5 Essential Cooking Tips From Our Food Director’s Kitchen

The former cheese columnist and Cordon Bleu-trained chef let us crash her Toronto kitchen, where she shared her trade secrets (and let us play with her adorable cat)

To say Chatelaine’s editorial director of food Sue Riedl is passionate about cheese is an understatement — she has a bar fridge solely dedicated to storing fancy fromage (along with a drawer full of snacking and cooking cheese in her regular kitchen fridge). The cheese fridge is where she keeps the good stuff — like her top three favourite cheeses: Comté (France), Bleu D’Elizabeth (Quebec) and buffalo mozzarella (Italy).

Riedl says these are her desert island cheeses. Comté is sophisticated and also highly snackable crowd-pleaser  — Riedl says people have actually stopped mid-sentence when they first taste it. The blue is crumbly and buttery (and Canadian) and the fresh mozzarella is perfect on a simple salad or tossed with pasta (and perfect for reminding you of a sunnier time of year).

The former cheese columnist and Cordon Bleu-trained chef let us crash her Toronto kitchen, where shared her trade secrets (and let us play with her adorable cat, Quinton). Along with getting some serious cheese envy, here’s what we learned.

Hand holding chef's knife

1. Invest in a chef’s knife

You don’t need an array of snazzy gadgets and devices to cook well at home. But if you want to make magic in your kitchen (or just make your life a lot easier), get a good-quality chef’s knife — and take care of it! Riedl got the Wusthof knife she still uses on her very first day of cooking school in 2007. Even though she’s broken its handle (twice), she still puts it to work on the regular.

If you’re making the investment, try the knives yourself (instead of shopping online) — some chef’s knives are heavier (which Riedl prefers) and some lighter. (If you’re using this tool everyday you want it to suit your grip and working style.)

Drawers full of wooden cheese boards

2. Keep it simple on the cheese board

Aside from a cheese fridge, Riedl has a drawer dedicated to cheeseboards of all sizes. But if you want one board to suit any occasion, she recommends a large one. Look for one made of natural wood with a beautiful grain to showcase your selection. Riedl also prefers a spacious board (not overcrowded with crackers or jellies) to highlight the beauty of each cheese, and to allow access for people to cut themselves a bite from any side.

TIP: Sliced fennel and vivid, colourful grape tomatoes make a beautiful (and simple) addition to the board — they also cleanse the palate between bites.

Hand reaching into kitchen cupboard with an assortment of gadgets

3. Spread out your candy stashes so you always have gummy bears

Everyone has a junk drawer, but Riedl hides items she hopes her husband and son will forget about (including a NSFW Mannekin Pis wine dispenser) in a cupboard above her stove. It’s also where she keeps her measuring cups, because all hiding spots need a decoy. (Haribo gummy bears are also stashed strategically throughout the kitchen — a stock pot is a stealthy hiding place.)

Row of cookbooks

4. Keep the cookbooks you love on hand

Unsurprisingly, Riedl has a lot of cookbooks. But instead of stacking them on her counter tops, she has a cookbook corner where she keeps only a few of her favourites and go-tos, such as Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty and Jamie Oliver’s newest tome. This lets her quickly find what she needs and keeps her kitchen free of clutter — she’ll change them up seasonally and will return what’s not needed to the bookshelf. She also treasures handwritten recipes —  she has a batch from her mom and a favourite recipe from everyone that attended her wedding shower.

Overhead shot of hot chocolate mug

Photo, Rachael Gorjestani

5. It’s okay to have some one-use kitchen items (as long as you use them)

Many one-use kitchen items are a complete waste of space — like cake pop makers and avocado slicers. Sue, however, has one such item she can’t live without: her nutmeg grater. She uses this pint-sized device to grind fresh nutmeg on oatmeal, fondue, hot chocolate and even festive cocktails — the beautiful smell of the fresh ground spice can perfectly finish a dish. When entertaining, this elegant little tool makes a pretty addition to the dinner table (or bar) alongside your pepper grinder and salt bowl.