In more than 25 years in the culinary profession, I’ve had the opportunity to cook in restaurants around the world, on the high seas, in the White House, and even on television shows such as The Food Network’s “Restaurant: Impossible.” But no matter where or what I’m cooking, there are a couple things that never change. The first is that I always buy great, high-quality ingredients so I can create delicious, straightforward recipes that let the flavors and textures of the food be themselves. And the second is that I always rely on a wide variety of food packaging and cooking tools made with plastics that allow me to do more with less in my kitchen.
It’s not an exaggeration to say I couldn’t do my job without plastics, which give me the versatility I need to prepare favorite dishes and create new recipes. But you don’t have to be a professional chef to take advantage of plastic packaging and cooking tools, which make food prep quicker, easier and more convenient for chefs of every experience level. Here are a few examples of my favorite plastic kitchen items:
Reusable, airtight plastic containers: My walk-in fridge has stacks of these containers, which I use to store and organize ingredients, sauces and leftovers to use in future creations. Because plastic containers can be flexible and durable, the lids on these containers form an airtight seal that keeps food fresher longer. That way, I can make leftovers and ingredients go further. For example, I can grill chicken breasts one day, use some of the leftovers to make chicken salad the next day, and then make a chicken chili the day after that—with the help of plastics.
Plastic bowls: I often use bowls to hold sauces during the food prep process or for plating during service, and I prefer to use bowls made with plastics because they’re lightweight and I don’t have to worry about shattering if I accidentally drop them in my busy kitchen. I also like that plastic bowls are easy to clean and durable enough to use over and over again—which means my kitchen is producing less waste and saving money over time.
Plastic packaging: Advances in plastic packaging make food prep more convenient while helping me contribute to sustainability. For example, ingredients packaged in re-sealable plastic pouches allow me to use only the amount I need, then store the rest in the fridge for later—which means less food waste. And I can’t even imagine life in the kitchen prior to plastic food wrap, which I use for everything from storing leftovers to flattening chicken breasts to creating a makeshift belt when a sous chef forgets one.
Silicone kitchen tools: Silicone plastic is indispensable in any modern kitchen because it’s heat-resistant and nonstick. I love using silicone plastic mats to line baking pans—they promote even cooking, and they’re designed to help cooked foods slide off easily. Silicone molds are great for holiday baking because they help you create perfect baked goods that slide right out without breaking. And I really like using silicone oven mitts to protect my hands from the heat of the stove and allow me to grab pots and pans securely.
Recycled plastic kitchen tools: There are certain items every kitchen needs—such as cutting boards, mixing bowls, and storage containers. And I try to keep the environment in mind in my kitchen whenever I can, so it’s exciting that many of these kitchen essentials now are available made with recycled plastics that contribute to sustainability. Whether they’re made with plastics from used yogurt cups, cottage cheese containers or milk jugs, these recycled plastic kitchen tools help keep valuable plastics out of landfills. And thanks to the durability of plastics, they’ll stand up to years of use.
To download three custom recipes I created for Plastics Make it Possible® using plastic cooking tools, click here.
To read about my partnership with Plastics Make it Possible®, click here.
To watch a video featuring some of my tips for contributing to sustainability in the kitchen, click here.