The Kitchen Designer

Thanks for stopping by! I'm Susan Serra, certified kitchen designer, and my mission is to take kitchen design style, function and analysis to a higher level. Here's why the kitchen has the most honored place in the home - all five senses reside in the kitchen.  Best...Susan  Contact: susan@susanserraassociates.com

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The Batterie de Cuisine–Sean’s Kitchen

DSC_8112_resizeThis is the second of three posts on Sean Sullivan's East Hampton kitchen, author of the spectacular blog, Spectacularly Delicious and Associate Publisher of House Beautiful Magazine. Sean's blog is filled with beautiful images and fresh adaptations of his favorite recipes. The imagery is as delicious as the recipes. Enthusiasm? You’ll find gallons, lbs, and any other measurement you can think of!DSC_8094

I wanted to find out from Sean about his cooking equipment, after I poked into his cabinets and doors. I’m glad I asked! Following is a comprehensive list of essential equipment for Sean, probably one of the most complete lists, with sources and tips attached, that one can find anywhere, I’ll bet. In Sean’s words…


DSC_8104_resize So of course I have all the basics (pots, pans, Le Creuset, All-Clad, non-stick saute pans, cast iron skillet, good knife set, Kitchen Aid stand mixer, an exceptional food processor from Braun that has three bowls: standard processor bowl/functions, another bowl with mixing wisks and bread hook and a blender jar with ice crusher, plus a regular blender, hand mixer, salad spinner, basket with handle for cutting herbs).

The next “level” of tools I like and use include:

- cherry pitter http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P77--qi2flg
-- vertical roaster:  http://spectacularlydelicious.com/2009/10/04/a-word-about-roast-chicken/ fave kichen tools 002_resize
-- plenty of mis en place bowls
-- plenty of spatulas, all sizes
-- foley food mill
-- trays (baking and for carrying stuff around)
-- immersion blender
-- Large rolling pin (normal ones are too small)
-- a good serrated bread knife
-- lots of Large mixing bowls
-- electric ice cream maker
-- heavy shallow pans for roasting vegetables (I have Dansk, shallow cast enamel works well too. Needs to be shallow so steam doesn't accumulate)
-- ceramic ginger grater
-- microwave cooking vessels (usually glass w/plastic lids). I use the micro to cook all the time - melt butter, chocolate, boil a cup of water. Also PERFECT poached salmon -- just 3-5 minutes in a covered micro cooking dish.
-- fave kichen tools 006_resizemouli grater
-- microplane grater
-- electric juicer (mine is Braun) plus hand w/sieves. Don't go in for reamers since don't like seeds. If I squeeze a lemon directly into a dish I use a sieve
-- large copper confiture pan (a luxury but so beautiful!)
-- paella pans in various sizes -- to serve 4, 8 and even have a Nambe giant that can feed a crowd
-- complete canning set (jelly bag and stand, tongs, magnetic lid lifter, funnels in appropriate sizes for different jars, a ladle that holds a whole cup)
-- food processors
-- pressure cookers (regular and for pressure canning too)
-- sushi set (wood bowl for tossing rice, rice paddle, bamboo rolling mat, then all the serving pieces too)
-- mandolin
-- fave kichen tools 009_resizein the larder: specialty salts (Black Hawaiian, Pink Himalayan, sel de mer) and flavored salts (saffron, smoked), candied violets and rose petals
-- complete cake decorating set (thank you Martha!)
-- 8 cup measuring cup
-- single serve espresso pot (this one takes 3 mins. A pop of pep in a snap)
-- shrimp deveiner (long red and pointy plastic)
-- mini madeleine tins (savory appetizers and sweet meal enders)
-- tartelette pans
-- a few pairs of scissors. I use them all the time. snip chives and scallions. attack a bowl of salad greens. There are so many things that are easier done using scissors rather than a knife
-- mango slicer:
-- corn cutter: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q50JhRiw26Q
-- cornichon slicer (works for strawberry fans too) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Md70vyN8QXU
-- spaetzle sieve/grater: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0D7IsJrvD0k&feature=related
-- provoletta pan: http://spectacularlydelicious.com/2010/09/30/provoleta-the-melted-cheese-of-argentina/ fave kichen tools 013_resize
-- instant read thermometer
-- clip on candy/frying thermometer
-- cookie dough scoop
-- twine
-- lots of cutting boards
-- ceramic pop over cups
-- copper souffle pan
-- Pyrex portables (carrying cases that have heating or cooling pads inside for taking foods to parties or the beach)
-- you can never have too many dish towels and aprons and hot mitts (I do not like the silicone ones)
-- jumbo colander
-- Nambe: beautiful from oven to table and a frequent yard sale find since so few know their value
-- fave kichen tools 015_resizestands to create centerpieces:
-- perfectly flat cake plate (cannot have sloped sides)
-- Tip: never pour out left-over wine.  Freeze in 1 c. containers for future cooking use.
-- wok
-- butter boat that sits in a water liner so butter is always room temp/spreadable
-- non-stick baking mats
-- dough scraper (the thing you use to scoop wet dough off the counter or cutting board
-- pastry blender
-- assorted small cookie cutters in unusual shapes to make clever croutons and tiny cookies


