We asked chefs: If you were stranded on an island, what would you bring?

Last modified on June 25th, 2018 at 6:33 pm

Photo courtesy of Don Nguyen Knives

“If you were trapped on a desert island, what three kitchen tools would you bring?”

We asked 14 Tucson chefs this question and let them answer as briefly or in as much detail as they wanted. Here are their responses.

Tommy Begay

Sushi on Oracle
Sushi Chef Tommy Begay III at Sushi on Oracle (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Sushi Chef Tommy Begay III at Sushi on Oracle (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Don Nguyen‘s latest meat cleaver for all hut building and big fish breakdown. A 10″ Masamoto gyoto for all other break down and prep. A blow torch to start fires for cooking and for heat treating wood to build a water proof boat.”

View our October 2017 Nine on the Line with Tommy Begay.

Dee Buizer

Senae Thai Bistro
Dee Buizer, chef and owner of Senae Thai Bistro (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Dee Buizer, chef and owner of Senae Thai Bistro (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“If I found myself trapped on a deserted island, I would want to be sure to have:

  1. My handcrafted high carbon blue steel filet knife, first to use it as a spear tip to catch fresh fish, and then to filet them.
  2. My butcher knife to crack open coconuts and other hard fruit.
  3. My butane torch to both sear the fish directly, and to start a fire.”

View our October 2017 Nine on the Line with Dee Buizer.

Ben Caballero

HUB Restaurant & Ice Creamery
Executive chef Ben Caballero at HUB Restaurant & Ice Creamery (Credit: CJ Hamm)

Executive chef Ben Caballero at HUB Restaurant & Ice Creamery (Credit: CJ Hamm)

  1. Chef Knife — really don’t need any other knife than that one.
  2. Lighter — want to be able to cook whatever you catch.
  3. Big roll of butcher’s twine — that stuff can be used to wrap a lot more then just meat. Can help tie things together to build shelter and can be braided and used to fish, etc.

View our August 2016 Nine on the Line with Ben Caballero.

Riley Chandler

Barrio Sandwiches
Pop-Up Tucson and Barrio Sandwiches chef Riley Chandler (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Pop-Up Tucson and Barrio Sandwiches chef Riley Chandler (Credit: Jackie Tran)

  1. A butane torch with plenty of refill canisters.
  2. Large cast iron griddle – All purpose and durable.
  3. It’s a tossup between 2 kinds of knives. – If this is an island where most of what I’m eating is from the sea, I’m bringing a 10” Damascus sashimi knife. If we are butchering land animals I’m bringing a Wusthof cleaver.

View our June 2017 Nine on the Line with Riley Chandler.

Ryan Clark

Casino Del Sol Resort
Executive chef Ryan Clark at PY Steakhouse (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Casino Del Sol Resort executive chef Ryan Clark at PY Steakhouse (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“This is definitely a challenging question because I need to consider from the viewpoint of both a chef and survivalist. I absolutely will have to have a great chef’s knife which can be used for many things other than cooking. Next, I would take a Le Creuset Dutch oven pot with lid, and yes, it would have to be Le Creuset because I’m fancy AF. It can be used for cooking, boiling water, storing heat, trapping animals and fish, and can be used directly on the coals. Lastly, I think a red wine glass would be helpful. We did a science project in school where we learned that if you fill a glass slightly with water, the bulbous contour of the glass will magnify the sun rays through the water. Add a little tinder and boom, fire! Now, if that doesn’t work, hopefully I will find some wine on the island and make it all worthwhile or at the least some coconut water!”

Tyler Fenton

Reilly Craft Pizza & Drink
Chef Tyler Fenton at Reilly Craft Pizza & Drink (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Chef Tyler Fenton at Reilly Craft Pizza & Drink (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“A knife (I’m currently obsessed with my 210mm Takamura R2). I’m happy to use that knife for just about anything. A cutting board sure would make life easier, but not a top three item.

A 12 quart stockpot (in a perfect world it would be All-Clad). On a desert island, or anywhere for that matter, if you want to cook, you’ve got to have a vessel to cook in. The versatility of the larger stockpot makes it ideal. You can use it to boil water, make soups and stocks, sear proteins, etc.

A Gray Kunz spoon. I love spoons, and this is easily my most frequently used tool while cooking. Bonus, it doubles as an eating utensil!”

View our February 2017 Nine on the Line with Tyler Fenton.

David Martin

Red Desert BBQ & Catering
David Martin, owner and pitmaster of Red Desert BBQ (Credit: Jackie Tran)

David Martin, owner and pitmaster of Red Desert BBQ (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“If I was to be stranded on a desert island, I would definitely want a chef’s knife. In my opinion, it’s the most versatile knife a chef uses. I would also want to have a fire source that would last a long time so maybe a flint and steel. I know we don’t use those in in the kitchen, but we could. If I couldn’t use that, I would want a very large lighter. Last, I would want an 8-quart saucepan to cook in and purify water. If I was dreaming that I was on a desert island, I would take a bar set (shaker, spoon, etc.), tequila, and margarita mix. You get where I’m going with this. If I’m gonna be stranded alone I might as well be happy at some point.”

