Zevro Gravity

Zevro gravity spice rack and vacuum seal storage containers

I was approached by Mike at Open Sky about getting free samples of products from a company called Zevro.   So I signed up for the samples and they sent me three Vacuum storage containers and a magnetic spice rack. The containers rock.  Four clips to insure that the lid does not come off and it uses a standard Vacu-Vin suction gadget to remove the air in the container.  The containers fit inside each other when not in use for even greater efficiency in long term storage.  I instantly thought camping or rafting.   This is the perfect container for that use.  As far as chefs are concerned,  some of the flaws are that they are not perfectly stackable and they are not square so they take up more room than necessary.  Square containers are harder to remove all the contents from, but perfectly stackable and neat on shelves are a big draw for chefs.  Zevro also offers a rectangular set and you can find them on my open sky storeOXO has containers that are very popular amongst chefs as they have a push button air sucker and you can clearly see the contents of the container.   Removing the air from a container is very important as it dramatically increases the shelf life of a product. For example, put brown sugar in a non air tight container and it dries out and turns into rock sugar.  Even an airtight container will keep it moist for a long time.  Put it in a vacuum container and it will stay moist forever.  The guy growing medical marijuana in my previous post would love to have these to store his product.  I can think of many other legal uses, but specifically for a chef they can be used to store a whole panoply of herbs and spices as well as all the new fangled hydrocolloids every chef needs to have in their tool chest.

This spice rack caught my eye and I love that you can attach them to a magnetic strip.  Mike at Open Sky arranged for me to offer you a 15% discount on the spice rack offered at my store and if you want to buy it, then when you check out type ZEVRO15 as the coupon code to receive the discount.

Magnets are big draw as they open a whole new option for storage.   The unit they sent me is a good space saver, but I would prefer a magnet strip I can screw into the wall wherever I want and place these spice canisters.  The design of the canisters are not optimal for my use either.  Chefs like spices in whole form.  As soon as they are ground they lose tons of aroma and intensity as all the surface area comes in contact with oxygen.  Most people should throw away most of their spices in their spice drawer as certainly they are quite dead.  Maybe you have seen the McCormick’s ads that show a spice container with their old label that says “if you have one of our spices with this label throw it  away.”

Buy whole spices as much as possible and buy a coffee grinder to grind your spice mixes.

So I would prefer a spice container with a vacuum seal as well as quick access to my whole spices and the ability to pour them out easily.  A few tweaks and these would be great for amateurs and pros alike.  However, if you like to buy pre-ground spices or make your own blends and are low on space these could work very well for your needs.

On a side note, I spent some time updating my store on Open Sky and all of you should check out the new stuff I recently added.  Father’s Day will be here before you know it and you might find just the right product to make him happy at my store.


Why do you do what you do?

This is a very inspiring presentation on why some ventures are successful and others are not.  Should cause reflection on why you do what you do or why you are not doing what you should be doing.

Cooking for the week or how to survive the recession

Cheddar broccoli soup

After my last couple of posts which found me amidst the beautiful people of SOBE who appear to be gliding through this recession carefree, concerned only with their next beautification surgery or whether to choose an Iphone over a blackberry; it seems a bit deflating to write a post about how to cook cheaply for the week.

We are a family of five and since I have been unemployed for the past 2 1/2 months (until yesterday) producing the dinner has fallen on me.  This has been a blessing as it forced me to reflect on the very topic of this post.   I want to feed my family good nutritious food my children will eat Continue reading

Basic Equipment: Knives

My four most used knives

Without a doubt the tool that every Chef treasures more than any is their knife.  A really good knife should last you many years and become an extension of your hand.  Knives are a very personal choice and every Chef has their favorite.  My chef Instructor at l’Academie de Cuisine Francois Dionot would often tell us “your knives are like your girlfriend or wife, you wouldn’t share your girlfriend or wife with someone.”  I’m a Wüsthof man.  Their Chef knives are in my opinion the best all around knife.  They fit your hand well, are not too heavy and equally important are not too light.  I use an 8″ long blade with hollow ground edge to prevent vegetables from sticking to your blade.  I am equally comfortable with a 10″ blade, but the 8″ feels a little better for just about every task I undertake.

