Unexpected Essentials

Here, area chefs reveal three surprising ingredients they always have on hand.


Gerrit Bontekoe

Shift Manager, The Ice Cream Show

“Key lime can give you a delicious finishing touch in an amazing, fresh smoothie or added to an ice cream combo. Maple syrup can be blended with other sweet and savory combinations. Whoever said that you can’t have ice cream for breakfast must not have tried a maple syrup ice cream! We also have fresh apricots that add a refreshing taste to any fruit smoothie, sorbet, or ice cream that you can think of, as it pairs well with sweet, sour, savory, or crunchy items.”



Matthew Silverman

Partner, Big Chicken

“The three unexpected essentials I never forget to stock up on for my refrigerator are all condiments or spice mixtures. These items can seamlessly infuse any dish you’re making with a bright pop of flavor. Chili crunch, an oil infused with peppers and a variety of flavorful, often crispy ingredients, adds a perfect punch of heat and texture to dishes. Miso, a traditional Japanese seasoning paste, enhances dishes with a salty umami taste. Harissa, a North African red chili paste or sauce made of a few simple ingredients including chiles, garlic, olive oil, and citrus, really adds a spicy and flavorful punch.”

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Chase Ingalls

Chef, Frothy Monkey

“My wife’s family from Miami introduced us to the French vinaigrette from La Sandwicherie, and we put that on sandwiches, salads, or use when we make a slaw. There’s always Vienna Chicago Style Relish in the fridge for a nice bright topping on a Chicago-style hotdog. Our nightly ritual includes a household staple, Spellbound Relaxation Potion from High Garden Teas, which we mix with tart cherry juice and sparkling water each night to unwind.”



Susan Danner

Owner, Longhorn Restaurant

“Developed in Mexico in 1985, Tajín has become my new favorite spice. Tajín is perfect for meat, veggies, and fruit, adding a new and different taste! I use a marinade from Johnny Fleeman’s for steaks and other meats. It has far less sodium than other marinades on the market but has a rich taste. I also love butter, and mix it with flavored olive oils.”



Philippe Gehin

Chef, La Cabriole

“Keep crème fraîche for more unctuous soups. Duck eggs are an ingredient pastry chefs prefer for richer pastries and desserts. American sturgeon caviar – because I love it, and it is always better by the ladle but perfect to add glamour and glitter to your holiday dishes.”

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Jason Bowers

Owner, Clever Alehouse

“My fridge is normally a mess filled with kid’s lunch, random vegetables from our CSA, and expired salad dressings, but three of my favorite items I always have on hand are the entire Hoff Sauce lineup (yes, I refrigerate my hot sauce), a tube of puréed ginger or garlic – perfect for stir fry and adding to soups – and a full drawer of citrus. If you feel like a dish needs something, it’s probably salt or acid.”



Max Poppel

Owner, Flying Squirrel (soon to be Ernest Chinese)

“First, hoisin sauce, the flavor behind Peking duck! It’s not surprising that I like this, given the changes we’re making to our restaurant, but for those who don’t know, go get you some. Second, frozen grapes: this question was about the fridge, but for all of you keeping your grapes there, you’re doing it wrong. Freeze them – you’re welcome. Lastly, vegetables are only unexpected if you know me. I never did eat those scary things growing up.”

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