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.
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.
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.
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.
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.