A stocked pantry for normal citizens of the world probably looks a little different than the average Top Chef contestant's, and that's definitely true for the stars of Top Chef Season 14. The ingredients these kitchen heavyweights keep on hand range from smoked basil to truffle puree and beyond. We asked a few of the Season 14 Cheftestants to tell us which five ingredients they can't live without.
1. Jim Smith
James (Jim) Whitfield Smith III always has salt, smoked ham hocks, dried beans, sambal and sherry vinegar around when he's in the kitchen. If you're wondering, sambal is a hot sauce made of chilis and a hodge podge of other ingredients that tastes particularly awesome when smothered over shrimp and other seafood dishes. Jim is the official Chef for the State of Alabama, so we imagine he's knee-deep in shrimp prep on a daily basis.
2. Silvia Barban
This Calabrian culinary magician keeps extra virgin olive oil, basil, tomatoes, garlic and avocado on her at all times (she's a serious lover of all thing avocado), so she's ready whenever she's ready to whip up a delicious meal.
3. Sylva Senat
Sylva keeps thyme, rosemary, potatoes, butter, truffle puree and shallots within arm's reach, making him basically the ideal best friend for anyone whose tastes lean savory. This French-speaking Haitian native is particulary skilled at fancying up just about any carb, and we're excited to see what he does on the show this season.
4. Annie Pettry
Can someone get Annie Pettry some fish sauce immediately? Her ideal pantry is loaded with salt, sugar, vinegar, olive oil and, yes, super-flavorful fish sauce. This Louisville, Kentucky chef cooked alongside major culinary talents in New York City, San Francisco and Asheville, North Carolina, before heading south to impart her French techniques to Southern and Midwestern ingredients. But she definitely makes sure the simple, home-cooking basics are always in her kitchen arsenal.
5. Katsuji Tanabe
Tacos are the name of Katsuji's snack-food game, and that makes sense since he's the mastermind behind MexiKosher, a popular kosher eatery with locations in Los Angeles and New York. There, he focuses on authentic Mexican flavors within the dietary restrictions of Kashrut (no easy task!). His kitchen staples include fish sauce, mirin, chiles, olive oil and miso.
6. Sam Talbot
You saw him in Los Angeles in Season 2, but he's currently cooking up a storm at Pretty Southern in Brooklyn, New York. This past year, Sam also launched Beyond Type 1, a non-profit organization focusing on inspiring the diabetic community, with partners Nick Jonas, Sarah Lucas and Juliet De Baubigny. His focus on nourishing his diabetes-friendly lifestyle makes pantry items like coconut sugar, rice vinegar, brown rice, nori, and Southern hot sauce his must-haves.
7. John Tesar
Currently Chef Tesar is the boss and partner at Knife at The Highland Dallas, which just had its pimento cheeseburger named the Best Burger in Dallas on Texas Magazine's 50 Greatest Burgers list. So we trust that he knows a thing or two about appropriate pantry items. His picks were salt, pepper, olive oil, wine and Champagne—and note that all of these items have the potential to make a good burger great (either inside, on top, or on the side).
8. Amanda Baumgarten
Amanda is into nutmeg, thyme, arbol chile, lemon and juniper—all of which make sense for a cocktail genius like her. She's currently living in Chicago, but spent the past several years as an executive sous chef, restaurateur and mixologist.
9. Shirley Chung
Shirley maintains a steady supply of olive oil, Chinkiang black vinegar, kosher salt, arbol chiles and shaoxing wine. This returning Top Chef contestant is known for bringing American, Chinese and European influences into her cooking, thanks in part to her Beijing upbringing and training in classic French and Italian cuisines.
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