And attaching pics of other things that are totally necessary for their tasks: 
-- copper caramelizing pan
-- truffle slicer (maybe only once a year but nothing else will do)
-- aebelskiver pan (a specailty for weekend guests: 
-- good electronic scale
-- a GOOD pepper mill. This one is by Unicorn. Holds a ton of pepper corns, have had it for years, durable, and was rated #1 years back by Good Housekeeping
-- strawberry huller (Stem Gem), good citrus zester with the canel channel cutter on the side, clam knife, oyster knife (NOT interchangeable), poultry shears,
-- grease splatter shield for frying

FYI, Here's how I'd rank these tools in order of importance:
Cherry pitter -- a game changer
Spaetzle maker - no other way to get such perfect results
Corn cutter -- even if you're not canning, why each fresh summer corn off the cob like a sow in a sty? Cut the kernels off the cob first, saute in butter and live like a king!
Mango cutter -- not gonna use it so often (unless you have a mango tree in your yard, or have friends (as I do) who have and send you boxes at a time
Strawberry fan thing -- a bit precious but fun

I think at this time of year it’s a whole lot of fun to become acquainted with new tools that make life easier, and more fun, in the kitchen. It’s not a bad holiday gift list either! SO…inspired?? Ready to make those holiday treats and have fun at the same time? You’ll need a centerpiece too! Here’s a great video from Sean:

You need to follow Sean at Spectacularly Delicious for all things yummy, informative, and elegant! Last of three parts….the details of Sean’s kitchen - coming soon. What are your favorite kitchen tools or equipment? I’m tossed between a grill pan and a good, powerful, blender.


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Reader Comments (13)

My large Cuisinart soup pan is my best friend! Especially on these cold nights.

December 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKathy Price-Robinson

Does he own a "specialized" slicer for EVERY fruit and vegetable? I have a slicer for every fruit and vegetable... it's called a "knife".

December 14, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterdavid g

Fantastic list. Don't I wish I had the Mauviel copper preserving pan! Instead the favorite preserving pan is a stainless steel maslin pan from Lehmans. My favorite tool in the kitchen is an 8" Shun chef's knife. Most frequently used pots and pans are Cuisinart's dutch oven and a 10" cast iron skillet. Also keep the freshest, highest quality spices on hand including salts, cinnamons, vanilla beans, variety of chocolates, and fresh herbs.

December 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSeattleSuze

WOW! His tool chest rivals my local Sur La Table! I'm jealous! I agree on many points, specifically, Le Crueset pots, my Cuisinart, KitchenAid mixer, Microplane grater, to name a few. I like his idea about freezing leftover wine...but having any wine leftover is a rare occurance around here!

December 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKate

Oh I love these answers...especially comparing favorite tools! For me, it's fun to be in the imaginary playground of endless kitchen tools and equipment!!

December 15, 2010 | Registered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD


I'm curious about what you think the "basics" are. Although my husband and I have ~90% of the "basics" and 50% of the "next level" Sean lists, I find we use much of it rarely. In fact, I think we're reaching the point where we're going to start giving away particular items to our friends, not b/c we think they're truly useful, but b/c we want our friends to try them out, realize they're *not* going to want whatever-it-is over the long term, and thus not buy a new one for themselves. The deal will be that when they tire of the gadget, instead of adding it to their own volume of storage, they give it to someone else who would otherwise be inclined to buy the same thing, use it for a while, and then bury it in a cabinet to take up space and collect dust. The electric ice cream maker (one of the items in Sean's lists) will be the perfect thing to start with, since the novelty factor of that wears off quickly (for us, a dozen batches of ice cream, at most, over a single summer).

And fwiw, I’m with david g in the comments up above….For the vast majority of fruits and vegetables, the best “slicer” is a size- and sharpness-appropriate knife, which has the added advantage of being useful for something else. I followed your link to Sean’s instructional videos for the mango slicer and cherry pitter, and frankly, I nearly died laughing. I’m Asian, grew up eating mangoes, currently average 1-2 mangoes/day for 6 months of the year, and am happy to report that a reasonably ripe mango can be easily cut up with—leaving significantly less waste than the tool in Sean’s video—almost any sort of knife, whether it be a good Shun, a dull cheese knife, or a (gasp!) plastic-handled, college-era, as-seen-on-TV serrated Ginsu 3000 steak knife. And while I agree that a cherry pitter is a must when you need to process 30+ lbs of cherries at once (as we do, for several week each year), I have to say that the model in Sean’s video reminds me of much of what’s wrong with the current kitchen-gadget market right now—excessive bulk, lots of plastic, poor ergonomics, likely to break, and a pain to wash. After watching the video, I strongly suspect that my hand-held, mostly metal, takes-up-less-space-than-a-pair-of-scissors cherry pitter allows me to pit faster, with more economy of movement (and hence less repetitive-use strain on my body)—and it probably costs less and will last longer.

