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- Chefs from across the US shared their favorite grocery-store purchases with INSIDER.
- The foods chefs said they like to purchase ranged from kitchen staples, like eggs and peanut butter, to prepared foods, like rotisserie chicken and sushi.
- Some chefs also said they enjoy buying supermarket exclusives like Publix’s fried chicken or Trader Joe’s banana-bread mix.
- Visit INSIDER.com for more stories.
Even though they’re cooking up a variety of gourmet dishes at work, many chefs prefer to keep things simple when they’re at home.
Because of this, some chefs tend to purchase popular, multipurpose ingredients that they can use in a variety of simple dishes or specialty foods they can snack on in a hurry.
INSIDER asked chefs across the US about their favorite, underrated items to purchase at the grocery store. Here’s what they said.
This chef said her go-to purchase at the grocery store is a popular condiment in Korean cuisine
“My favorite grocery store find is gochujang, a traditional Korean fermented red-chili condiment that has a slightly sweet heat and umami-rich flavor,” Chef Sohui Kim, co-owner of The Good Fork in Brooklyn, New York, told INSIDER.
Kim said her preferred brand of gochujang is Chung Jung One because it’s made with Korean chili peppers.
“Gochujang is a workhorse in my pantry and not only for Korean dishes,” said Kim. “It’s a great thickening agent, with a fantastic kick of flavor. I love the combination of sweet and spicy that it adds to chili, braises, and barbeque sauces.”
One chef said rotisserie chicken is a great bargain that’s also healthy
“Rotisserie chicken is a healthy, under-$10 meal that is often overlooked,” Yehuda Sichel, chef at Abe Fisher in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, told INSIDER. “It’s always hot and ready to go. I also love it because often you can break down this one chicken into two to three meals.”
Chicken bouillon cubes are an underrated staple in any kitchen, said one chef
Chris Feldmeier, executive chef at Love & Salt in Manhattan Beach, California, told INSIDER that his favorite grocery item is Knorr’s chicken bouillon.
“I absolutely love the richness and body this adds to marinades for all kinds of meat,” said Feldmeier.
“The first ingredient is MSG, which I feel gets an incredibly undue bad rep,” he added. “It’s a flavor enhancer with an umami taste that balances, blends, and rounds the perception of other tastes.” He said MSG also “intensifies the meaty, savory flavor of food.”
This chef said crispy onions are tedious to make from scratch, so he typically just buys them
“Even for a skilled chef, making crispy onions is messy and a pain,” Daniel DiStefano, executive chef at NYC’s Made Nice, told INSIDER. “The store-bought crispy onions are never greasy, perfectly salted, and, most of all, don’t require you to slowly deep fry onion slices on your stove.”
This chef said he thinks ‘anchovies should be in everything’
Garrison Price, executive chef at Cafe Clover in NYC’s West Village, told INSIDER that anchovies can be used in “infinite ways.” These include serving them with bread and butter as a snack or canapé or adding them to pasta sauce to provide it with a layer of umami flavor.
“Anchovies should be in everything, especially because people won’t even know it is there half the time,” Price said.
This chef said Greek yogurt is his ‘blank canvas’ for both sweet and savory dishes
Plain Greek yogurt is a home-kitchen staple according to Joe Gentempo, executive chef at Parkwoods in Atlanta, Georgia.
“It can be used in place of mayonnaise or sour cream in savory dishes and [it] transforms into a great tzatziki with [the addition of] some cucumber and mint,” Gentempo told INSIDER. “It’s a perfect breakfast or even dessert – just elevate it with some honey and fresh seasonal fruit. My kids can’t get enough.”
This chef said he can’t resist buying things that are BOGO nor can he resist a popular Little Debbie’s dessert
“I always start very focused and with the right intentions when stepping through the automatic doors at a supermarket, but quickly veer off course to any BOGO deal they have to offer,” David Bancroft, chef and owner of Alabama barbecue joint Bow & Arrow, told INSIDER.
He added, “Nobody really needs two big jars of spaghetti sauce or two huge cans of baked beans at the same time, but eventually we will get to the second one, right?”
