Desert Companion


I’m no great cook. So why am I addicted to this shop’s kitchen gadgets?

It’s tricky to explain why I’ve come to love shopping at Cresco-Resco Restaurant Supply.

It’s not that I’m a terrible cook. The irony is more layered than that. It’s that I’m a species arguably worse than a terrible cook — I’m a suitably competent kitchen chef, but one whose threshold for a sense of culinary achievement is so low that I consider something like canned lentil soup poured over Fritos and sprinkled with uh this Parmesan should do the trick an inventive kitchen feat, the triumphal pleasures of which border on the metaphysical. (Don’t get me started on my utterly divine graham cracker-peanut-butter-and-banana dessert funwiches.) At home, I’m a routinized function eater who thinks the art of cooking is outsmarting gastronomic boredom with what I tell myself is mad-lad cupboard deejay improv. So, okay, I’m just mostly DIYing Lunchables. I’m fine with it.

But where I really get most of my kitchen jollies is from the tools and preparation phase. No matter what I’m making, I insist on pre-organizing my gear on the counter with architectural precision. I wish I could say it’s a ritualistic stay against entropy or something like that, but I’m a vapid consumer who happens to love specialized kitchen gadgets, and it’s gear and gadgets, not aspiration, that drive whatever impulse I have resembling culinary ambition. I don’t think, I want a salad and then get the salad bowl. I look at my 12-inch woven-wood salad bowl from Cresco-Resco and think, Dayuuum, you’d look good with a salad up in you. Any dish that emerges from my kitchen is mediocre, but it is always precisely mediocre.

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That’s why I love browsing and shopping at Cresco-Resco, a longtime restaurant supply shop on Charleston next to the old Huntridge Theatre. It’s a funhouse of specialization, a toy store of tantalizing professional seriousness that thrills me with the dream of perfectly executed food. Wandering the ancient linoleum aisles, you see elegant solutions to every cooking dilemma — wooden pizza blades as big as galley oars, fry baskets from minuscule to massive, spoons, ladles, strains, and whisks of every shape and proportion. (Behold the hefty “kettle whip” that looks menacingly gladiatorial — wishlisted!) You know that metal triangle people rang for dinner in the olden times? They sell that. They also sell industrial blenders, snack ovens, plating wedges, steak weights, pasta-drying racks, Bakelite ashtrays, napkin dispensers, coffee urns, plastic bartender practice bottles, and a tool that “easily removes coconut meat!” And, of course, there’s an aisle of pro-level cutlery that makes me giddy with that peculiar micro-fantasy that I’ll find a perfect all-purpose chef’s knife of such grave, redoubtable quality that it transcends being a mere tool and becomes more like a lifetime cooking companion who perhaps even warrants being named, like a pet. You might think you’d be bewildered by this epicurean library of Babel — so relentlessly, exhaustively iterative — but I find it soothing to know that every possible kitchen contingency is ingeniously accounted for.

There’s an added frisson of truancy and trespass for me. I’ve been shopping at Cresco-Resco for years (oh, that’s another thing: because I’m apparently 12, my house is embarrassingly accessorized with official-restaurant touches like amber plastic pizza-parlor tumblers, multifold paper towels, silhouette-figure bathroom signage, a “waitress only” bar mat, all from the store), but I still always feel like an interloping poseur who somehow snuck in unnoticed. Cresco-Resco is open to the public, but the cashiers, brisk and rote, always ask what company you’re with. It never fails to make me feel unmasked and exposed, but I certainly hope I sound convincing when I answer, “I’m a private chef.”

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