I’m sorry my first post (I’m a long-time reader, but as you can probably tell, the comments section isn’t my natural environment) is a bit of a downer, but I see so many young couples (who often, like me, grew up not really knowing how to cook) studying these sorts of lists to try to figure out what they should ask for when they’re setting up their first household, and I want to tell them—stop! You can be an excellent cook with a tiny fraction of what’s often described as “basic” or “necessary”, and in fact, having too much of the wrong stuff in the kitchen can actually make both the learning and the actual cooking more troublesome, difficult, and tedious.

December 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJanis

Janis, thank you so much for this very insightful comment. I appreciate the time and thought that went into it and I enjoyed reading it.

I'll tell you where I stand on this, Janis, since you asked. You're talking to someone who, at my last house, had nearly 200 rose bushes in my garden and 100+ perennials. Some roses had no fragrance, but beautiful blooms. Many had distinctive fragrances and some were great in other areas but were not good bloomers. They all had their pros and cons BUT they all deserved space in my garden for one reason or another. I now have a tiny garden and already have 50 rose bushes. One basic rose being "good enough?" Not by a long shot.

I didn't need all of those rose bushes. I could have made up my own list of "the basics", say, for the newbie rose grower, the next level of roses in my garden which had certain admirable characteristics, or a list of my antique roses (another category) or my climbers, my Austin roses etc. Why did I "need" to have about 10-12 (maybe more) climbing rose bushes, for example?

Because I simply love roses and because I am a collector.

I can't speak for Sean, but I understand collecting, as I collect several types of objects...and when I collect, I COLLECT.

Back to the roses/cooking equipment analogy. I could name five basic roses which are the most popular, most loved (e.g. basic set of knives) and which are an example of what a rose "is" to most people due to their (as a group) exemplary fragrance/growing/other characteristics. But I want to explore other varieties of roses. Am I a rose snob? Maybe to some. To me, I'm just nutty about roses.

About the mango seed pitter? Janis, you grew up slicing mangos...me, I was thrilled to see that video which is why I put it up there because mangos confuse me!! :)) That tool would be a no brainer for me.

When I was far more active on the rose forums, people would list every one of their roses (when a thread called for it) and categorize them or describe them with pride and joy. I sometimes did the same. I don't think Sean is saying the word "must" in any of this...it's just a list that you see, in my opinion, and say "Wow!" and for Sean to write all of that information shows one thing as I see it...passion!

ONE more thing...of course, you're right, you can be an excellent cook with a fraction of what is described as basic equipment. And, if one had a few basic roses in their garden, I'll bet they would love them as much as I loved all my (cough) rose babies. Which brings this to mind...can one be as "passionate" a cook or as passionate a gardener with 5 cooking tools or 5 roses vs 200 of either? Yes, in my opinion and that is a critical point as well. And, I'm not just being patronizing. My daughter has the tiniest kitchen in the world in NYC and makes some of the most amazing food ever (her raw vegetarian lasagna is legendary.) Please feel free to respond again, I love the discussion!

December 15, 2010 | Registered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

I want to defend Ginsu knives! The steak knives provide the best cut for me when slicing a strip steak, and the big one, 2000? mine is very old, will cut veggies, breads (serrated blade) and meats very well.
Not fancy, and not perfect for every job, but not to be disparaged!

December 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKevin Sullivan

To my critics, do you see a banana slicer on my list? A fruit-kebab maker? A pineapple corer? That thing that makes square hard-boiled eggs? Coeur de creme molds? Clafouti pan? There are tons of gadgets that I have been given or used and found that they don't carry their weight. Catalogs are rife with multiple blade sissors for herb cutting. Gonna take a pass on that. And what's up with those olive oil misting spray bottles? It's been pointed out that I did not list olive pitter, pasta maker and pasta drying rack and I am going to get these, public opinion be dammed. Lastly, seriously, if you know of a tool or gadget that you love, I'm very interested in hearing about it.

December 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSean Sullivan

A master carpenter may only "need" a hammer and a saw, but that doesn't stop him from appreciating other tools. Sean, enjoy your collection and don't pay any attention to those who don't.

December 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMr. Wally

I received two Christmas gifts I particularly like: a set of 10 plastic snap-top containers, each holding a mere 1/4 c. So often i have an extra bit of this and that. Yes, I can and have put it on a plate or ramekin, covered with plastic wrap if it need be. These little cuties are practical, take up no space, and very welcome. Thank you KDS. Next, I got a pair of those four-bladed scissors to cut herbs and the like. As mentioned in the post above, I use scissors all the time, just today to snip scallions into an egg dish. Thanks MPS for the scissors. NOTE: one tool (scissors) vs. two (kinife and cutting board). Hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas.

December 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSean

would be great if we all could have a kitchen big enough for all these amazing tools.

January 27, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterplumber in baltimore

My favourite tool in the kitchen is a chef's knife. Most often used pots and pans are Cuisinart's dutch oven as well as a forged iron skillet. The deal will be that when they tire of the gadget, in lieu of adding it to their own volume of storage, they give it to someone else who would otherwise be inclined to buy the same thing, use it for some time.

April 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKitchen

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