On the Menu: Chefs’ Favorite Condiments

Whether they buy them or make them, a condiment is often a chef’s secret ingredient. Used as finishing sauces or as an integral component of recipes, they take dishes from everyday to outstanding. Here are top chefs’ favorite condiments and how they use them in delicious dishes you’ll want to order (and you may also want to put them in your pantry).

Clay Conley, Grato, West Palm Beach, Florida
Chef Clay Conley of Grato is a fan of Calabrian chili oil. According to Conley, “It has a great balance of smoky and salty flavors, and just the right amount of heat to complement many dishes.” Currently, it’s being used to add heat to a cool dish of tuna crudo with tomato water and cucumber. Make a reservation at Grato.

Chefs' Favorite Condiments

Jason Halverson, Stones Throw, San Francisco, California
Stones Throw has become known for creative dishes such as Puffed Potatoes and Eggs with Cauliflower Mousse, Chives, Crispy Chicken Skin, and Squid Ink Conchiglie with seafood, but the Da Burger is a classic that never comes off the menu. Chef Jason Halverson is an admitted condiment junkie, but when forced to choose one, he picks the Japanese product Kewpie Mayonnaise. Says Halverson, “Kewpie Mayonnaise is like mayo on crack. I like it because it’s so versatile. You can add it to coleslaw, sandwiches, sauces, etcetera. It’s a hidden go-to ingredient. It’s not so cloying as regular mayonnaise. It’s in the secret sauce on the burger but also used as a binder in the tater tots.” Make a reservation at Stones Throw.

Chefs' Favorite Condiments

Chris Santos, Vandal, New York, New York
Chef Chris Santos says, “I’m a huge connoisseur of heat. I always have 40 to 50 hot sauces on hand, but Midori Sriracha is my new favorite. It has such a unique taste, and it was exactly what we needed for the Hong Kong egg waffles.” It’s used in the Chicken Katsu and Hong Kong Egg Waffles at new restaurant and lounge Vandal on the Bowery in New York, which features street food from around the world. Make a reservation at Vandal. 

Chefs' Favorite Condiments

Perry Hoffman, SHED, Healdsburg
Perry Hoffman chooses Kozlik mustard, a sweet and smoky mustard from Canada he found on the shelf in the SHED store and describes as more mild than Dijon or whole grain. Says Hoffman, “It’s salty sweet, spicy and it hits all of the flavor profiles. It’s the umami of mustards and I love it.” He likes it smothered on a roast chicken and as a base for a veggie dip. At the restaurant, it is used in the dressing for the mustard greens accompanying the Whole Poussin, which is served dramatically with head and feet attached. Make a reservation at SHED.

Chefs' Favorite Condiments

Edward Lee, Succotash, National Harbor, Washington, Maryland
According to chef Edward Lee of Succotash, just south of Washington D.C., Chung Jung One’s Gochujang Korean Chili Sauce — the next generation of the traditional fermented hot chili paste — gives foods a spicy and tangy flavor with a hint of sweetness. “It isn’t just spice for the sake of heat. It is nuanced and layered. It has sweetness and umami, lots of umami. It adds flavor and complexity,” says Lee, who mixes the sauce into the pimento cheese layer of his Tex-Mex-meets-the-South Pimento Fundido for a deep, tangy, spicy kick. Make a reservation at Succotash.

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Dining Poll: Are You a Fan or Foe of Mayo?

According to an article in TODAY, research firm Euromonitor has revealed that mayonnaise is the top condiment in the U.S., handily besting ketchup. I’m a fan of both, but Duke’s mayonnaise is absolutely my most coveted condiment. As united as we seem to be in our love of mayo in the United States, however, a lot of folks cannot abide the creamy marriage of eggs and oil, even tho’ many chefs are pro mayo. Where do you stand in this condiment conundrum? Weigh in on the issue in our dining poll below.

The Next Iron Chef Episode 4: Chef Marc Forgione Talks Transformation

The chefs, with journals in hand, listen to the challenge at hand. "I'm not a big fair guy. I come from Manhattan. I have no idea what's served at a fair. No clue." — Chef Forgione

Would-be Iron Chef Marc Forgione and his fellow contenders were tasked with transforming ingredients and dishes last night. Chef Forgione talks about how he fared at the San Diego County Fair.

First up, you had to transform a condiment. Is the danger of things like steak sauce/ketchup/bbq sauce the sugar content in them? Can they make something too cloying?

The hardest part about the condiment challenge was that condiments are used to make other things taste better, not really used on their own. We had to transform a condiment into something that was not only good to eat and flavorful, but the condiment had to be the star.

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