The All-Time Must-Haves in Life, According To One Chef

Welcome to The Essentialist.

April 9, 2018 ● 3 min read

By Leah Mennies | Illustration by Liz Noftle

In The Essentialist, we ask our favorite food and beverage geniuses to share the stuff they can’t live without—and learn a bit more about their normal-person lives in the process.  

First up: James Beard-nominated chef Katie Button of Cúrate and Nightbell in Asheville, North Carolina.

1. East Fork Pottery Serving Bowl
They’re a local potter in Asheville. I love their stuff. It’s very simple, they’re durable and dishwasher safe, and it matches anything that you have. We use a lot of their plates at Cúrate, and I also have their serving pieces at home. I went with pretty neutral colors because I wanted something that made whatever I put in it beautiful.

2. Amazon Prime  

That’s more of a service, but it’s essential. I work full-time—probably more than full-time—and I have a three-year-old and I still have to do all of the things at home. I’ll go to the farmer’s market with my daughter or grocery store to get food, and use this for the basics and stuff like tissues or Band-Aids. It’s like gaming the hours in your day.

3. Jo Malone Pomegranate Noir Cologne

I don’t wear perfume when I’m working, but when I go out on a weekend or go out to dinner or whatever… I’m a chef, but I’m still a woman! This is a darker, muskier scent—I’m an earthier scent person, rather than fruitier or citrusy. I’ve worn this for 10 years. 

4. Saint Aniol Still Water
It’s the best water in the world. It’s Spanish, and it’s not something you’re going to find in your grocery store. But if you do come across it, you should definitely buy it. I don’t know what to say—when you drink it, it’s so soft….it is like if drinking water could be like drinking clouds.

5. Boden Kids Clothing
I have a three-year-old, and we have our second child on the way, due in August. With our three-year-old, it’s easier for me to get her dressed if it’s fun. A corduroy jumper skirt that looks like a cat is so adorable and so easy to get her to put on. Next on my list are these leggings with giant strawberries on them.

6. Aneto Valenciana Paella Stock
They put so much care in their stocks. And the ingredient list, look at that list: chicken, rabbit, duck, a little saffron. You don’t have to use it just for paella; if you use this instead of chicken stock, you will definitely wow your guests. It’s really delicious and well-made.

7. Atlas Copper Pepper Mill
I have searched high and low for pepper mills that function. I got this as a wedding gift when I got married in 2011. It’s an even, perfect grind, every single time. I’ve been using it for six years and it’s gotten a lot of use. I could probably talk for a half an hour about this.

8. Babo Botanicals Baby/Kids Shampoo and Wash
Another kid’s thing: [my daughter’s] shampoo and body wash. My favorite is the berry and primrose, and the calming lavender one. They have great smells, they’re all natural, there are no chemicals that you need to be concerned about.  

9. Technics Turntable

When we first opened Nightbell, we would bring in guest DJs. Now it’s a full-blown restaurant, and there’s no more need for a DJ system, so the turntable ended up at my house. It produces really great sound; right now, I really love listening to Sylvan Esso. I’ve seen them both times they’ve come to Asheville. The lead singer is totally mesmerizing.  

10. Vans High-Tops

I’ll buy a pair and wear them until they look so terrible that you just couldn’t possibly be seen in them another day. I actually wear them past that point, until my husband says, “Katie, you need new shoes.” I buy one pair I love, burn them into the ground, and buy them again. I love black high tops. These are definitely the most comfortable.

11. Williams-Sonoma Open Kitchen tumblers

These look exactly like the classic cider glasses in Spain, flat-bottomed and almost straight. We use them at Cúrate, but I have them in both sizes at my house. They’re my daily glasses.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.