A trio of local chefs cook up a wish list for the holiday


We asked three Charlottesville chefs what culinary books, goodies, and gadgets they hope to see under the tree this holiday. Here’s some gift-giving inspiration for the top chefs on your list.—Meredith Barnes, Tami Keaveny, and Megan Headley

(Photo by Cramer Photo)

Christian Kelly
Executive chef of Maya on goodies:

1. Lard from super-fatty Ossabaw hogs (a heritage variety from the low-country reputedly brought over by early Spanish settlers). It has a sweetness to it that’s great for frying or pastry.

2. Sweet-tart Albemarle Pippins (C’ville Market has them from Dickie Brothers Orchard for 99 cents per pound). They’re awesome in a salad or served alongside Caromont Farm Esmontonian chèvre.

3. Texas olive oil. I try to use local or domestic whenever I can and Texas makes some good, homegrown olive oil.

4. Blue Ridge chestnuts. We use them in our cornbread dressing for the Thanksgiving menu, but they’re also great puréed with a little cream as a side.

5. Nelson County moonshine. Not sure exactly what I’d do with it (besides the obvious), but I’m sure I’d find a culinary use for it too.



(Photo by Cramer Photo)

Brian Helleberg
Chef/owner of Fleurie and Petit Pois on gadgets (as long as Santa’s buying):

1. A Cryovac machine to preserve our homegrown produce (peas, corn, peaches, baby carrots, beets, soybeans, green beans, radishes, and melons) so that we can enjoy it throughout the winter.

2. A blast chiller to quickly freeze Cryovac-ed cuts of venison after going hunting.

3. A high-powered juicer for our wheat grass at Petit Pois. I’ve been thinking about doing a wheat grass cocktail there.






(Photo by Cramer Photo)

Luther Fedora
Chef/owner of Horse & Hound Gastropub on books:

1. Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child ($30 at The Happy Cook)—it teaches the classics and the recipes never fail.

2. Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking series by Nathan Myhrvold with Chris Young and Maxime Bilet ($448—special order from Barnes & Noble) covers history and fundamentals in book one, techniques and equipment in book two, animals and plants in book three, ingredients and preparations in book four, and plated-dish recipes in book five. These books are big and heavy with the most amazing photographs of food I have seen in a while.

3. I already own My Last Supper by Meredith Dunea ($39.99 at Barnes & Noble) and am hoping to get her second installment My Last Supper: The Next Course ($39.99 at Barnes & Noble). I used to work for Marco Pierre White, so his foreword would make it even more special to me.  


Naughty not nice
There are some gifts out there that show more loathe than love. Here are a few to avoid in the foodie realm.—M.H.

—A Blooming Onion maker
—A canned ham
—Summer sausage and “cheese” set
—World’s largest gummi worm
—Novelty and/or nudity aprons
—Whiskie the Egg whisk
—Any of Sandra Lee’s cookbooks
—Olive oils with things floating in them
—A 3.5 gallon tin of popcorn
—A cowboy hat-shaped chips and salsa bowl


Inedible history
The fruitcake—that brandy-soaked, candied fruit-and-nut laden albatross—was banned in the early 18th century by the European church for being too rich and decadent. For better or worse, it regained its favor a century later and has been the object of regifting ever since. One baked in 1878, for instance, was tasted 130 years later. It’s hard not to agree with food writer Calvin Trillin, though, who said, “There is nothing dangerous about fruitcakes, as long as people send them along without eating them.”—M.H.