What Chefs Know Best: Chefs' Value Guide
Chef Tip: Inexpensive Entertaining
"If someone gave me $25 for a party, I'd go to the farmers' market and buy the best vegetables, grill them, then set them on the table like a bouquet of flowers." —Wolfgang Puck
Scraps & Freebies: Stale Bread
Inspired by her grandmother, who used up bread "until the dear end," Italian master Lidia Bastianich of NYC's Felidia turns leftover loaves into creamy, nutty parfaits.
Buy This Not That: Crawfish
Instead of a big, bland lobster, opt for tiny, tasty crawfish. Bryan Caswell of Houston's Reef prefers crawfish because it's more flavorful—and half the price.
Scraps & Freebies: Broccoli Stems
Ilan Hall cuts broccoli stems into slices, blanches and grills them, then tops them with sage butter while they're still warm.
Picks For a Chef's Pantry: Pop Rocks
Chefs invest in high-end ingredients that can make a huge impact, even in small amounts. Michael Voltaggio slips gently fizzy "pastry rocks" into desserts.
Buy This Not That: Domestic Truffles
Matthew Dillon of Seattle's Corson Building loves local truffles, which cost one-third the price of imported.
Picks For a Chef's Pantry: Saba
Bang for the Buck: Leftover Herbs
Buy This Not That: Smoked Paprika
Saffron tops out at $315 per ounce. Traci Des Jardins of Jardinière in San Francisco uses only a pinch in paella, adding smoked paprika for color.
Picks for a Chef's Pantry: Dashi Packets
For a late-night snack, Grant Achatz of Alinea in Chicago uses instant dashi to make a soup with yuzu juice, soy sauce, sesame oil and scallions.
Bang for the Buck: Pickled Radishes
Charles Phan of the Slanted Door in San Francisco uses inexpensive radishes from Mon Chong Loong importers to give dumplings some zip.
Chef Tip: Baking Powder
"If you want to get into molecular gastronomy, bake a muffin. The fact that baking powder leavens batter is about as complex as it gets." —Grant Achatz
Inexpensive Gadgets: Heatproof Spatula
Saul Bolton of Brooklyn's The Vanderbilt buys spatulas that are stain- and heat-resistant.