Gifts That Let Home Cooks Hone Their Skills Like the Pros | Food Feature | Indy Week

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Gifts That Let Home Cooks Hone Their Skills Like the Pros



During the holidays we spend more time in the kitchen. When we're stretching ourselves to feed twenty, a few touches of luxury and functionalism can help us push a little further. This holiday season, treat the chef in your life to something special for the kitchen, and I'll bet you'll benefit, too. Here are five locally made products we're really digging this season.


For a delicate yet definitively artistic touch to food presentation at home, look no further than Haand ceramics, started in 2012 by Mark Warren and Chris Pence. They began selling in retail shops like Southern Season and West Elm, but now Warren estimates that ninety percent of their work is in the hospitality market. You'll find Haand ceramics at restaurants all around the Triangle, including Raleigh's Death & Taxes (chef-proprietor Ashley Christensen was the first restaurateur to start buying from Haand), M Sushi and Motto in Durham, and several other restaurants in North Carolina.

"The pieces for home kitchens and restaurants are pretty similar, and we like that they can go back and forth," Warren says. "We try to create a canvas or theater or architecture for the chef to react to, and the seamless harmony between our ware and the food is what ultimately adds to a meaningful experience for the diner."

Haand's pieces are simple and dreamy, with a strong balance between sharp corners and soft edges. The pieces are perfect for a home cook who wants to add artistry and grace to the table. 

Hawks and Doves 

Jessica Ullom started Hawks and Doves by making pillows and purses in her Raleigh home. But she quickly brought her designs into the kitchen when she made her chef-husband, Andrew Ullom, his own custom knife roll. Andrew is an executive pastry chef for AC Restaurants (Christensen's restaurant group). Several other cooks in the group quickly began asking for rolls, and Ullom began working with Christensen to design The Greyhound, a waxed canvas knife clutch that holds significant tools without becoming bulky.

"I'm lucky to have so many hard-working chefs and cooks in the area to test out new styles and make sure they are functional in a high-volume kitchen," Ullom says.

Hawks and Doves' new knife roll has space for four to five knives and a sharpening steel, plus extra pockets for thermometers, spoons, and Sharpie pens. The leather that Ullom uses is oil-tanned and, she says, nearly water-resistant, so it works well in almost any environment, including the kitchen. 

"It's super tough and ages well with daily use," she says. Ullom also designs custom leather aprons, which are used at restaurants like FIG in Charleston, South Carolina, as well as Death & Taxes, lucettegrace, and Raleigh Raw.

Horn & Heel

Duncan Stephenson is the metalsmith at Horn & Heel, where he makes custom knives, jewelry, and other metal goods. He received a BFA in small metal design from East Carolina University, where he made his first knives as part of an independent study. 

"I was enamored by the idea of making a tool," Stephenson says. "Something that has utility and at the same time can be aesthetically pleasing." 

He started Horn & Heel in 2014 with his friend Luke Rayson, out of his backyard. The underlying philosophy was that knives are more than just kitchen tools. 

"We believe that knives are an intimate object," Stephenson says. "A personalized balance of form and function that can serve as an extension of yourself. We believe that you deserve to know everything that there is to know about your knife—the design, use, materials, care, and construction." 

Focusing on the intimacy of the object. Stephenson and Rayson talk with clients about the specific purpose of each knife, how customers will use it, and how their exact habits should influence the design of the piece. 

"Aside from a knife meeting its requirements—it cuts stuff—the value of a knife is personal and subjective," Stephenson says. Chefs across the Triangle, including Ullom at AC Restaurants and Kevin Ruiz at The Cortez, are using the knives.

Elijah Leed

On the higher end, Elijah Leed's serving boards are the perfect gift for the cheese-board-inclined friend or family member. Though he focuses primarily on furniture design, Leed regularly reuses scraps and extra pieces from his larger works for smaller home goods, like oxidized oak or walnut serving boards and trivets made from leather and brass. Leed's designs are elegant and spare, but sure to make a visual impact on anyone's holiday table.

>b>Southern Season cooking school

For the food lover who can't sit still, a cooking class at Southern Season in Chapel Hill is a great option. From kid-friendly classes on Christmas cookies to classic French recipes led by local chef and writer Sheri Castle, there's something for everyone. Prices range from $25 for kids' classes to $55 for classes with wine pairings.

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