The Ultimate Chef Gift Guide: Anthony's Favorite Things / by Anthony Michael Contrino

Every year I am bombarded with questions from friends asking me to recommend a gift for the cook/chef in their life.  So, this year I decided to make a list - move over Oprah - it's Anthony’s Favorite Things.

For more tips, follow Anthony on Twitter and Instagram @theSINGING_CHEF

Schmidt Brother’s Knives

With so many options out there, shopping for a knife can be overwhelming.   I have used many knives since working in professional kitchens, and this is my favorite.  Like most brands, Schmidt Brothers offers different collections of knives.  I like the balance, sleek style and feel of the Bonded Teak collection.  It get’s even better - the 8” chef knife is less than 30 bucks!   $27.99   amazon.com

Alice & Pearl Aprons

Ever since I met Becky Prescott on the set of Paula Deen’s cooking show, I have been a huge fan of her and her products.  Becky makes custom aprons (for adults and kids,) potholders and other linen goodies, all by hand in Savannah.  She is constantly updating her collection and sources fabrics with a vintage flare.  Follow Becky and her creations on Instagram @aliceandpearl Prices Vary      For Custom Orders, Email aliceandpearl5@gmail.com  

Staub Cocotte

Whether you are a professional chef or a home cook, every kitchen should have a cocotte or Dutch oven.  They are the perfect vessels for soups, sauces, stews, casseroles and braised meat dishes, amongst others.  Staub makes an assortment of pots in different shapes and sizes.  They also come in a variety of colors, so matching your kitchen will not be a problem.  With all the competition, why Staub?  1.  They are lighter than many other brands, including Le Creuset.  This might not seem important, but when these pots are full, they get heavy.  2.  They are priced right.  While they are not the cheapest option out there, they are not as costly as Le Creuset even though they are also made in France.  3.  They clean like magic.  I have made many a sticky sauce in these pans and they practically wipe clean!  Also, take good care of these pots and they will last a lifetime.     $264.99     zwillingonline.com

Pepper Mill

Not only are pepper mills practical, they are beautiful.  Sometimes you need a fine grain, sometimes a coarser.  With a pepper mill you can adjust the grind to suit your needs.  Buy peppercorns in small batches from trusted sources (see Penzeys below) and grind your pepper as needed for freshness.  $17.99 and up     amazon.com

Digital Scale

It often shocks me that most kitchens do not have a scale.  Why do you need one?  Many recipes call for items by weight.  If you shop in bulk, you may need to weigh out your ingredients.  On a diet?  Being able to weigh your food allows you to accurately track caloric intake.  When purchasing, look for a standard-sized (not mini) scale that can weigh up to 11 pounds.  $16.99 and up     amazon.com

Boos Board Cream

Most kitchens house a wooden cutting board.  Boos Boards are one of the most popular brands - I dare you to find a Food Network show that doesn’t use them - and they need to be properly taken care of.  Boos Cream helps ensure your cutting board (or wood handled knives) stay moisturized and looking brand-new.     $7.99     amazon.com

Penzey's Spices

Most of us chefs are snobs when it comes to ingredients.  For spices, they need to be of the highest quality - that's where Penzey's comes in.  They carry everything from allspice to zatar and they are always fresh, fresh, fresh.  Most spices are available in quantities as small as a 1/4 cup jar and up to a 3 cup bulk bag.  They offer various gift sets or you can customize your own.  They also sell spice jars, which come in handy.  Some of my favorites offerings include: Vietnamese Cinnamon, China Powdered Ginger, Whole Tellicherry Indian Black Peppercorns, Roasted Garlic and Smoked Spanish Paprika.  Prices vary.  penzeys.com

Salt & Straw Ice Cream

Sometimes you just don't have time to make your own ice cream.  Salt and Straw provides Portland and Los Angeles with some of the best, but thanks to dry ice, anyone can enjoy their pints.  Have a serious addiction, then join their pint club, otherwise you can purchase their seasonal pint pack or customize your own collection.  Salt & Straw changes their menu monthly to reflect what's in season and highlight any holiday that may be upcoming.  Flavors range from tame (Single Origin Amadeus Vanilla) to eclectic (Salted Caramel Thanksgiving Turkey. No, that is not a typo!)  If you can hold off until March, their Pots-of-Gold and Rainbows will change your life.  (I'm talking sweet cream base steeped with Lucky Charms cereal and churned with the marshmallows.)      $65, plus shipping for 5 pints.     saltandstraw.com

Meri Meri Products

Food needn't only taste good, it should look good, too.  Meri Meri offers an array of products including cake stands and toppers, cookie cutters, treat bags, cupcakes liners and an assortment of serve ware to make your food shine.    Prices vary.     amazon.com

Gift Cards

Many people think that gift cards are impersonal.  Maybe they are, but I love them. Instead of popping into a supermarket or pharmacy and grabbing a generic card off the gift card wall, head into a shop that specializes in products for culinarians.  Some of my favorites include:

Sur La Table - A nice assortment of home goods and equipment and tools for chefs and home cooks alike.  Added bonus, working chefs receive an industry discount.  Inquire within. surlatable.com

Amazon - As you've probably noticed, a few of the items listed above come from amazon.com.  Let's face it, you can find almost anything on the site, and because of their volume of sales, the price is often right.     amazon.com

JB Prince - This professional chef superstore is located in New York City and is loaded with toys and gadgets that will make any professional cook's heart race.       jbprince.com

Global Sugar Art - Does your loved one walk into a craft store and spend way too much time in the baking aisles?   Global Sugar Arts is for them!  You can find anything and everything you'd need to make a stunning dessert or cake.       globalsugarart.com