Celebrity spoons

Posted on November 26, 2006 by Aun

As mentioned in my last post, my wife S is writing her doctoral thesis on celebrity chefs. As you can imagine, she keeps pretty up to date on the latest comings and goings of these famous foodies. It helps that we’re fans of several of them. We buy their books; watch their TV shows; read about them in magazines and newspapers; and try to recreate some of their better recipes. But the one thing we usually draw the line at is buying their branded merchandise (with, for S, the exception of Nigella’s stuff). Too often, these tools are simply ways to pad these celebrities’ already bulging bank accounts and not the kind of things you’d actually use in the kitchen.

S and I, though, are obsessive kitchen tool shopaholics. Whenever and wherever we are, and especially when we’re travelling, we try to suss out cool kitchen stores. We’re always on the look-out for cool or well-made equiptment that isn’t available in our home town. One of the things we’ve (sadly) realized that we can’t easily find here in Singapore are good quality wooden spoons. You would think that given how essential wooden spoons are in cooking, high quality ones should be easy to find anywhere. Amazingly, they’re not. Too many times, the spoons we’ve found at our local neighborhood department stores or kitchen supply stores are cheap and poorly made. And, as expected, even the ones branded by famous foodies, are less than perfect.

Case in point, S recently bought a wooden spoon endorsed by Donna Hay. While she had high hopes for it, after rinsing it and washing it just once, we discovered that water had seeped through the wood. Suffice it to say that the spoon ended up in the trash.

So we were pretty surprised recently when we checked out the range of wooden spoons and other tools that are being sold under Mario Batali’s The Italian Kitchen brand. I’m a big fan of Batali. When I lived in the West Village in New York City, I loved going to Po and ordering his amazing US$25, 5-course pasta dinner. (These days, when visiting my old hometown, I love eating at Lupa, the cool, casual trattoria on Thompson Street.) Despite my inclination for his food, I have to admit that when I first heard that Batali was launching a line of cookware, I was a tad skeptical. But after taking a really close look at some of his products, I have to say that I am impressed. The wooden tools, made from beechwood, are really well made. The handles have a nice thumb groove, making them really comfortable to hold and use. The spoon especially is nice. The edges are nice and fine, making it easy to scoop things up and the impression is actually deep enough to hold the things you want to scoop. It’s also nice that the branding is very subtle. Batali’s name is engraved in small letters on the back of the spoon’s handle.

Hopefully, this is a good step for other celebrity chefs. The worst thing is to be let down by the people we admire. And selling inferior products to one’s fans just to make a quick buck is hardly respectable. I’m happy I’ve found these tools. I intend to try out some of Batali’s other cookware over the next couple of weeks; I’m very turned on by his panini press and risotto pan. I can only hope they are as well-made and useful as these wooden tools have turned out to be.

About Aun Koh

Aun has always loved food and travel, passions passed down to him from his parents. This foundation, plus a background in media, pushed him to start Chubby Hubby in 2005. He loves that this site allows him to write about the things he adores--food, style, travel, his wife and his bouncing baby boy!

What Others Are Saying

  1. Tim November 26, 2006 at 5:49 pm

    A PhD thesis on celibrity chefs – that is something that would be interesting to read! When it is complete can you post a copy?

  2. matt armendariz November 26, 2006 at 9:25 pm

    CH, I wonder if we were picking up our MB spoons and little measured mixing bowls at the exact same time? Ah, the timing!

    And as a designer I must add that I do love the labels…I’m a sucker for anything well designed! :)

  3. miss cupcake November 26, 2006 at 10:45 pm

    Hi CH,

    Thank you for speaking out about some of these celebrity products – so many customers are sucked in by the “lifestyle”, the “image”, blah, blah.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love Nigella’s products which are well designed by Seb Conran, the MB spoons pictured are made of beautiful wood. I would definitely check them out too. However, the same cannot be said about Donna Hay’s which is largely a cheapo copycat line of Nigella’s down to the eerily similar colour scheme…truth has to be told although I am a fan of Donna’s cooking.

