We've all had that moment when we've been so frustrated by [insert inferior kitchen tool here], we've felt the urge to toss it across the room and never step foot near a stove again. Now imagine cooking for a living. Every imperfect gadget throws up a bulwark against delicious meals. We reached out to more than a dozen chefs and food writers—including Wylie Dufresne, Marcus Samuelsson, Anita Lo, Florence Fabricant, and more—to find out what cooking inventions don't exist yet, but totally should. Suggestions ranged from a self-loading dishwasher to a salad blow dryer to an onion that doesn't make you cry. Designers, time to break out the sketch pads!
Wylie Dufresne, chef and owner of NYC's wd~50 and Alder
"There are three pieces of kitchen equipment that I wish existed—a device that better peels chestnuts, a way to soft scramble eggs in the shell, and a deep fryer that cleans itself."
Marcus Samuelsson, award-winning chef and author, owner at NYC's Red Rooster Harlem, Ginny's Supper Club, Uptown Brasserie, American Table Cafe, Chicago's Marc Burger and Sweden's American Table Brasserie and Norda
"I'd love to to have a small, quick, and portable smoker to smoke meats, fish, and vegetables easily and in half the time. It would be easily adjustable, maybe even digital. I can imagine taking it to barbecues everywhere from the park, to the beach or a rooftop."
Suzanne Goin, award-winning chef, owner of L.A.'s Lucques, A.O.C., Tavern & the Larders at Maple Drive, and Burton Way
"I wish there were a tool that would actually load the dishwasher for me."
Amanda Cohen, owner and chef at NYC's vegetarian restaurant Dirt Candy
"I've spent years dreaming of a food processor that allows you to push food down off the sides of the bowl without stopping the machine and taking off the top to scrape it by hand. I know this sounds ridiculously simple, but when you're making dough you wind up stopping your food processor dozens of times to scrape dough away from the sides and back towards the blades. It turns every task into a long, laborious slog. These days, blenders have tampers that allow you to do this while they're still running, and I believe with all my heart that it's time food processors joined the modern world."
Anita Lo, owner and chef at NYC's Annisa Restaurant
"I've always wanted a whisk that was top heavy so it doesn't fall out of the bowl if you stop and leave it there. I've had a few accidents with vinaigrette all over myself."
Tim Carman, award-winning Washington Post food writer
"My wish: An onion that won’t make you cry when chopping. My thoughts: Food scientists have created meat in a lab, but they can’t engineer an onion that won’t turn my tear ducts into Niagara Falls. Every year, I seem to grow more sensitive to the cocktail of invisible chemicals released when slicing into a fresh onion. Sure, I could buy goggles for the chore. Or I could freeze the onion briefly before chopping. Or I could even invest in a fan to place near the cutting board. But all of these options become burdensome when time is of the essence, which is just about all the time these days. I just want an onion that I can pick up and start slicing without the fear of becoming the John Boehner of the kitchen."
Florence Fabricant, award-winning New York Times food critic
"I can suggest two gadgets. Some kind of blow-dryer for washed salad greens and herbs that will do a faster and better job than a salad spinner or towels. I imagine it would come with a mesh bag to hold the greens. You might be able to use it to dry potato slices before frying. And a little blanket, a wrap or special box that will get a stick of butter straight from the refrigerator to softened in a minute. Results with a microwave oven are very uneven."
Alan Richman, International Culinary Center’s Dean of Food Journalism and Media and award-winning food writer
"Dish Be Done: A small countertop appliance that instantly washes and dries any kitchen implement placed within it, thus eliminating the need for the dishwasher, an antiquated, space-wasting apparatus that stores soiled tools, pots, and plates until the moment they are needed and must be washed by hand."
Norman Van Aken, award-winning food writer and book author, founder of Norman’s at the Ritz-Carlton, Grande Lakes Orlando
"Invent a hairdryer-like device, but one that could be made much hotter to be able to do such things as ‘melt’ truffles, foie gras, etc. as a dish is going out. This would be more of a 'surrounding warmth' than what a blow torch would do. It would have a halo to encircle the plate. It would be portable so it could be used for banquets and adding its magic just before the dish was taken to the guest."
Edward Behr, award-winning food writer, editor and publisher of quarterly magazine The Art of Eating
"A Cuisinart-style really good food processor, depending on what you’re making, gives you tiny chunks. I really like a very smooth puree, but if you put something in a food processor that’s not entirely soft, you always get fine, tiny chunks and larger chunks that got missed. I would like a food processor that makes an entirely smooth puree and has an attached strainer to catch anything else. Passing through a separate fine strainer is really a nuisance."
Ken Oringer, chef and owner of New York City's Toro, Boston's Clio, Uni, Coppa and Toro, and Earth in Kennebunkport, Maine.
"My life would be so much easier if there were a machine for home or the restaurants that could easily and neatly peel and devein shrimp. It's something I can't stand doing, especially when it's more than a pound at a time."
Travis Swikard, executive chef at New York City's Boulud Sud
"It's hard to say what the one item that would make life in the kitchen easier. I come from an old school background where a chef is a true craftsman, one that uses his or her sense of touch, smell and taste to create, manipulate, and cook food. Therefore I have a hard time thinking of actual tools besides a couple of sharp knives and basic kitchen tools that already exist. I think more often than not, young cooks are being taught to rely on special kitchen equipment (i.e. waterbaths to cook proteins before they know how to roast, poach, or braise properly). These fundamentals are very important. That being said, I think a great tool for chefs would be less a tangible item but more of a communication method or portal. I always thought it would be great to be able to connect to chefs both domestically and internationally somehow. A place where chefs could communicate and share ideas. Post pictures and talk about new methods of cooking, or chat about the newest cookbooks. (I am kind of a cookbook nerd and wish I had more time to read every single cookbook.)"
Anne Willan, award-winning chef, teacher, author, food columnist and founder of Paris's École de Cuisine La Varenne
"Eureka: the self-sharpening knife block—one that holds your knives and keeps them continually sharp!"
Marco Canora, chef and co-owner of Hearth restaurant and Terroir Wine Bars
"Being that it's the time of year where I find myself knee-deep in ears of corn, I can't help but think there should be more inventions in the world of cleaning corn. Something that clings to those medley hairs that cling to the freshly shucked ear of corn. Something that takes the kernels off a raw corn on the cob in a systematic and clean way. Something similar to an apple corer that cuts the apple into wedges and removes the core, but for corn."
Sarah DiGregorio, senior food editor at Food & Wine
"I am irrationally stressed out by drying vegetables completely after washing. Yes, I know of the existence of the salad spinner, but I always end up patting each leaf dry anyway, because the spinner never seems to get them completely dry, which is necessary if you're going to toss them with a dressing. I make a fantastic kale and smoked almond salad, and it takes me a truly embarrassing amount of time to wash and dry the kale. Same issue with mushrooms: I'm always worried they're going to soak up water and not brown properly, so I compulsively rub each and every one down with a paper towel after washing. If there were a gadget that would thoroughly wash and completely dry vegetables for me, I would be the first in line to buy it."
Slideshow Credits: 04 / Photo: David Young-Wolff Photography; 05 / Edward Behr; 07 / Photo: C Siri Berting; 09 / Anita Lo;