Chef Vanessa Gianfrancesco says she got her big break at 18 months old rolling out pasta alongside her grandmother. As soon as she could walk, she was pushing up a chair near the counter to cook with whoever was in the kitchen. Now, she’s the resident chef at Breakfast Television, host of Gusto TV series One World Kitchen, and founder of lifestyle website Cooking With V.
As a professional chef, Vanessa gets to work with a lot of high-quality kitchen gadgets and ingredients, but she’s all about keeping things easy: “I don’t enjoy working with foods that have a long ingredient list—I’m all about keeping it simple and fresh!”
Whether you want to cook professionally or just be able to make yourself a good meal, these are the 10 things Vanessa says EVERYONE needs in their first kitchen.
1. Chef’s knife: A knife doesn’t have to be an expensive brand it just had to be well sharpened! People think that they are more dangerous but in fact you are more likely to cut your finger with a dull knife—so sharpen away!
2. Mircoplane: I love a microplane because it grates anything I need! I like having the thinner one for things like citrus zest and the larger one for things like cheese. Having one of these will also help you save money because when you zest you add a TON of flavour and when you buy whole pieces of cheese they are less expensive, and you can cut up pieces and put them in a sandwich and grate some into your pasta; it’s a dual-purpose kitchen tool!
3. Cutting board: I like a wood one for chopping all my produce and I have a plastic one for meats. Nowadays, you can get a nice large cutting board that’s inexpensive. My tip is to put a damp kitchen towel under it so it doesn’t move or slip.
4. Vegetable Peeler: Not sure what I would do without one! Also great for making vegetable ribbons for salads.
5. Set of glass bowls: These are great for mixing things or for serving things in them. Easy to wash, doesn’t scratch, and good for both hot and cold prep.
6. A frying pan, a medium cast-iron sauce pot, and a large stock pot: No matter what people say those are the three that I use and [are] a great start for anyone who is looking to buy the essentials for their kitchen.
7. Mismatched dinnerware: I love a variety of mismatched bowls and cutlery, it’s so nice to serve out of different things, and I hate to commit to just one type of utensil or coloured bowl. I always pick some up when I am travelling.
8. Wooden spoons: [Everyone needs] a couple of bamboo wooden spoons to cook with
10. Spatula: I like the fish spatula; it’s great for everything including pancakes, meats, and fish.