Alex Guarnaschelli learned to eat well according to whatever cookbook her mother, esteemed editor Maria Guarnaschelli, was working on at the time. She learned to cook well by working with some of the world’s best chefs, including Larry Forgione, Guy Savoy, Daniel Boulud and Joachim Splichal. In 2003 she became the executive chef of Butter Restaurant and later, The Darby, both in NYC. Three years ago she bested nine rival chefs to win the title of Iron Chef. She is a reoccurring judge on the Food Network’s Chopped and is the author of Old-School Comfort Food: The Way I Learned to Cook.
1. Lambrusco vinegar. It has tart notes that remind me of a glass of bold red. I love to toss this vinegar with tomatoes, berries or fruits and in desserts for this reason. It also has great acidity and a light floral note that pairs so well with anything from a creamy avocado to a big steak.
2. The 1997 Joy of Cooking. Okay, so my mother edited this book. I’m biased. If I want to look up what my mom made when I was a kid, this is the place for me to do it. Above and beyond the personal history, the recipes are reliable, they are classic. I can trust the book. That’s important. There are tons of cookbooks I love, but few I trust implicitly.
3. Immersion circulator. Mine works overtime in the kitchen at Butter. We love it for slow, long-term, low- temperature cooking. It’s so great to have something cooking at a steady and constant temperature. It expands the possibilities for so many ingredients, especially meat and charcuterie.
4. Club soda and bitters. It’s what I drink all day long. It’s refreshing, slightly sweet, slightly tart. It also settles the stomach. A palate cleanser. All the things a chef needs when tasting a lot of different foods at once.
5. My mother’s cheese souffle. She made this for me when I was a kid. It’s a complete game- changer. The aroma. The drama. This is a whole thing. A meal in one.