I like to describe our commercial kitchen as “small but perfectly formed”. When I was planning it last year, I wrote out a long wishlist of things I wanted to buy, and then I went through the list, ruthlessly crossing out everything that wasn’t totally necessary. Commercial oven? Gone. Extraction system? Gone. Frying pans? Gone (that was a good call: haven’t missed those suckers once). This was pretty hard to do, but perhaps not so hard for me as it would be for most chefs. After two years running a kitchen at a nonprofit institute with pretty much NO budget whatsoever, I’ve now got quite a talent for making do with less. Or raiding the hardware store for cheaper alternatives (pastry brushes are just glorified paintbrushes, and dough cutters are just overpriced wood scrapers. And PVC pipe cut offs are fabulous terrine moulds).
So far, I’ve been pretty happy with how I kitchen is shaping up. I’ve bought a couple extra jugs and another pot in the sizes I now know we use the most, bit otherwise it’s pretty much how it was on day one. So I had to laugh two weeks ago when we confronted with a need for the one item I definitely didn’t think we would need: a can opener.
The can opener is the most used piece of equipment in many commercial kitchens. Tomato sauce, chickpeas, tinned veg (eeew), tuna. Even in pastry kitchens they are pretty handy (jam, cherries, those flavourless, stunted baby apples in syrup that have no point beyond cuteness).
Because we buy our ingredients in their natural state, direct from farmers, we have never used tins, in fact we don’t even have a metal recycling bin on site (we recycle paper, cardboard, plastic, and kitchen waste/compost, in case you were wondering). But since I found a tinned coconut milk stabilised only with guar gum at the Spar (and most use artificial stabilisers), we decided to try it out in ice cream.
We did get it out of the tin eventually. I looked away while Progress expertly used a paring knife to cut the lid open (my poor knives). And the ice cream was pretty yummy too. So I’m off later today to add to our batterie de cuisine. One can opener, coming right up.