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Salt and Pepper, the Chef's Way

Chef Gillian's bright idea costs under $10. (Bonnie Benwick -- The Washington Post)

I am sure this isn't news to you, the intelligent food-loving public, but chefs are a pretty creative and resourceful bunch. As evidence, I offer chef Gillian Clark's salt and pepper receptacles in her kitchen at the General Store, pictured here.

They caught my eye while I was making fried chicken rounds a few weeks back. They looked and functioned like something I'd seen at kitchen stores designed to hold salt or pepper. On closer inspection, though, the look was kinda Home Depot.

She confirmed for me that these were crafted in the aisle, on the fly, at her local HD. "I had seen the ceramic ones at Sur La Table," she said. "They were pretty expensive, and too small for my hands. And I'm sure I'd break them in no time."

Her source of inspiration: Le Creuset's stoneware salt crock, which costs about $30. (

At the time, the chef was putting the finishing touches on her new restaurant, making those inevitable, frequent trips to the hardware store. When she saw PVC elbows in different sizes, her personal light bulb went off o'erhead. A store employee helped her find the matching stops to form a sturdy base. She spent less than $10 for a pair and has been using them ever since.

"They never tip over, and I never spill anything in them," she says. "Now I have great plans to make them for my chef friends. I'm going to have to use really big elbows for Jeff Heineman's set, for example.

"Say, do I get a patent pending on this?"

-- Bonnie Benwick

By The Food Section  |  July 9, 2009; 10:00 AM ET
 | Tags: Bonnie Benwick  
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I once made something like those for making porous silicon in the lab. The recipe required running a current through hydrofluoric acid (!) and PVC piping was resistant. These look like a couple of end caps glued to an elbow. I'll have to rethink the pipe section of Home Depot.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | July 9, 2009 10:21 AM | Report abuse

PVC pipe is surprisingly versatile, but I got some strange looks once when it appeared that I was collected parts for a pipe bomb. It was very late and I was greeted at the exit by a police officer after the suspicious store manager called 911. This was in the weeks following September 11th.

I think that I make a set of these since it would be a lot easier than that big box of kosher salt that sits on my counter.

Posted by: skipper7 | July 9, 2009 1:51 PM | Report abuse

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