In our annual poll of 100 top chefs, we asked about their kitchen essentials and cooking inspirations.

New Ingredients

Sugar-Cured Vanilla Beans

Despite their cost—about $200 per pound—Deborah Snyder of Lever House in New York uses these to give a floral aroma to ice cream.


Chef Paul Liebrandt, formerly at NYC’s Gilt, infuses butter with these dried whole kaffir limes for a pleasing bitterness ($13 per oz;

Wild Chamomile

Graham Elliot Bowles of Chicago’s Avenues restaurant forages for these flowers in nearby Rogers Park, then uses them to flavor consommés.

Ginkgo Nuts

Eric Ziebold of CityZen in Washington, DC, serves the grilled nuts—which taste like fava beans and have the chewiness of chestnuts—with oil and vinegar ($5.99 per lb; 206-624-6248).

Ube Powder

Edward Lee of 610 Magnolia in Louisville, Kentucky, uses this Filipino yam powder to thicken curries ($3.50 for 4 oz;

Fresh Okra Seeds

Richard Blais, of the soon-to-open Elevation in Kennesaw, Georgia, will serve fresh okra seeds as he does couscous, simmering them in tomato water and topping with Parmesan cheese.