No matter how old you are, it’s hard not to make a Christmas wish list. Maybe it's the latest grilling gadget, a new apron, artful appliances, or some indulgent exotic food. Whether your budget is large or small, there are lots of Christmas gift choices, especially if you’re a foodie. That’s why we asked Latin chefs to share their holiday gift ideas, both what they want to get and what they plan to give.
The 10 chefs we asked were wishing for a variety of items including knives, cookbooks, pampering, even a kayak! But they all agreed that Christmas is a time for celebrating with the ones you love. These chefs are giving great gifts too, like jewelry, trees, and lots of homemade goodies, including tamales, fudge, and, of course, eggnog. Read on for delicious holiday gift inspiration from our favorite culinary friends....
Chef Michael Flores
“Last year, a friend gave me a set of silver asparagus tongs she found in New Orleans,” says Flores. “They were used at formal dinners. It is great to see how people used to eat. I miss the formality.”
Flores is also asking Santa for “expensive, pretty cookbooks,” such as Daniel Boulud's new cookbook, Daniel: My French Cuisine.
What's Flores wrapping up for others? He’s excited to give olive trees, which he purchases locally in San Antonio, to family and friends in Texas. He received one 10 years ago and it has grown. “It has gone from a little pot to this humongous tree that produces olives!”
The chef presses the olives to make his own “Texas Extra Virgin Olive Oil.” For family and friends who aren’t close by, Flores plans to send them homemade tamales and his own white chocolate walnut fudge, which he pours into holiday tins.
Chef Roberto Santibanez
Another chef who loves cooking gear, Roberto Santibanez, says cutlery is on his Christmas wish list.
“Knives! It has been awhile since anyone has given me a knife,” he says. “I think that they think you have them all. Not true!”
Santibanez, who’s also the owner of Fonda Restaurants in Brooklyn and Manhattan, says he’s giving his loved ones a “very cute” and practical gift. “I am giving a sample of two all-purpose little bowls that serves either as a drinking shot glass or work well as a container for salsa, syrups, mustard, ketchup, anything really.”
Chef Zarela Martinez
Though she’s a culinary legend, Zarela Martinez, chef, author, and restaurateur, admits her Christmas list is simple.
“At this point of my life, the only kind of gifts I want to receive are unusual foodstuffs, preferably homemade,” she says. “If that isn't possible, then I welcome anything for the bath: bath salts, bubble bath, shower gel, cleansing grains, extra rich body lotion. You know, stuff to luxuriate in.”
When it comes to giving gifts, Martinez takes a personal approach. For example, she enjoys giving friends and family “photo albums with pictures from different times we’ve shared.” Of course, Martinez also shares food gifts, explaining she’s given recipes for gifts, as well as “a pint of home made mole or pepian, spice mixtures.”
Chef Patricio Sandoval
The Christmas wish of Patricio Sandoval, culinary director and co-owner of Mercadito? A nice getaway to Veracruz, Mexico.
“I’ve explored all around Mexico and specifically Oaxaca to the coast, but Veracruz has a really rich culinary history that has a lot of Spanish influences,” Sandoval says. “I also want to explore the olive oil production there. I’d much rather receive the gift of an experience than an object.”
Sandoval plans to give his friends some products from his new Mexican deli concept, Mercadito Counter in Chicago.
“I’ll probably be testing out some of our products like our house made chorizo,” he says. “As a chef, I think friends appreciate when you give fun artisan products or ingredients that they might not know about or how to cook on their own. It’s giving the gift of cooking confidence to try new things!”
Chef Miguel Aguilar
Miguel Aguilar, executive chef of Wynwood Kitchen & Bar in Miami, says he’s “asking Santa for a tandem kayak.”
Aguilar, a Venezuela native, loves nature and being out on the water. “Kayaking is peaceful but it is also a great workout and I would get to enjoy it with my wife and our two Chihuahuas, who also enjoy the outdoors,” he says.
As for gift giving, friends of Aguilar will always know the time. This Christmas, the chef is giving watches.
“A watch is perfect for any occasion and can define your mood and personality, from metal bands and chronographs to sporty ones with rubber bands,” he says, explaining he owns seven different watches. “There’s nothing like the gift of time!”
Chef Lorena Garcia
This Christmas, author, restaurateur, and TV personality Lorena Garcia wants “to have my family and friends under one roof to celebrate. Since we all live in different cities its always nice when everyone can be in the same place for the holidays!”
Garcia loves the holiday season for the gift it gives her too.
“I get to eat whatever I want-guilt free,” she says, noting the only tangible gift she’d like probably doesn’t even exist: “If someone invents a one-touch automatic cappuccino machine that is integrated into my car I would want that,” says Garcia, with a smile.
If you’re on Garcia’s wish list, she’s giving out items from her Lorena Bella Kitchen Collection.
“I will be hand picking pieces for my family and friends,” she says.
Chef James Tahhan
“One of the biggest blessings I can ever have is the time to share what I know with so many people,” says chef James Tahhan, who says he receives this gift every day.
At Christmas, Tahhan likes to focus on giving homemade gifts like tamales, bread, or eggnog.
“I’m definitely going to be giving food gifts because it’s what I know and it shows a lot of love,” says Tahhan. “If you take the time to prep something, to prepare a dish, cook it for four hours and then give it to someone, I think it’s the perfect way of showing them you care about them.”
Chef Robert Solano
He’s always cooking, but Robert Solano, executive chef of Mundo in Las Vegas, knows what he wants from St. Nick: pantry gadgets and gear!
“I love any gifts that have to do with cooking or kitchen-related utensils such as knives or books,” he says, noting he’s been “collecting kitchen-related items for many years.”
Solano likes giving his family and friends cookbooks, saying, “It’s rewarding when after months or even years, friends or family still thank me for the cookbook I gave them, [when they've learned] a thing or two about cooking and kitchens, including new ingredients ideas, cooking techniques, and even presentation.”
Chef Dionicio Jimenez
Even during the holidays, Dionicio Jimenez, executive chef at Stephen Starr's El Rey in Philadelphia, is thinking about new culinary creations.
“I like receiving recipes or new meal ideas because I like to try them and add my own twist to it,” he says.
So, Jimenez will be happy to receive recipes, especially family recipes, which he says “usually have a history and a meaning behind it and that is what makes them special. We all have vivid memories related to food and family recipes make the memories even better.”
To celebrate the holidays with family and friends, Jimenez gives them a party, since he loves spending time with them.
“This season brings great memories to my mind and by hosting dinner parties it creates new memories that I will treasure forever,” he says.
Chef Angel Ramos
The holidays can be tiring and stressful so Angel Ramos, executive chef at Candle 79, a vegan organic restaurant in New York City, says he would like “a massage or short vacation to the tropics!” He further explains that he’s looking for, “something that would allow me some much needed R&R.”
Ramos, a native of Mexico, plans to pamper his mother and sisters with jewelry, while his niece will receive toys and books. “Practical and beautiful gifts,” he says.