HTX Ready to Jingle 2012
Food for Thought

Restaurant chefs give the greatest holiday gifts, like......

Restaurant chefs give the greatest holiday gifts, like......

Marene, chef foodie gifts, Vanessa O'Donnell, Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer Cupcakes, December 2012
Pastry princess Vanessa O’Donnell of Ooh La La Dessert Boutique has been whipping up dozens of her adorable Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer cupcakes as gifts. Photo by Kimberly Park
Marene, chef foodie gifts, Chef Ara Malekian, Volare Pizzeria, white truffle oil, December 2012
Chef Ara Malekian, owner of Aracan Catering and chef at the upcoming Volare Pizzeria, is giving homemade white truffle oil, as well as wasabi olive oil made from fresh wasabi root. Yum. Photo by Kimberly Park
Marene, chef foodie gifts,Chef Riccardo Palazzo-Giorgio, Hawthorn, beet salad, December 2012
Hawthorn chef Riccardo Palazzo-Giorgio is gifting his roasted carrot vinaigrette that he uses on his beet salad. Photo by Kimberly Park
Marene, chef foodie gifts, Napoleon Palacios, Damian’s, December 2012
“For close friends, I often give gift certificates for a dinner party,” says Damian’s executive chef Napoleon Palacios. Photo courtesy of Studio Communications
Marene, chef foodie gifts, Marcos Leal, Luby's, December 2012
“I like to make culinary baskets,” says Marcus Leal, R&D chef with Luby’s. Photo courtesy of Studio Communications
Marene, chef foodie gifts, Vanessa O'Donnell, Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer Cupcakes, December 2012
Marene, chef foodie gifts, Chef Ara Malekian, Volare Pizzeria, white truffle oil, December 2012
Marene, chef foodie gifts,Chef Riccardo Palazzo-Giorgio, Hawthorn, beet salad, December 2012
Marene, chef foodie gifts, Napoleon Palacios, Damian’s, December 2012
Marene, chef foodie gifts, Marcos Leal, Luby's, December 2012

The holidays are a busy time for commercial chefs, what with restaurants booked for holiday parties and planning special menus for Christmas and New Year’s Eves and people eating out more because they’re just too busy to cook.

But that doesn’t mean they don’t have time to shop. And if you’re on their list, you may be in store from some pretty cool gifts.

“If I know people are foodies I might give them copper pots or something for the kitchen,” says chef Olivier Ciesielski.

 “Gifts don’t have to be expensive. Maybe a small kitchen gadget that I love, maybe port glasses or a wine decanter. And I plan six months out for my shopping.” 

We chatted recently over lunch at his L’Olivier, munching on divine Burgundy-style escargot in parsley-garlic sauce and a beautiful grilled branzino plated whole with his mouth open. We wanted to stick a cigarette in its mouth and put a tiny little beret atop its head.

But I digress.

So how does this French chef find the time top do his holiday shopping?

“Running a restaurant I have the connections about where to buy,” Ciesielski says. “Gifts don’t have to be expensive. Maybe a small kitchen gadget that I love, maybe port glasses or a wine decanter. And I plan six months out for my shopping.”

Clearly the French people are more organized than I.

Tasty treats

Executive chef Peter Laufer at Royal Sonesta Hotel also likes to give professional kitchen tools — knives, cutting bards and other gadgets. But if you’re on his list, you might get some tasty treats, too.

“Seasoning blends and my Signature barbeque sauce,” he says. “And when attending a party usually I take over the kitchen when I see the host is on overload. Best gift ever!”

He is so on the invite list to my holiday party!

 “And when attending a party usually I take over the kitchen when I see the host is on overload. Best gift ever!” 

Hawthorn chef Riccardo Palazzo-Giorgio is gifting his roasted carrot vinaigrette that he uses on his beet salad on the suggestion of Alison Cook who says it is “so ingenious I wish the chef would bottle it for sale.” I bet I know what she’s getting under the tree.

Pastry princess Vanessa O’Donnell of Ooh La La Dessert Boutique has been whipping up dozens of her adorable Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer cupcakes as gifts for locals and ordering Big Mouth Bites (caramel and peanut butter Rice Krispies treats dipped in chocolate) from the website Zan Confections.

And chef Ara Malekian, owner of Aracan Catering and chef at the upcoming Volare Pizzeria, is giving homemade white truffle oil, as well as wasabi olive oil made from fresh wasabi root. Yum.

“I like to make culinary baskets,” says Marcus Leal, R&D chef with Luby’s. “They typically include the recipient’s favorite beer or wine, homemade smoked salt seasoning, homemade BBQ rub or blacken spice and either some homemade bread loafs or homemade jams or preserves.”

Best gift

But the best holiday gift you could possibly get from a chef?

“For close friends, I often give gift certificates for a dinner party,” says Damian’s executive chef Napoleon Palacios. “They can invite up to six people, and I do all of the cooking, the serving, and most importantly, the dishes!”

Now that’s a present I could enjoy! (Hint, hint.)

Don’t forget to ask him for some of his homemade Italian cookies like the Cuciadatis (fig cookies), Giuggiulenas (shortbread rolled in sesame seeds) and Pignolatis (pine nut cookies).

‘Cause you can never have enough cookies at Christmas time.