Top Five Favorite Kitchen Tools Or Do You Want A Holiday Gift Idea?

Have you ever cooked in a strange kitchen and really missed a favorite utensil or gadget? All cooks have their “go-to” favorites. You may take them for granted while in your own kitchen, but you know how important they are when you are stuck without them.

Here is my list:

  1. My “White Handle” knives

Most chefs use a set of knives, but also have a favorite. Mine is a Victorinox paring knife with a serrated edge. We started using them after September 11th when it became impossible to bring knives on a plane. Our Executive Chef found the White Handle knives and started to send them to customer presentations in advance. They are less than $6 a knife when you buy them in bulk so we could leave them behind after a presentation. We started giving them to customers as we were leaving telling them how great they were and that we couldn’t take them home through airports. We wound up getting more complements on the knives than we did on our products. These are multi-purpose knives that work really well for all kinds of tasks.



  1. Food Processors

Please note that I say food processors, I have more than one. I have a  traditional 12 – cup processor and a 4 – cup mini processor. I use the 12 – cup processor for most jobs like blending and grating. The 4 – cup mini has a blade that goes in two directions. You can use this function to get a more consistent dice on onions, etc.

What is simple for some people is hard for others. I once wrote a supper club menu that called for diced onions. One poor clubber complained to me that she spent over an hour crying over diced onions. I made the same recipes and it took me less than five minutes to dice the onions and not a tear was shed. I asked my friend if she had a food processor and she said yes, but I never use it…da!

  1. Wood Spatula’s

I use these for all sorts of things like: browning/breaking up chopped meats, stirring sauces in non-stick sauté pans, folding ingredients together. I could go on and on. They are always within reach in my kitchen and get used all the time.

  1. Mandolin slicers

Again, I am using the plural term because I have three. My wife used to give me a hard time about having three. Then we visited her brother and he has six. Different mandolins have different uses. They are also one of the more dangerous utensils in the kitchen as most chefs have lost more than a piece of skin by getting careless while using one. The bottom line is that if you need a uniform cut or dice, mandolins are a great time saver.


  1. Garlic Peelers

This definitely falls into the category of something you really miss if you are cooking in a kitchen where you don’t have one. My father once accused me of not cooking anything that doesn’t have garlic and onion in it. He might have been right. I do know that when I am peeling garlic without a peeler I feel like I am herding cats. It takes way too long.

This is my top five today but I have to confess that my list changes pretty regularly. Another great sign of how important to me a utensil is, is how often I gift an item. We regularly give away “White Handle” knives and they have developed a cult following amongst family and friends. Just about everything on this list has been a Christmas or Hanukah gift.

If you enjoy this blog and similar other stories/supper club lessons subscribe to get future blogs at and be on the look out for my book Impromptu Friday Nights a Guide to Supper Clubs. Morgan James Publishing published the Kindle-Version on September 5, 2017 and the hard copy coming out January 30, 2018.

Ask The Food Guy

I have always been the guy friends have gone to with food related questions. A classic example of this was when my buddy Jerry asked me “What is the best Italian restaurant in Memphis?”

Jerry has run major arenas across the United States. He asked me the question when he was running the Pyramid in Memphis. My immediate response is that there is no REAL Italian restaurant in Memphis. Don’t get me wrong, there are some great restaurants in Memphis that call themselves Italian restaurants, but they are not Italian restaurants by my New York standards.

That sounds a little snobby, but you have to recognize where I come from. In my grammar school class there were 35 kids and 32 were Italian. (Patsy Frachetti, Tommy Palumbo, Georgy DeLeo, Danny Monteforte, my best friend Tony Ciafone and on and on). There is a reason my nickname was mayonnaise. I was certainly the white guy. In this community there was some fantastic Italian food. Growing up with this background changes your perspective.

Jerry explained that he had a major concert artist coming to perform at the Pyramid and it was in his contract that the crew needed to be fed a meal catered by “the best Italian restaurant” in town. I struggled and reluctantly offered Macaroni Grill as an option. Jerry countered that he couldn’t offer a chain restaurant as the best option. I agreed and asked who was coming in that would even know? It was Neil Diamond from Brooklyn NY.

