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Chefs Cookware

So, maybe you bought that brand-name nonstick saute pan, the one from the company you've always trusted, and it set you back a cool $100.

It looks great, it feels great. In fact, there is only one problem with your nonstick pan: It sticks.

Maybe it is time to set aside your fancy-shmancy $100 paperweight and do what the professionals do. Chefs buy their professional- quality - yet inexpensive - kitchen goods from restaurant-supply companies, and so can you.

A 10-inch nonstick saute pan - the same type used in restaurants - will set you back less than $15. It's lightweight, it's durable and, best of all, food doesn't stick to it.

About a dozen restaurant-supply companies serve restaurants in the Richmond area, and their doors are open to the ordinary home cook, as well. Anything that a restaurant kitchen needs, they have, from serving spoons and rubber spatulas to professional ranges.

Professional ranges that are sold at restaurant-supply companies are not the same as "professional" ranges that are sold at high-end kitchen stores. These burners put out 35,000 Btu - more than twice the power of any gas burner by Viking, Thermador or Wolf.

That kind of power makes searing and boiling a breeze, but it is also dangerous. Without a professional hood, the right insulation and other accouterments, professional stoves can start fires in homes. Sometimes, they even start fires in restaurants.

"Generally, the majority of the time, you can't put a professional range in a house without going through a bunch of modifications," said Katherine Kennedy of Gusti Restaurant Equipment.

Most home cooks buy small items, said Adam Abady of Rich- mond Fixture & Equipment Co. Pots and pans are their biggest sellers, he said, and their shelves are lined with heavy-duty aluminum pots of every size. A 3 3/4-quart saucepan costs less than $14; a 16-quart stockpot goes for less than $65.

The stockpot will last a lifetime or more. The saute pans should last for about 10 years in a home kitchen. At a restaurant, where a saute pan is used many times each night, it is good for nine months to a year.

"Generally, you can throw it away two or three times for less than you would pay at an expensive place, and it lasts longer," said Joe Gusti, owner of Gusti Restaurant Equipment.

Gusti's company has been in business for 23 years, but only began to sell the smaller items that appeal to home cooks in recent years.

"The main reason I got into [selling] small wares was my wife was shopping at the expensive places. And I was selling the same thing for a whole lot less," Gusti said.

At restaurant-supply companies, you can buy exceptionally lightweight and durable knives for as little as $25 for an 8-inch cook's knife, or $30 for a 10-inch knife. They are well-stocked with pizza pans - and pizza peels - ladles, tongs, spatulas, whisks (up to 12 sizes at Richmond Fixture), barware and baking pans and sheets.

"We get a lot of people who come in for baking stuff, especially during the holidays," Kennedy said.

If you're tired of blenders burning out, you can get a professional blender that is not likely to give an ordinary home cook any problems, though it will cost anywhere from $100 to more than $400. If you're throwing a party and are looking for low-cost plates or inexpensive flatware - teaspoons for $2.50 a dozen - you can pick them up there.

Perhaps you have a pressing need for those cellophane frilled toothpicks that add such a festive touch to sandwiches and crudites. Perhaps you need a lot of them. Richmond Fixture sells a box of 1,000 for less than $2.

So now you've stocked your entire kitchen from restaurant- supply companies. You have the saute pans, the hotel pans, the baking sheets. Your knives are professional knives, your aprons are professional aprons and you have more cellophane-frilled toothpicks than you can ever possibly need.

You feel like a chef. You cook like a chef. All that remains is to look like a chef in a genuine chef's jacket.

If you want to play dress up, restaurant-supply stores sell those, too.

Contact Daniel Neman at (804) 649-6408 or


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