Nearly a decade ago, I found myself in my mother’s spacious kitchen, doing my best to convince her that now was the time for her to teach me how to make Chinese steamed buns. Baozi (包子) was this heavenly meat and vegetable stuffed “meal in a bun with a bellybutton” that my mother prepared when we anticipated many guests for evening soirees. After rising early to knead the dough, let it rise, and punch it down a time or two, I would watch her roll out hundreds of bun shells in floured stacks, stuff them with pork and cabbage using a pair of chopsticks, and magically never end up with either extra shells nor extra filling! She never measured anything, and to this day, I still think it’s one of her best kept secrets.
No matter how lovely the party, no matter how bright and colorful my mother’s party frocks of the 1970’s could be (and oh, they were bright!), and no matter how many ooh’s and ahh’s and lip-smacking sounds were emitted from the guests, the feeling after the party ended was always the same:
Isn’t there an easier way to do this?
My mother would declare that it was the last time she would cook like that for so many people. So much chopping! So much punching and kneading and rolling and cutting and stuffing and steaming. And there would be nothing left, not even a measly crumb.
There’s a Chef’n For That!
That day in Mom’s kitchen, I did learn how to make authentic baozi. I even went on to make them for parties years later. Yet, with a diagnosis of Celiac Disease and too many food allergies to count, the days of rolling shells for those steamed buns ended. I can’t even allow wheat flour to touch my skin, as I get horrible rashes. Ironically, my time in the kitchen has dramatically increased, even though I don’t currently make these kinds of elaborate meals. A diagnosis of an autoimmune disease, where the cure and management of that disease is primarily nutritional, changed my mentality about cooking from holiday and special event preparation to cooking as medicine production. Suddenly, I felt wholly unprepared to cook in such a way that didn’t wear me out, and therefore tempt me to eat out during a time when my body could least afford the smallest of missteps.
During a trip to Ocean Shores, WA over a year ago, I stopped in a small shop filled with boutique knick knacks that called to my “mature lady soul”, that soul that I’ve had since I was a little girl accompanying my mother on her shopping excursions in town. Here were flowered aprons, beige dishcloths with jokes about women drinking a little too much wine, scented candles, and recipe books about savory foods, quinoa, and bread. On top of a stack of recipe books sat a green-and-white manoline, with a picture on the box showing the different kinds of foods one could julienne and slice in various thicknesses, all without getting your fingers near the blade. Now, it’s not as if I’d never seen a mandoline before, yet it called to me. I found myself answering that decade old question with the baozi: “Isn’t there an easier way to do this?” I picked up my answer-in-a-box, and took it home with me.
I didn’t even note the brand.
As a part of an excursion tour with the International Food Bloggers Conference 2016, I selected the Chef’n tour. Didn’t it make sense that a person who eats less than one percent of the time outside of her house visit a company dedicated to making the world’s best kitchen gadgets and hardware? It sure made sense to me!
As we gawked at different iterations of new products in-the-making, I spotted something on the corner table that made me gasp. There is was: my mandoline, in that same green-and-white design that had caught my eye, only redesigned. All along, I already had a Chef’n product in my own household!
David Halcomb, CEO and inventor, delivered a funny, self-abasing presentation about how the Garlic Machine, his first kitchen invention, came into existence. All of the Chef’n products go through a process from inception and design, to product testing and customer review to bring to market kitchen hardware that makes cooking and food preparation easier, faster, and simple. My companions on the tour were given opportunities to try the products, from squeezing limes with a Lime Juicer, to removing the pit and leaves from strawberries with the Stem Jem. Each item was easy to use, even for my small hands.
You may ask yourself the question, “Do I need something like the Stem Jem to remove the pits from strawberries? Or can I just use a knife?” We both know the answer: of course you don’t need it. And then you may ask yourself the next question, “Would I like to have the Stem Jem to remove the pits from my breakfast strawberries for the rest of my life?” And I find myself nodding my head up and down in visual approval. Because you know what? My future involves do this every morning of the rest of my life.
Whether it’s slicing vegetables faster, straining gluten-free pasta, or opening bottles, there’s a Chef’n product for that (or there’s one coming). As we passed through the display area with wall-to-wall Chef’n products, I was delightfully surprised at just how many there were. My beloved mandoline was only one (and I heard from David that the newly-improved mandoline is even better).
Before I left the Chef’n suite, I thanked David for creating this world of home kitchen hardware. There are so many companies for serious chefs that require serious amounts of cash, yet Chef’n products are suitable for every home chef and even modest budgets. I told him a little of my story about being one of the 70 million who find themselves forced to cook at home in order to feed themselves safely, yet because of Chef’n products, our kitchens are not dismal and isolating prisons. Our kitchens are transformed into welcoming places of safety and ease because we don’t spend hours of needless preparation and cleanup. And we even waste far less food when the gadgets work on our behalf.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I had an unfortunate discovery of a new food allergy while I was at Chef’n. Yet all that incident did was underline the reality of my situation. The safest way to eat our food is to prepare and cook it at home. I have a good feeling that Chef’n gadgets will find their way into my kitchen as I continue to learn more about gluten-free and AIP cooking. I would not be surprised if they find their way into yours.
Disclaimer: I was a part of an excursion to tour the Chef’n Suite in Seattle as a part of the 2015 International Food Bloggers Conference. I was not paid by Chef’n to write about my experience nor to review any of their products at the time of publishing this post. I was given a gift bag with three Chef’n products inside, two of which I have chosen to give to others who support my mission to make food fun again.