After long days spent in boiling-hot kitchens, tired chefs come home from work and stare longingly into their fridges, just like the rest of us. But have you ever wondered what exactly a professional chef keeps at home to cook for themselves? We caught up with five beloved Philly culinarians to ask: What’s in your fridge?
“You’d be surprised by all the weird stuff that ends up in there,” Katie Briggs says. Her top-five fridge non-negotiables reads like a shopping list for a highly delicious week of dipping and slathering: Miso Master chickpea miso, That Pikliz Jawn pikliz, Kewpie mayo, mustard (both Dijon and whole-grain), and tamarind chutney.
A good chef knows their way around the condiment shelf. Briggs uses her favorite ingredients, like Kewpie mayo — a Japanese favorite with an umami boost from MSG and just yolks instead of whole eggs — to make burger sauce. You can even catch her Beef Babes pop-ups at Pentridge Station to see it in action. Some of her other favorite condiment transformations include livening up soups with a scoop of miso, and making dips and spreads for sandwiches by adding Kewpie, and tamarind chutney barbecue sauce. Briggs is a huge fan of chef Ruben Alexis’s pikliz, a menagerie of pickled, shredded spicy-ish veggies. “Pikliz is delicious on everything! Ruben has found the perfect balance of spicy and acidic,” Briggs says of Alexis’s pikliz. “I use it on eggs, and salads, and the liquid is perfect for salad dressings and sauces.” When Briggs isn’t cooking up some kitchen witchery with her favorite condiments, you can spot her snagging a few bites of takeout from Pho & Cafe Saigon in West Philly and Halal Kabob & Curry.
Morning chef at Middle Child Clubhouse
Chef Colin Freeman’s top-five fridge go-tos reads like a basket on Chopped (but one that you’d actually want to cook with): Twisted Tea, Dr. Praeger’s veggie burgers, half-sour pickles, a quarter wheel of Birchrun Hills Farm blue cheese, and eggs. These are the ingredients that everyone craves after a long day at work. Freeman draws the line, though, at ketchup. “It’s the one thing not allowed in my home,” he says.
And while you might not assume otherwise, at home, Freeman says he keeps it simple. “Usually I eat veggie burgers or egg sandwiches (with the Twisted Teas) and half-sour [pickles], both also accompanied with the blue [cheese] on the sandwich.” Freeman also says that his partner does 80 percent of the cooking, and since she’s a vegetarian, he keeps it veg-heavy. When they aren’t grubbing on veggie burgers, you can probably find them snacking on leftover pizza from Avenue Steaks or “anything I can’t finish at Cafe Nhan ‘cause I can’t stop ordering.”
Sous chef at Suraya
Chef James Nardone is not messing around when it comes to food, both cooked and stocked in the fridge. If you’ve eaten his food, you probably know that already, but if you find yourself peeping into his fridge, it’s immediately clear Nardone means business when it comes to groceries too. Nardone’s fridge ingredients could make for a great last meal: Lao Gan Ma Spicy Chili Crisp, Oxbow beers, grated pecorino Romano, dry-aged rib-eyes, and ice-cold bottles of Topo Chico.
Like any cheese lover, Nardone says he keeps the pecorino Romano on hand “if the cacio e pepe craving ever strikes, which is often.” Like several other chefs on this list, chile crisp makes an appearance. Nardone calls this condiment a “workhorse” and says you’re likely to find him slathering it on Trader Joe’s dumplings, dotting it into ramen, or just drizzling it on top of a fried egg. The rib-eyes speak for themselves: Who wouldn’t want a few kicking around in the fridge or, like Nardone has, a freezer fully stocked with rib-eyes?
To drink, Nardone sings the praises of Oxbow Brewing Company. You’ll never find him tossing back a stout; a Crossfade saison is much more his speed. Nardone also avoids milk.
On nights when Nardone is craving something other than cacio e pepe, he orders in Chinese, Thai, or Vietnamese cuisine. His fridge frequently houses leftovers from Tai Lake, Kalaya, or Cafe Nhan. And like any good Philadelphian, Nardone admits, “[There’s] always a couple day-old slices from the local pizza shop as well.”
Founder and baker at Party Girl Bake Club
One would expect mad cake scientist Mallory Valvano to have neon-green frosting and stockpiles of maraschino cherries in her fridge, but Valvano says her must-haves are actually cream cheese and mayo, both of which she cites as “secret ingredients” in her dishes. Pickled things, sparkling water, and chile crisp all show up in her fridge — just don’t tell Valvano’s grandma that she sometimes uses chile crisp in her Sunday pasta sauce.
Valvano favors Topo Chico as her sparkling water of choice, but she’s also partial to Polar, San Pellegrino, and Saratoga. Valvano is also staunchly team Coca-Cola — you’ll never find a Pepsi product in her fridge.
Currently, Valvano is on a self-described vermicelli bowl kick; she loves to sample them all around the neighborhood. “I’ve even created my own rating system,” she says. When not in a noodle mood, Valvano’s fridge is probably sporting leftover fried chicken, sushi, and, of course, a slice of square pie.
Chef and owner of Ember & Ash
A peek in chef David Feola’s fridge yields the building blocks to jazz up nearly any quick bite or thought-out meal. Feola would never be caught without Duke’s mayo, a Southern staple lauded for its extra yolky richness and signature tang. Frank’s RedHot, Sir Kensington’s ketchup, kosher dill pickles, and Vintage-brand seltzer water all make the cut. “The beauty of my non-negotiables is that they all come into play after work when I get home and am usually incredibly hungry,” Feola says. He knows the power of condiments; that’s why you’ll never find Miracle Whip in his fridge. When Feola isn’t crafting the perfect after-work sandwich, you’ll likely come across a Pickle Monster burger from Lucky’s Last Chance or a few slices of al pastor pizza from Rosario’s in his fridge.