The solution was easy. Give him barbecue. Jerry stated that Neil Diamond is Jewish and worried that pork BBQ would be a problem. My experience is that even Jews that keep a Kosher home enjoy Memphis BBQ when they are in town visiting. It is like my friend Tuvi from Jerusalem told me: ”When in Rome do as the Romans do”.

In the end Neil Diamond and his crew loved their Memphis BBQ and Jerry got kudos from Neil and his management.

The supper club moral of this story is…serve food that you know tastes good and that your guests will enjoy.

If you enjoy this blog and similar other stories/supper club lessons subscribe to get future blogs at and be on the look out for my book Impromptu Friday Nights a Guide to Supper Clubs. Morgan James Publishing published the Kindle-Version on September 5, 2017 and the hard copy coming out January 30, 2018.


Special People

In life you meet special people. Ronnie Wenzler was certainly one of them. I moved to Memphis in 1990 and the first night I was there the president of Kraft Food Ingredients and Ronnie, the VP of Sales, took me to dinner. Making conversation the president asked me if I played golf and mentioned that Ronnie played “a little” golf. So I asked Ronnie what his handicap was to which he responded “It’s a 3 or better if it has to be”

I spent the next 20 years figuring out just what that meant. The figuring usually meant losing a bet or two. It turned out that Ronnie was gifted golfer and one of the most entertaining people I ever met. Amongst his many golf accomplishments was having beat the great Jack Nicklaus in the 1956 US Amateur. As Ronnie would say with his Memphis drawl “Jack was just 18 years old but I was only 21”.

In the 1990’s Kraft had a business meeting at Butler National in Chicago. Someone mentioned to Ronnie that Jack Nicklaus just happened to be there that day. Ronnie went to the locker room and found Jack putting on his golf shoes. Ronnie walked up to golf’s greatest champion saying “Jack you probably don’t remember me”. Jack cut him off with “Ronnie Wenzler you old SOB how are you doing?” Jack then asked him if he wanted to join him that afternoon for a round of golf. Ronnie politely declined telling Jack he was happy to leave their competitive record where it was.

Ronnie and I had another special connection. We were the son’s of very influential fathers. Ronnie’s dad Jack Wenzler was a legendary golf pro in Memphis. He taught golf for over 60 years in Memphis and Florida. It turned out that Jack and my dad (A college dean from New York) both spent winters in Winter Haven Florida. For Christmas one year I bought my dad a package of golf lessons with Jack Wenzler. Turned out they didn’t work much on dad’s golf game rather, they got together regularly and talked about their sons.

After Ronnie retired form Kraft he became a golf coach. In that role he gave me a great gift. He taught my son Brian to play, and love golf. Brian was a latecomer to golf and didn’t show an interest in the game until he was well into his high school years. Ronnie taught Brian the swing fundamentals and broke the “Kenny curse”. My father taught me to play golf and my swing looks like my father’s swing. A curse of a swing that Jack Wenzler couldn’t fix with my dad and Ronnie couldn’t fix with me. Brian on the other hand has a beautiful swing crafted by Ronnie.

More important than the swing is the love of the game. A golf lesson with Ronnie was 50% golf and 50% life lessons and laughs. Ronnie made golf fun for Brian. Brian loves the game and we had a great time in Scotland earlier this month (check out the blog). Many times during that trip I told Ronnie stories and thanked him for the gift.

Ronnie passed away in 2010 after battling cancer. His old golf opponent Jack Nicklaus called him towards the end to wish him well. My guess is that Ronnie reminded Jack of where their record stood during the call. I also called Ronnie towards the end and thanked him for the gift. Ronnie made me laugh and asked me to pray for him. Something I do regularly.

If you enjoy this blog and similar other stories/supper club lessons subscribe to get future blogs at and be on the look out for my book Impromptu Friday Nights a Guide to Supper Clubs. Morgan James Publishing published the Kindle-Version on September 5, 2017 and the hard copy coming out January 30, 2018.

Note: The feature picture is of a young Ronnie Wenzler and the legendary Ben Hogan. Ben is congratulating Ronnie for winning the 1953 Memphis Junior Golf Championship