Bancroft also said that it’s hard for him to resist Little Debbie’s Oatmeal Creme Pies.
This chef said she has a few favorite hot sauces that she tends to purchase
“Chefs across the board seem to have a love and appreciation for all things spicy,” said Chef Gemma Kamin-Korn of Bar Beau in NYC. “Regardless of why, hot sauce is a staple and is often generously applied over top an unhealthy spread of fast food, generally in the wee hours of the night.”
Read More: 12 chefs reveal their favorite hot sauce
Kamin-Korn said her favorite hot sauces are Sriracha and Cholula Green Pepper. Of the latter, Kamin-Korn said, “It is not overpoweringly spicy and has great flavor – a step up from your basic Tabasco.”
This chef said Duke’s Mayonnaise is his favorite grocery-store pick
Travis Grimes, executive chef at Husk Restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina, told INSIDER that his favorite grocery-store item is Duke’s Mayonnaise.
“People might ask, ‘You’re a chef, why not make your own mayo?’ [but] once you’ve tasted the best mayo on earth why try and compete with perfection?” said Grimes.
This one chef said he and his colleagues oftentimes purchase grocery-store sushi
“After a long day in a hot kitchen eating [and] tasting hot food, a lot of chefs end up eating cold leftovers or snacks that are in the reach-ins or walk-in coolers” said Stein. “Cold snacks, in my opinion, are refreshing to the palate and nothing is better than a nice spicy tuna and avocado roll.”
This one chef said he enjoys birthday cake from Publix, an employee-owned supermarket chain
Kevin Johnson, executive chef at and owner of The Grocery in Charleston, South Carolina, said he has a soft spot for Publix’s birthday cake.
“There is something nostalgic about that mysteriously moist cake and extremely sweet icing that I really enjoy,” Johnson told INSIDER. “I certainly don’t mind if we skip the special homemade cake on my birthday, or anyone else in my family’s [birthday], in favor of one of these.”
This chef said he has a special place in his heart for fried chicken from Publix
This chef said eggs are something she always keeps in her fridge
Katy Smith, executive creative chef at the California-based taqueria Puesto, said she always makes sure to keep her fridge stocked with eggs.
“The obvious use is eggs for weekend breakfasts, but sometimes we have breakfast for dinner for a quick, vegetarian weeknight meal,” Smith told INSIDER.
She said she also uses eggs to make carbonara sauce, vegetable frittatas, and savory Dutch babies, a type of popover. Smith also said she sometimes fries eggs and puts them on top of rice bowls that include leftovers from the restaurant she works at.
This chef said she uses a lot of peanut butter at home and sometimes even eats it by the spoonful
Samantha Davis, the chef du cuisine at Henry at Life Hotel in NYC, told INSIDER that peanut butter is one of her grocery-store staples.
“I use and eat so much peanut butter at home,” said Davis. “If I’m not eating cereal, I am eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or scooping a spoon out and eating it alone.”
“I rarely cook at home but if I do, I will get a rotisserie chicken and lettuce and make a quick peanut sauce with [peanut butter], brown sugar, lime juice, chili peppers, soy [sauce], and fish sauce,” she added.
This chef said he appreciates the simplicity of Trader Joe’s banana-bread mix
“I love the Trader Joe’s banana-bread mix because it is made with totally organic ingredients – all you have to do is add milk, eggs, and oil,” Peter Smith, executive chef at JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa, told INSIDER. “Brilliantly simple and one of the most consistent and tasty products out there.”
This chef said freeze-dried fruit is a healthy snack that can double as a tasty garnish
Matt Griffin, executive chef and partner at Happy Cooking Hospitality, a restaurant group based in NYC’s West Village, said he likes freeze-dried fruit because it’s “totally snack-able and healthy on its own.”
Plus, he said it is a versatile ingredient to have in any pantry. Griffin said some other uses for freeze-dried fruit include sprinkling it on top of yogurt, blending it into a smoothie, or adding it as a zesty garnish for French toast, pancakes, or waffles.