Taste: The Kitchen: Everything But the Sink

For 20 years, Previn Inc. has supplied pots, pans and knives to the likes of Thomas Keller and Mario Batali — from a Rittenhouse Square carriage house. The restaurant supplier is a longtime secret of food-industry types (and amateur chefs like District Attorney Lynne Abraham, who loves her Dansko kitchen clogs), who turn to the mostly mail-order company for affordable kitchen equipment. Mother-and-son owners Helen London and Jay Carlson know what tools celebrity chefs use, what every home chef should have — and what you don’t need. (Hint: Put down the lettuce knife.)

PM: What knives should every home cook own?
Previn: A chef’s knife, a paring knife, a boning knife and a serrated knife. And nothing bigger than 10 inches. The German brands are great, but you can also get good knives that are less expensive from Forschner — they sell a great $30 chef’s knife — and MAC. We can’t keep those on the shelves.

PM: What cookware is the best?
Previn: Black steel cookware, which is like cast iron because it seasons itself and becomes nonstick, but it’s not as heavy, it conducts heat really well, and it’s not as expensive. Try brands like Matfer Bourgeat and de Buyer, where small sauté pans can be as little as $10.

PM: Are the more expensive brands really worth it?
Previn: If you go to Target and get a cheap cookware set, you’ll have to get another one next year, especially because they usually come with glass tops or plastic handles, and you can’t put those in the oven.

PM: What do home cooks have that they don’t need?
Previn: Any electronic stuff that serves a single purpose, and specialty goods like a lettuce knife or tomato cutter, and too many nonstick pans.

PM: What tools should home cooks have that they don’t know about?
Previn: The offset serrated knife, which is a chef’s favorite because it can do anything — like cutting breads and sandwiches to vegetables and fruit — and the mandoline for slicing. You don’t need the expensive ones. I pull mine out at home, and people are always shocked: How did you do all those french fries in a minute? You’ll use it for more than you know.

PM: What are chefs buying now?
Previn: Foamers. Everyone is doing something with foam. The new foamers are good because they’re insulated. Everyone also wants little plates in rectangular shapes. Oval was in, but now rectangular is the number one request.

PM: Have celebrity chefs changed what people want?
Previn: Everyone wants Rachael Ray’s knife. Those requests are funny, because although the TV chefs use that stuff, real chefs don’t. We have also been mentioned in some cookbooks, and so people will call and want the same exact mold that Georges Perrier uses for his crabcakes — and we have it.

To order products from Previn Inc., call 215-985-1996, or visit previninc.com to request a catalog.