Gale Gand of Chicago's Tru names a few big (and little) favorites.
Gand admires pastry chef Gaston Lenôtre: She visits his pastry shop, Lenôtre, whenever she's in Paris, and she has cooked from every page of his cookbooks. A favorite is Lenôtre's Desserts and Pastries: "The step-by-step demo photos are great for learning techniques" (61 rue Lecourbe; 011-33-1-42-73-20-97).
Gand loves to hunt for kitschy vintage promotional food brochures. "I once found a 1950s Jell-O brochure that suggested using slightly less water, then sending the mix through a ricer. I sprinkle the sparkly bits on panna cotta."
Gale Gand thinks small: She uses mini-muffin tins for cheesecakes and angel food cakes. "People like bite-size desserts," Gand says, "so they can graze on them like hors d'oeuvres" ($12 from FoxRun; 866-266-5927).
Julia Child taught Gand the versatility of the turkey baster: At a dinner party Gand attended, Child used one to dress a composed tomato-basil salad. Now Gand uses her Hoffritz baster to soak tea cakes with lemon syrup and to dole out batter for silver-dollar pancakes ($30; 877-327-2932).
To research the origins of recipes, Gand refers to the White House Cookbook, by Mrs. F. L. Gillette and Hugo Ziemann, the White House steward during the Grover Cleveland presidency. In Gand's 1916 edition, she found that pound cake was once much heavier, because no leavening was added (out of print but available from Kitchen Arts and Letters; 212-876-5550).
Gand thinks a spider (a small mesh basket on a long handle) is indispensible for pulling blanched fruit out of boiling water and scooping banana fritters from a deep fryer ($6 at Toguri; 773-929-3500).
When Gand visits Paris, she always shops at the chic M.O.R.A. store. Her recent finds: beautiful grape shears, mustard spoons and wine decanters (13 rue Monmartre; 011-33-1-45-08-19-24). When in New York City, she can't resist the corn muffins and shortbread hearts at Sarabeth's Bakery (75 Ninth Ave., in Chelsea Market; 212-989-2424).
Oxo small cookie scoops come in handy for everything from dropping lemon curd into tiny tart shells to topping mini root beer floats with ice cream ($9; 800-545-4411).
An art major in college, Gand is inspired by the work of artists such as Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky. She splatters cocoa foam and brushes melted chocolate on a tart for textural contrast.