Wüstof’s Chef knife is made from a single piece of metal and is forged.  They are made from specially tempered, high carbon steel.  I like the Classic type with a black handle and rivets. I do not care for those ergonomic polypro handles, they just don’t feel right.  I like a bolster on my knife (the part of the blade where your forefinger rests, where the heel of the blade meets the handle).  There are plenty of chef’s knives that don’t have this (like the very popular Santukos) but I think it is key for comfort and to be able to hack through thinner bones.   If there was one knife that I would not leave home without, it would be this one.

The other knives I have included in this picture are the Wüsthof paring knife.  This would be the second most important knife to have in my kit.  I use this knife for every small task that requires me to be closer to my food.  This can take the place of a peeler or you can core tomatoes with it (don’t buy one of those silly tomato coring gadgets to clog up your gadget drawer).  It is extremely versatile.  I have a Wüsthof but you could choose another brand here.  Just make sure that it is made out of rust-free tempered steel and can hold an edge.  Don’t buy a paring knife that is too thin.  It will get a lot of abuse in a kitchen and can fall on the floor.

The other German knife I included is a Henckel serrated bread knife.  This knife will come in handy more often than you might suspect.  Get a long one 10″ or longer in case you will be slicing genoise cakes or other big slicing jobs.  Henckel is one of the main competitors of Wüsthof and they are in the same city of  Solingen.  I always imagined what that city might be like.  Kind of like the Jetsons Spacely Sprockets with their competitor the Cogs just across the strasse for them to see each day.  Solingen is the epicenter of German metallurgy and houses other competitors in the knife making world.

The final knife sticks out from the others and has often been compared by my students as a prison shank.  When I went staging in France in 1989 everyone who was butchering any kind of bird or meat was using one of these wood handled knives.  The blade is 70 millimeters long and is made of rust free steel (very important to buy the rust free as opposed to straight high carbon steel).  The blade is fairly stiff, can get really sharp and can take some serious abuse.  I use it every time I bone anything.  The only problem is you can’t find it in the USA.  You have to go to France.  And while you are in Paris take the the subway to Chatelet/les Halles, make your to way to E. Dehillerin, walk in to this historical landmark (which had Julia Child as a frequent cutomer) and buy this blade for about 10 euros.  I love it and I could easily have purchased a more expensive, somewhat similar and less useful German knife.  I like this knife because it is short so you can get right into the action but just long enough so that your fingers aren’t always in contact with the meat.

I of course have many other knives in my knife kit, but if I travel with my knives ( and I have often) then these are the ones I take with me.  It is very important to buy knife guards for each of these blades when you travel and of course check them on.

If you are looking to purchase some of the knives I describe let me urge you to visit my OpenSky shopkeeper page and buy it there.

I will leave you with a picture of some of the original chef’s knives I received when I went to Culinary School at l’Academie de Cuisine in Bethesda Maryland.  Both of the knives on the outside are Henckels and came in my original knife kit back in 1987.  This is what they look like after twenty years of hard use.

L-R Henckel 3" paring, French Dehillerin boning knife and Henckel 10" Chef's knife

OpenSky Project

Through reading Michael Rhulman’s Blog I became aware of this new online shopping experience called the OpenSky Project.  The concept is that blog writers can become shop keepers on the OpenSky Project site.  Since blog writers are usually specialist in their chosen field why not utilize them to sell the products they care about the most.

So I contacted the people at the OpenSky Project and asked them how I could become a shop keeper.  I was quickly signed up and have since opened my own store.   I will continue to fill the store pages with cool kitchen equipment and other stuff I really enjoy.  They have a whole bunch of distributors they work with and I can choose the stuff I am really into to feature in my store.  Or I can suggest pieces of equipment they don’t have and they will source them for me.  I write about why I like the particular pieces and can upload a picture that features the tool or even upload a video to feature it.  I’m just starting to become familiar with what my shop can do.

So if you want to see what I recommend so far click here.  And if you see something that catches your eye then buy it or tell your friends and family to buy it for you.

This also opens up a whole new topic for my blog posts.  Equipment that works.