 for a two-quart saucepan; fisslerusa.com).
The Blendtec Total Blender—star of the popular "Will It Blend?" Web videos, where you can watch it turn hockey pucks and iPods into mulch—transforms ice into powder and has variable-speed cycles for shakes, soups and more ($400; blendtec.com).
Hands-Free Soap Pump
Simplehuman’s infrared, no-touch soap pump helps cooks wash their dirty hands without contaminating the dispenser. It has settings to control the amount of soap released, plus a timer to remind you to scrub well ($40; simplehuman.com).
Versatile Stand Mixer
Cuisinart’s first stand mixer has a powerful 1,000-watt motor, a timer and three ports for attachments, like a blender or meat grinder; but the gentle "fold" function, a first among mixers, is its most ingenious feature ($450; cuisinart.com).
Transparent Fata paper works like parchment: You can use it to make a pouch for fish, for instance. But it can withstand scorching temperatures—even in boiling liquid, in a deep-fryer or on a griddle ($27 for a 33-foot-long roll; jbprince.com).
Every molecular gastronome needs a lab-quality scale for handling minute amounts of xantham gum, methylcellulose and other powders used in gels, foams and faux caviar; the Ohaus CS200 measures to the tenth of a gram ($100; ohaus.com).
PolyScience’s Philip Preston develops high-tech kitchen gadgets for chefs such as Grant Achatz; his Smoking Gun burns hardwood sawdust, tea or dried herbs and blasts the smoke into just about anything ($50; cuisinetechnology.com).
Antoni Arola created these stainless steel spatulas and precision tongs—which have a handy serrated edge— for Spanish chef Ferran Adrià’s new FACES collection, which also includes utensils and tabletop items from other top designers (facesdesign.com).
Australis, a forward-thinking fishery in Massachusetts, is using indoor tanks and sustainable, eco-friendly aquaculture to raise barramundi, a buttery, omega 3-rich substitute for the controversial Chilean sea bass (australis.us).
J.A. Henckels’s TWIN Cermax knives are forged with ultrahard Micro Carbide steel, which holds its edge much longer than other metals. The handle is formed from an industrial-strength Micarta composite ($250 for an eight-inch chef’s knife; jahenckels.com).
Jing Tio, who owns the kitchen boutique Le Sanctuaire in Santa Monica, California, imports more than a dozen varieties of dried edible flowers—like ginseng, peony and cornflower—which can be used to flavor pastries, marinades and sauces (from $10 per ounce; le-sanctuaire.com).
Intense Vinegar & Oil
Austria-based Gegenbauer produces vinegars from ingredients like tomatoes and quince; France’s Huilerie Beaujolaise supplies top chefs like Daniel Boulud with exotic oils extracted from rapeseeds and pine nuts (from $12; epicurepantry.com).
Food summits, culinary tours + luxe dinners
For the cheese-obsessed, Slow Food’s expansive biennial cheese exhibition will take place in Bra, Italy, in September, and will offer everything from cheesemaking seminars and massive international tastings to wine and beer pairings.
For a taste of the Italian avant-garde, and to show the world that Italian chefs are as progressive as their Spanish counterparts, food writer Paolo Marchi created this three-day Milan conference, held every January.
If you want to know the future of food, this is the conference to attend. Every January, the world’s most forward-thinking cooks and food scientists converge to discuss the future of molecular gastronomy and share a year’s worth of discoveries. For four days, a roster of Spanish chefs like Juan Mari Arzak and American stars like Wylie Dufresne demonstrate their newest innovations as their peers take copious notes.
Tours & Dinners
Culinary Bike Trips
Boston-based Bike Riders enlists chefs like Jeff Tunks, James Boyce, Marc Orfaly and Rick Moonen to lead packs of oenophilic cyclists through weeklong tours of French and Italian wine country, giving regional cooking lessons along the way. Upcoming trips include a wine tasting-filled tour through Burgundy’s top vineyards, a focaccia-making class in Puglia, a ride past Provence’s lavender fields and biking over the lava fields in Sicily ($4,280 per person per couple for seven nights; $800 supplement for solo travelers).
Private Thomas Keller Dinner
How much would you pay to have Thomas Keller as your personal chef? For $60,000, Keller will cook a private birthday dinner for five couples at the picturesque hillside Poetry Inn in Napa Valley as part of its weekend-long "Ultimate Birthday Bash." Cliff Lede Vineyards, which owns the inn, supplies the wine, including a half case of its flagship Cabernet Sauvignon for each couple and a bottle of first-growth Bordeaux for the guest of honor.
In September at Versailles’s Le Grand Trianon (above), 16 top chefs—including Michel Bras and Charlie Trotter—will prepare 15 courses for 60. The $30,000 price tag benefits Le Fondation pour l’Enfance.
The Pandolfi Elmi Estate offers harvest vacations at its hillside Umbrian village. Guests learn how to press oil, tour a winery in Montefalco and take olive oil-intensive cooking classes from local chefs.
Chef-winemaker David Page and his wife, Barbara Shinn, host immersive Wine Asylum weekends in the immaculately renovated farmhouse at their Long Island winery. Guests can get their hands dirty in the vineyards and gardens, then barrel-blend their own bottles to match dishes prepared during Page’s cooking classes ($1,000 per couple; shinnfarmhouse.com).
Equipment & Gadgets
Electronics, ovens + wired kitchens
The Wireless Cook
hHome kitchen computer Toshiba’s new Portégé R400-S4931 computer is both a powerful notebook and ultraportable tablet PC in one, making it the perfect kitchen media center. Cooks can wirelessly surf for recipes and use a stylus to write notes on the screen ($3,500; toshiba.com).
Food-friendly camera Thanks to its short shutter lag and increased light sensitivity, Canon’s new pocket-size PowerShot SD1000 takes gorgeous pictures in low-light environments, allowing amateur food photographers to snap photos in dimly lit restaurants and at dinner parties ($300; canon.com).
All-in-one phone The Pharos GPS Phone 600 is an intrepid food blogger’s survival kit, with GPS software (to find the restaurant), a 2-megapixel camera (to document the meal), Microsoft Office software (for taking detailed notes) and WiFi capability (for on-the-go updates) ($600; pharosgps.com).
The TurboChef oven mixes high-speed convection heat with microwave blasts to cook food up to 15 times faster than conventional ovens. Roasted chicken takes just 14 minutes; soufflés are done in three. But what makes it the Maybach of speed ovens are its friendly, iPod-like controls and artificial-intelligence adaptability: As you use it, the TurboChef learns how you like your food prepared and adjusts accordingly ($6,000 for a single unit, $7,900 for a double wall unit; turbochef.com).
Experimental Spanish chefs Sergio Torres and Javier Andrés collaborated with research scientists to create a device that works like an anti-pressure cooker. Their Gastrovac cooks food in a vacuum, which allows liquid to boil at much lower temperatures. The result: Food emerges from the Gastrovac looking raw but having absorbed huge amounts of flavor ($3,800; 949-584-3778).
Tech-friendly refrigerator Whirlpool will make its high-end refrigerators adaptable to new technologies by adding Centralpark Connection (left), an electronic dock for mounting devices such as TVs, MP3 players, tablet computers, DVD players or digital photo albums (available this fall on select models; whirlpool.com).
White-hot cooktop A la plancha is a culinary phrase that really just means "on a very hot griddle." Jade’s 48-inch Dual Fuel Range will have the hottest plancha of any residential range: an 18,000-BTU monster that can hit 750 degrees for flash-searing meat, fish and vegetables (available this fall; jadeappliances.com).