  4. Celine November 27, 2006 at 10:35 am

    I’m very interested in the thesis too. Any chance at all we readers get to read it?

  5. san san November 27, 2006 at 2:55 pm

    Since we are on the topic of tools, can you please advise where I can get hold of a digital candy thermometer? The ones sold here are all by Cooper, and they are not digital. Thanks!

  6. S November 27, 2006 at 4:34 pm

    Hi Sansan

    I’ve been eyeing a digital thermometer that is available at Shermay’s Cooking School. It is just about the only one I’ve seen in Singapore which you can clip onto the side of your pot for digital readings. I’m not sure if it goes up to the temperatures you would require for candy. (You could trying giving them a call. Contact info is at http://www.shermay.com). Alternatively, I’d just go get it off Amazon.

    If you’re into baking, you should really check out Chong Trading at #02-09 The Adelphi. They have a treasure trove of stuff to pick from.

  7. Lydia November 27, 2006 at 7:21 pm

    I’m a serious collector of wooden cooking tools; I have bought something in every country I’ve visited, and from artisans all across the US. But will I add a Mario Batali spoon to my collection? I doubt it. I don’t mind the celebrity-endorsed cookware on the market, if it’s good quality and good value. Mario’s doesn’t seem to be horribly overpriced.

  8. S November 27, 2006 at 8:26 pm

    Oops, hi Tim & Celine. If I do ever complete it, perhaps I’ll send you a pdf of it??? It won’t make riveting reading, you know.

  9. Keropok Man November 27, 2006 at 10:32 pm

    Another tools junkie here who buy tools but dont seem to use them.

    I saw the egg top cutter mentioned in Justin Quek’s book, and I want to get that! Is it available in Singapore?

  10. Chubby Hubby November 27, 2006 at 10:35 pm

    Keropok Man: You can get the egg topper at Sia Huat on Temple Street.

  11. san san November 28, 2006 at 9:25 am

    Thanks for the tips, S!
    Oh, and I must admit that I started buying cookbooks because of celebrity chefs like Nigella and Jamie too. Thankfully, with wonderful food blogs like CH, I have since discovered lesser known, but amazing chefs and bakers.

  12. M November 28, 2006 at 10:02 am

    Hi could you please provide a link to the egg topper picture, maybe I can ask someone in S’pore to get it for me since I’m in Canadaor maybe you know of a suppplier here. Thanks

  13. Chubby Hubby November 28, 2006 at 10:07 am

    M: you can easily order one in the US or Canada. Here’s a sample link for the kind of egg topper we’re talking about:

    click here

  14. M November 28, 2006 at 11:14 am

    Thanks chubby hubby!!!!! that link was a godsend!

  15. M November 28, 2006 at 11:29 am

    Thanks chubby hubby..unfortunately thsy do not ship to Canada.Will try elsewhere

  16. ccw November 29, 2006 at 2:55 am

    sometimes the best wooden spoons and kitchenware aren’t found in fancy kitchen stores: I scored some beautiful olive wood spatulas some years ago when I peeked into a small wood craft shop (chock-ful of wooden figurines, religious articles and a handful of kitsch) in Assisi, Italy for about €2-3 each. I’m also a fan of coconut spoons and ladles that my Peranakan grandmother uses and wish I could find these more readily here in the US. I think part of the trick is to also season these wooden ware well – the little Italian lady who sold the spatulas told me to use some olive oil and “toast” it into the wood. I imagine some mineral oil would work wonderfully on most wooden utensils/boards so that water doesn’t readily seep into the grain. So maybe you shouldn’t have tossed that delinquent spoon, just given it a nice oil rub and sauna in the oven? :)

