There are times to buy your home goods at a department store or a specialty store. You should always buy pots and pans at home goods stores when they deeply discount pots and pans or plates. (Don’t sleep on Costco for this stuff either, kids.) Specialty stores are useful when there’s an expensive item you’ve had your eye on and you get one of those 20% off coups in the mail. They’re also good for those gadgets that you can’t really find elsewhere.
But for everything else you can’t get at those stores, there is the Kitchen Supply Store.
Nearly every town has a place where the restaurant trade buy their products. The products in question aren’t always Global Knives and wedding-sized cake pans. The stuff that separates restaurant trade goods from regular store goods is:
- Durability: Generally, products made for the trade are built to last, and built to take the shit kicking of weddings and busy dinner services.
- Clean up: Things made for the trade don’t have 67 compartments to them that can get lost or collect bacteria. They can be cleaned simply.
- Price: Most items built for the trade are affordable, because restaurants live or die by small margins.
To put it simply: Get your ass down to a Kitchen Supply Store.
What should you buy when you’re there?
Cutting Boards: Cutting boards at Kitchen Supply places are always large, durable, colour coded (so you don’t chop a tomato on top of raw chicken juices) and cheap. Stock up on different sizes.
Containers: I’ve already expressed my burning love for Cambros. This is where you buy Cambros! Buy them in several sizes and buy extra lids. You can use the lids, turned over, as a conveyance for your mise-en-place. You will never be sad you bought them when you’re doing kitchen projects, proofing doughs, and doing batch cooking. While you’re there, get some China Markers to mark your Cambros. If you’re into brewing beer, This is your place to find drums and lids too.
Oil Cloth: Oil Cloth is great for an outdoor tablecloth, covering expensive tables for cooking projects, or even putting on a floor when you’re cooling jars of pickles. Kitchen Supply Stores often sell this by the yard/meter, and you even have a choice of pattern. Oil cloth is generally hard to find elsewhere, so stock up here. It also makes a great barrier for transporting food in the trunk of your car. You can just wipe it clean.
Cleaning Products: While I wouldn’t recommend you buy industrial-grade disinfectants there, since they require specific mixing and are way overkill for the job, Kitchen Supply places are a good place to find high quality Stainless Steel Polish, Bar Keeper’s Friend, and specialty cleaning products.
Cheap Knives: Expensive knives often have large advertising budgets. Dexter Blades, a trade favourite are often sold without fanfare (hanging on shelves) and are durable, sharp, and beautifully designed for the job. Some favourites from them include their offset bread knife and their “machete” style knife for cutting meat.
Bar Kit: Do not outfit your bar from a department or specialty store. You will overpay and you often will end up with cheap quality gear. Kitchen Supply stores sell complete Bar supplies. They might not be super fanciful in design, but they will be built like a brick shithouse and won’t drip or break when you go to use them the first time.
Baking Pans: Buy your 9x13s where the pros buy them, and you’ll get a durable set that didn’t cost you a million dollars.
Specialty Goods: Bannetons for proofing bread. Sausage making supplies. Perogi Pogies. The Kitchen Supply Place is the place to buy all of this stuff.
BONUS: All kitchen supply stores sharpen knives. Haul your knives in there (yes, even the ones you keep at the cottage or only use once a year) and get a nice biting edge put on them. Not only is it safer, it’s better for developing your cooking skills.