Chefs Reveal the Items They Always Have in Their Kitchens

How many of these chef-recommended kitchen must-haves do you keep on hand?

Brad Kilgore, the 2016 F&W Best New Chef who recently opened Marygold's at the Arlo Wynwood hotel in Miami, has a thing for cream cheese. He almost always has a fresh, unopened tub inside his South Florida home. James Beard Award-winning chef and restaurateur Daniel Boulud keeps a healthy supply of sardines inside his New York City refrigerator. On a slice of bread with avocado and butter, they're his favorite midnight snack. From smoked pork belly to electric fly swatters, read on for the ingredients and items this crop of chefs can't go without.

01 of 19

Tinned anchovies

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"Bump up some umami in a braise — use anchovies. Make a killer salad dressing — anchovies again. Perfect stuffing in an olive for your martini? You guessed it — anchovies. They also make a great late-night snack on their own, but don't judge!" — Isaac Toups, chef, cookbook author, and owner of Toups' Meatery

02 of 19

Canned chickpeas and white beans

Canned Chickpeas
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"I love being able to add them to salads or soups on an impulse. I drain and rinse them, season them, and add them into a mix. Chickpeas and beans also make great flourless thickeners for soups, stews, and gravies. Puree the beans and whisk in the puree to thicken in a pinch." — Alex Guarnaschelli, executive chef of Butter, cookbook author, and Chopped judge

03 of 19

Canned marinara

Canned Marinara
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"It's perfect for a fast dinner. I jazz it up by sautéing some fresh garlic, onions, and tomatoes, and quickly toss in the pasta. Just drizzle some olive oil and cheese, and everyone is happy!" — Paula DaSilva, director of culinary and beverage at The Ritz-Carlton Fort Lauderdale

04 of 19

Tuna and bacon

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"I always have canned beans, anchovies, peperoncini, tuna in olive oil, and bacon. I can make a multicourse meal at any time at home!" — Michael Pirolo, chef and owner of Macchialina

05 of 19

Chicken stock

Chicken Stock
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"It's an item that I'm not going to make at home, and it comes in so handy when I'm cooking. I use it all the time when making last-minute soups, most chicken dishes, and even when I'm making some pasta dishes. — Michael Schulson, chef, restaurateur, and founder of the Schulson Collective

06 of 19

Cream cheese

Cream Cheese
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"There's nothing else like it, and it's irreplaceable by any other cheese, especially with smoked salmon. Always hits the spot." — Brad Kilgore, chef and co-owner of Marygold's and founder of Kilgore Culinary Group

07 of 19

Dried lentils

Dried Lentils
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"We always have dried lentils in our house, either beluga or French green. They're perfect for a mid-week dinner, whether they're a side dish or a soup. A favorite of ours is lentil tacos, either in tortilla or lettuce wraps with whatever sauces and veggies are kicking around in the refrigerator. My spouse is a vegetarian, so they're a great all-purpose staple." — Karen Akunowicz, chef, restaurateur, and cookbook author

08 of 19

Dried pasta

Dried Pasta
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"All I need to make a great meal with dried pasta is to cook it and toss in some freshly picked cherry tomatoes and arugula from my garden, a sprinkle of salt, some sautéed garlic, and a splash of balsamic vinegar. If I have Parmesan cheese, I'll grate a happy cloud on top. It's a perfect California-style pasta salad you can eat room temperature or hot. — Helene Henderson, cookbook author, chef, and owner of Malibu Farm

09 of 19

Fish sauce

Fish Sauce
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"It's an amazing secret something that adds so much depth and complexity to any style of cuisine. Also, I'd always much rather buy it than make it myself." — Brian Nasajon, chef and owner of Beaker & Gray

10 of 19


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"It's a symbol of nature — each region has its own honey, and it's the only product that nature transforms for us. The flowers of each different place give a particular taste to honey, and that's impossible to recreate. — Jean Imbert, executive chef at Plaza Athénée and La Case

11 of 19

Electric fly swatter

Electric Fly Swatter
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"So easy to catch them, and no mess!" — Makoto Okuwa, executive chef and partner of Makoto

12 of 19


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"I grew up eating it, and like most people on the planet, I love it. Fortunately, I have a lot of family that goes back to Italy and brings me Italian Nutella, which is far more delicious and hazelnut forward. — Giorgio Rapicavoli, chef and owner of Luca Osteria and Eating House

13 of 19


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"I eat a huge bowl of oatmeal with fruit, yogurt, and nuts every day before work. I never know what I'll end up eating the rest of the day, so I make sure to always have a healthy, filling breakfast. I often eat canned beans on my days off. Overall, I eat mostly vegetarian at home." — Adrienne Grenier, former executive chef of 3030 Ocean

14 of 19

Olive oil and flaky sea salt

Olive oil and flaky sea salt
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"With just a drizzle and sprinkle, it seems these two ingredients enhance nearly everything we cook. Without overpowering, these ingredients bring out the best in flavor and texture. — Janine Booth and Jeff McInnis, chefs and owners of Root & Bone and Stiltsville Fish Bar

15 of 19


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"Good finishing salt is an absolute must in my kitchen. It's a game changer on finished food. It elevates the flavor of any dish — but be mindful that a very little goes a very long way." — Nina Compton, chef and owner of Compère Lapin and Bywater American Bistro

16 of 19


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"Sardines! I use them for my midnight snack with bread, avocado, and butter." — Daniel Boulud, chef, restaurateur, and founder of The Dinex Group

17 of 19


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"They go in everything. Honestly, I don't know how to start a recipe without them. I guess they're a bit of a crutch — but a really good crutch." — Michelle Bernstein, celebrity chef and owner of Cafe La Trova and Michelle Bernstein Catering

18 of 19

Smoked pork belly

Smoked Pork Belly
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"It's the kind of ingredient that always adds a little something. It's smoky and crunchy, all without being overpowering to whatever else I'm eating." — Jeremy Ford, chef and partner of Stubborn Seed

19 of 19

Spicy Korean ramen

Spicy Korean Ramen
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"I don't cook at home often, and as a result, my fridge is usually empty. It's so important for me to have something around that's shelf stable and still hits the spot. I stock up on all kinds of spicy ramen when I'm at an Asian market. I can have it for lunch, when I'm sick, or in the middle of the night with a poached egg. It's always there when I need it." — Levi Raines, senior chef de cuisine of The Dutch and Carne Mare at the W Hotel Nashville

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