So, I’ve been called out. I have a celebrity crush – two, actually. Alton Brown (I’ll wax poetic on him probably Saturday – new Feasting on Asphalt!) and Robert Irvine.

I’ve waxed poetic on him before, but today, I want to talk about his briefcase. You might have noticed it? It’s full of Robert’s secret weapons – because every culinary superhero has secret weapons.


  • Rice wine vinegar
  • Robert’s handmade demi-glace
  • Stone ground mustard
  • A blender
  • A mandoline
  • Titanium knives

A nice selection there, 3 favorite ingredients that might otherwise be hard to find, and 3 favored tools.

To put myself to the same challenge, what 3 favorite ingredients and tools would I require to do what Robert does? (hah. Like I could ever do what Robert does.) But, in a pinch, what would I need to cook in someone else’s home without preparation?

Here is where that personal spice blend could come in handy! I’ll start with the tool set, it seems easier. Obviously, Robert has the right idea with the knives. You simply cannot survive without a good set of knives. You don’t know if theirs are going to be sharp! Or, in the case of the frat house, rusting into oblivion. So, knives. I wouldn’t take a mandoline, I never use just a mandoline. I would take my small box grater, though. I call it my cowbell and I love it. (Everything needs more cowbell!) I love grating fresh cheese, it has a microplaner and a wavy-grater (for carrots and the like) and mine comes with a mandoline side. Not quite as fast as a professional mandoline, but we’re going to assume I either have time or sous-chefs to set to the task.

I wouldn’t even consider a blender. If there isn’t one where I was supposed to be, it wasn’t meant to be. We can assume that spatulas, spoons, and that like will be there. If I’m cooking at a non-griller’s personal home, I’d desperately want my spring-loaded tongs. But then, a pastry/grill brush? A whisk? The trouble is, if I know I’m not cooking in a professional kitchen, what can I assume they have? But, I’m also quite resourceful – a fork is a simple whisk, a spoon and fork can substitute for tongs, and certainly you can always use a spoon to baste things with, you just have to be careful.

And while I was typing that sentence, I thought of it. My personal hand-mixer. It was a wedding gift, and the set comes with a whisk attachment, your normal mix attachment, and an immersion blender. I love it, and more importantly it’s really hard to substitute.

Wow. So now I have to get back to things I’d want to take. Well, do I get a shopping trip? Then I can assume things, like coconut milk, will in fact be available. I’ve never come across a grocer’s that doesn’t have it, and I usually go to a very sorely understocked grocer.

We’ll assume that. I can go to my local-local grocer’s, which has things like bread and meat, and doesn’t have things like pre-made peanut sauce, or even red chili flakes.

Which brings me to, yes, I’m taking my chili flakes. Pry it from my cold dead hands. Heat! (we’re assuming garlic is a go at any grocer’s, ever. Ever. It’s like the third most common spice in America after pepper). I’d want to pick up my favorite honey-mustard, which is really good. It comes in the little squat bottle that’s clear and looks like “ye olde germaine honyed mustart.” Or something. It’s hofermann’s something or other, it’s really good. And it is a critical component in at least 3 of my favorite sauces. It also performs admirably as a dijon mustard in a pinch.

Rice wine vinegar? I can’t see myself spontaneously requiring sushi, though. I’m almost always good with the plain white stuff and some sugar for all other applications, and if I felt like sushi on that particular day, I’d drop the chili powder and replace it with the vinegar. I almost never feel like both hot things and sushi at the same time.

I think I would finish off with lo mein noodles, which I adore. I don’t require them, I could always use spaghetti, but they are so tasty and add so much to anything. Most, if not all, of my very favorite ingredients are absurdly common. If I can assume flour, I can assume brown sugar and vinegar, garlic, garlic salt, Italian Seasoning Blend. And let us hope I can assume flour? ‘Cause I’m not interested in stale krispy kreme neopolitan.

 What would you take in your super-chef top-secret secret-weapon handbag?