As a traveling chef, I get to cook in kitchens around the world. I once taught cooking to a young man in New York who had a nice-size studio apartment, but his kitchen was so small we both couldn't fit into it at the same time. I would go in and demonstrate some things, then we would switch and he would go into the kitchen to practice his skills.

I have cooked in kitchens that are huge and decked out with all sorts of modern "conveniences"—which I have to say I don't always find so convenient. I know it can get lonely being alone in the kitchen, and at least the coffee maker will talk to me, but I've never been great with reading instruction manuals and anything beyond on/off buttons can get me a little flustered, so simple works for me. I grew up in rural Ireland and watched my mum and grandmother prepare all our meals in big black pots hanging from hooks over an open fire. When I was about 7 years old, we traded our hearth fire for a big range in which we lit a fire that would heat up the stovetop and oven. Perhaps it's for this reason that I resonate more with simple, natural elements in a kitchen. Some of my most memorable meals have been cooked over a campfire.

While cooking on a movie filmed in Bangkok last summer, I got to cook for my client in the kitchen of the famous Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Although I was a little out of my comfort zone, as I'm so used to being solo in the kitchen and not having to tiptoe around lots of busy chefs, I still enjoyed the buzz of being in the kitchen with other chefs. It was a wonderful learning experience, as Thai food is one of my favorite cuisines and there was a little kitchen osmosis going on, which of course influenced my cooking style.

Of course, the only really essential things in any kitchen are a person who loves food and cooking, a little creativity, a happy heart and a great knife.

Essential kitchen items for every kitchen


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