No matter what type of cooking-related business you’re thinking of launching, equipment – and the related budget – is a vital consideration. Regardless of whether you’re opening a small catering concern out of your home kitchen or if you’re jumping into the deep end with a gourmet restaurant in the ritziest part of town, the “meat and potatoes” of your business is not actually edible. From measuring spoons to soup pots – properly known as smallwares or cookware – the gear you use to prepare your specialties has a huge impact on what makes them… special. So keep in mind what many an experienced caterer and restaurant owner may have learned the hard way: Shop wisely while setting up shop, and you’ll have no regrets later.
Quality vs Quantity: Less is More
The bottom line is, even if your budget is tight it pays to invest in fewer higher-quality items than in many budget items. Good cookware can last a lifetime (I still have some of my grandmother’s cast-iron skillets from at least 75 years ago and I wouldn’t trade them for the world), while cheaper items will disappoint time after time. Never have the words, “You get what you pay for,” been more accurate than when it comes to cookware. So even with a limited budget, if you focus on quality over quantity you’ll be laying the groundwork for a kitchen that won’t fall apart on you – at the worst possible time, of course – and will start you off on the right leg. Keep in mind, as well, that as your business succeeds, you’ll be able to fill in the cookware blanks left by initial budget constraints, so that before you know it you’ll have everything you need.
If You’re Making Money It’s “Commercial”
Even if you’ve received endless compliments for your outstanding cakes or amazing soups, taking your cooking skills to the next level and opening a business is a huge undertaking. Everything you can think of needs to be upgraded – from your outlook and mindset, to your kitchenware and your line of credit at the bank. Commercial cookware is an investment but it’s in a different league than what you’ve been using – price-wise, quality-wise, and endurance-wise. If your hopes and dreams are realized, your kitchenware will be getting a strenuous workout and you need paraphernalia that will stand the test of time.
So how do you do you start?
- Research the topic to learn the terminology and to find out what cookware chefs recommend.
- Learn about the different types of materials that high-quality professional cookware is made of and what brands are well-respected (and why). For instance:
- Cast Iron: This tried-and-true material is experiencing a renaissance; the attractive, classic black skillet, for instance, is a mainstay of the modern professional kitchen. Cast iron is reliable and durable, and it retains heat, making it suitable for all types of stove-top cooking, such as braising, browning, and frying. It does require a fair amount of maintenance, as it needs to be “seasoned” on a regular basis.
- Copper: Copper is also having a revival, and it is perfect for sauces and other liquids that need to be simmered gently. Copper offers even and quick cooking, not to mention that copper is gorgeous. When buying copper cookware, opt for a heavy gauge for the best results.
- Stainless Steel: For durable and rust-resistant cookware, chefs often turn to stainless steel. To boost stainless-steel cookware’s heat conducting ability, tri-ply construction (three layers of metal that is bonded to the steel) is recommended. From soup pots to braziers, stainless-steel is oven-safe and attractive.
- Aluminum: Aluminum cookware is the workhorse of the professional kitchen. Like copper, it is heat-conductive, but it is also easy to maintain and reasonably priced. Hard-anodized aluminum is an important subset of this material; it adds to the durability and strength of a pot or pan while making it non-stick and chip-resistant.
- Focus on a few items of the highest caliber. Especially at the beginning, you’re one person who doesn’t need to be surrounded by an overwhelming arsenal of pots and pans.
- Avoid sets of pots and pans; you will do better if you mix and match your cookware, based on the kind of cooking you will do. With sets, there are always extraneous items that will go unused and the overall quality tends to be questionable (which enables the attractive price tag).
Tip of the Iceberg
Now that you’re wondering how you’ll ever learn the basics of creating a professional kitchen, panic not and stay tuned. We’ll cover other smallware and cookware staples – like knives – in future posts. Meanwhile, remember the first suggestions above: research and learn. At the end of the day you’ll be a smarter, savvier entrepreneur with a wonderfully outfitted kitchen that will serve you well throughout your long and prosperous career.