7 top chefs reveal the one ingredient that they can’t go without

Twisted: Unserious food tastes seriously good.

Every cook has a favourite store cupboard staple. Whether you’re a stew specialist or a curry queen, everyone has one key component on which their repertoire depends. You can have the poshest meat and the finest fruit and veg – without that lynchpin, the whole kitchen can fall apart.  

It turns out that, in this way at least, top chefs are no different to the rest of us. Some of the finest restaurants in the world pack a sneaky supply of essentials that their cooks swear by and help give their food a special twist. These can be surprising, inspiring and sometimes just strange. Here are a few of the ingredients that some chefs simply can’t go without.

1. Dominique Ansel

As probably the best baker in the world, it’s hardly a surprise that the one thing Dominique Ansel’s kitchen can’t do without is yeast. What’s slightly more unusual is his disdain for another key baking component. According to an interview with The New Potato, Ansel believes that sugar is the most overrated of all baking ingredients.

2. Ruth Rogers

As head chef at one of London’s most revered food institutions, Ruth Rogers knows a thing or two about great ingredients. Mentor to some of Britain’s best known chefs, including Jamie Oliver, Rogers swears that the one thing her kitchen can’t do without are lemons. As a way to add extra freshness to fish or turn into a tasty dessert, Rogers says that the citrus fruit can’t be beaten. It also happens to be the ingredient of choice for Le Gavroche legend Michel Roux Jr.

3. Jamie Oliver

The Naked Chef has cooked with a lot of awesome ingredients over the years. However, there is only one to which he is a self-confessed addict. Speaking to the Jakarta Post, Oliver revealed that chillies are his Achilles’ heel – adding that he continues to put them “in pretty much everything” to this day.

4. Marco Pierre White

The original bad boy of British cooking, Gordon Ramsay’s mentor is not a man you want to argue with when it comes to indispensable ingredients. Fortunately, his one thing he can’t do without is something we can all get behind. According to White, no kitchen in the world is complete without a pack of butter.

5. Elena Arzak

Working at the helm of one of the world’s finest restaurants is no easy task. Though there are many things that make the job easier, according to Elena Arzak there is one ingredient that is an absolute necessity. Without parsley, she says, the entire Arzak menu would fall apart.

6. Gordon Ramsay

You know if an ingredient makes it onto the shopping list of a chef as hard to please as Gordon Ramsay that it’s going to be something special. Despite having a whopping 13 Michelin stars and access to all of the world’s greatest ingredients, the one thing that never leaves the Ramsay store cupboard is a humble pot of Maldon sea salt. According to the Hell’s Kitchen celebrity, it’s the best there is.

7. Anthony Bourdain

Even if you can cook as well as Bourdain, basic ingredients are often the most important. For all the awesome things he’s cooked over the years, the one staple that Bourdain and his staff simply can’t go without is shallots. Used as a base for sauces, soups and a whole lot more, Bourdain claims that he gets through about 20 pounds of the small onion every day.

Whoever you are and however long you’ve cooked, there are always going to be some ingredients that hold a special place in your heart. It’s reassuring to know that for all their skill and celebrity, even the world’s most respected chefs still have their own cooking foibles.