  17. S November 29, 2006 at 9:29 am

    Hi CCW

    Thanks for the tip. What temperature would you “toast” them at, and for how long? I rub down (but not toast) our chopping boards down using that same principle. I’d be most interested to hear how it’s done with spoons. Of course, the idea that a little Italian lady passed the tip to you adds to the romance of it all :)

    The wooden spoon I’d tossed, however, had a layer of varnish over it (don’t even ask me why that didn’t stop me from buying it). It wasn’t a raw wooden spoon. So you could see dark spots in the blonde wood where the water had seeped in and there was expansion in the wood in those areas (and this happened to both spoons). I had bought them because they were shaped like my favourite French ones. Unfortunately, they weren’t made like them.

  18. Acacia December 3, 2006 at 2:10 pm

    I heart Nigella and I bought her large double soup pot. I adore it. It’s super-high quality and is beautiful! I generally find myself not interested in most celebrity chef offerings, but not only are Nigella’s goods high quality (at least the pot is, in my experience) but they are beautiful, too.

  19. ccw December 5, 2006 at 5:32 am

    Hello S,
    I toasted the spoons over the little electric burner when I returned to my little Austrian dormroom sans oven – at medium-high – until the wood released this woody resiny aroma and slightly deepened in color. Smelled divine!
    On my first try I had let one sit directly on the plate and accidentally made a little scar! So you might wanna test drive this technique with a spoon you don’t care too much about, and check constantly if you are gonna let them sit in the oven.
    The lady said to do it before a first use and I had assumed this was a one-time thing. I wonder now if one could repeat the process every year or so. My spatulas are holding up pretty well over the years and I think the cooking/occasional oiling over time has just continued this “seasoning”.
    Thoroughly enjoy reading about hawker fare in your (& CH’s) blog (which haven’t appeared much of late…do indulge!). I definitely miss the food from home!
    Happy Holidays.

  20. M December 5, 2006 at 10:03 am

    Hi CH & S, are these spoons available back home and where do I find them? I just saw them here in Melbourne but didn’t get them as I have a lot of stuff to ship back – but I may change my mind if there’s none to be had back home! It’s quite reasonably priced I thought – bout $6 a spoon if I recall. Thanks!

  21. S December 5, 2006 at 10:22 am

    Hi CCW

    Thanks so much! I will try this out when I decide to pull out one of my new wooden spoons. We’ll work on the hawker posts :) Haven’t been leaving the apartment much due to the thesis.

  22. disgruntled! August 26, 2007 at 11:31 pm

    Though it’s been nearly a year since this was first posted, I thought to share my experience with my first ever Mario Batali purchase – a wooden flat end spoon.

    Like all here, I have been looking high and low for good quality wooden utensils for a long time. The last time I had gotten something nice (and GOOD) was from NZ and that spatula lasted me a long time.

    I thought my spoon from Mario Batali would be the IT wooden utensil. I bought the spoon on Friday, used it on Sunday and the wood SPLIT!!!

    What do I mean by split … hmms, three cracks appeared at the end of the spoon as though a major earthquake just shook its very core.

    What did I use it for? Just some simple stir frying over like medium heat?

    Also, though the finishing looks really nice before use, the wood becomes all rough after one wash.

    Anyways, I’ve called the salesperson who asked me to bring it back to the distributor. I am not sure what will happen next but thought to say that the spoon certainly didn’t live up to its S$21 expectations regardless of its nice handsome design.

    *sigh*

  23. Chubby Hubby August 27, 2007 at 9:31 am

    disgruntled: That sucks. Mine are all still fine and I use them a lot. You should call Razorsharp. They are the distributor. I am sure they will help you.

  24. disgruntled! August 27, 2007 at 12:11 pm

    Thanks! I did call them and will be bringing it back to Razorsharp when I have the time.

    Now I am wondering if it’s because I didn’t roast it in the oven prior to using like what others have mentioned here. But the salesperson said all I have to do is wash and use!

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