View our December 2017 Nine on the Line with David Martin.

Kyle Nottingham

Miraval Arizona Resort & Spa
Miraval Arizona Resort & Spa executive chef Kyle Nottingham at a Pop-Up Tucson event (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Miraval Arizona Resort & Spa executive chef Kyle Nottingham at a Pop-Up Tucson event (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“If I were trapped on a desert island, I would definitely bring my favorite chef’s knife: a locally hand forged Damascus steel knife made by Rodger of Grizzly Iron, Inc., a roll of butcher’s twine and a blowtorch.

My PSR (primitive survival rating) has to be off the charts (in the wrong direction) so I probably wouldn’t last too long. I would like to think I could manage to have a fire, a cool-looking fort, and if I’m lucky enough to hunt anything, a Mallmann-inspired open fire/pit-cooked meal. I love to camp and cook outside whenever I have the opportunity, so I wonder if I would ever make it in a situation like this. The great thing about being a chef is that you are able to make critical decisions in a really stressful environment and trained to withstand physical abuse in 100+ degree temperatures, so I guess I’ve had some training for a circumstance like this.

That’s our next reality chef TV series. Jackie, let’s pitch to Food Network: Deserted ChefsChef Vs. Wild… haha.”

View our March 2017 Nine on the Line with Kyle Nottingham.

Travis Peters

The Parish
Executive chef Travis Peters at the Parish (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Executive chef Travis Peters at the Parish (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“First, my big heavy cleaver. It’s versatile for most kitchen and island needs such as slicing, dicing, or chopping. I’d use it for all sorts of tasks such as butchering fish, pigs, monkeys, or cracking coconuts or monkey skulls and anything else there was to eat. I could chop some wood or palms for cooking or shelter and it’s good in case I need to defend myself against anyone or anything like zombie monkeys. I feel like monkeys are gonna definitely be a problem on this island!

Second, my big butane torch. Used sparingly, I could start fires for a very long time. Plus, I might need to burn a monkey who’s starting trouble in my camp.

Third, my magnetic hook to make a compass so I wouldn’t get lost and hopefully get my ass off that island as soon as possible with my new pet monkey!”

View our April 2017 Nine on the Line with Travis Peters.

Devon Sanner

The Carriage House
Executive Chef Devon Sanner at The Carriage House (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Executive Chef Devon Sanner at The Carriage House (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“Stranded on a desert island with exactly three kitchen tools, but they’re tools of my precise specifications? A rather odd and oddly specific predicament… but here’s what would be on my hypothetical wish list.

First up would be a mano y metate. If I’m lucky enough to find nuts, seeds, grains, cereals, legumes, edible roots, or spices, I’ll be looking to grind them. A heavy trough of basaltic rock and a grindstone would be just perfect. There’s a reason Aztec technology is still around.

Next need — a cooking vessel. I’m going to pray that my Boy Scout skills can be tapped into all these years later, and I can still manage a matchless fire, sparing me the Roxanne Klein Raw diet. To those ends, I’ll be looking for a blend of heavy-duty, easy maintenance, non-reactive, and substantial. Let’s go with a Lodge enameled cast iron Dutch oven. You can throw it right over a fire, or bury it in a pit for a little island-fabulous cochinita pibil.

I suppose a knife is de rigeur, too. So, let’s go with a Bob Kramer meteorite steel chef’s knife like the one he custom made for Anthony Bourdain. Gorgeous geometry and ergonomics, exceptional bladesmithing, and a veritable objet d’art. I’ve been using a Kramer Zwilling that I bought from my former sous, Matthew Solano. It’s been an absolute delight. It’s about $30,000 less than the meteorite steel culinary-tool porn that Bourdain has, but, hey, it’s my fantasy, right?”

View our September 2015 Nine on the Line with Devon Sanner.

Coralie Satta

Ghini’s French Caffe
Owner and chef Coralie Satta of Ghini's French Caffe (Photo provided by Coralie Satta)

Owner and chef Coralie Satta of Ghini’s French Caffe (Photo provided by Coralie Satta)

“If I were trapped on a desert island ? I would bring my chef’s knife — I could hunt, cook, make a hut with it. My sauté pan for obvious reasons, and a wine bottle — that’s a tool right?”

Nikki Thompson

Nook
Nook's Matt & Nikki Thompson (Credit: Adam Lehrman)

Nook’s Nikki & Matt Thompson (Credit: Adam Lehrman)

“If I was trapped on a desert island but was able to grab three kitchen items, I’d bring my Shun 8-inch chef’s knife, a roll of aluminum foil, and tongs. That leaves me all the items I need to hunt, butcher, and cook!”

View our September 2015 Nine on the Line with Nikki & Matt Thompson.

Marcus van Winden

The Dutch Eatery & Refuge
The Dutch Eatery & Refuge executive chef and co-owner Marcus van Winden (Credit: Jackie Tran)

The Dutch Eatery & Refuge executive chef and co-owner Marcus van Winden (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“I would bring a sharp 10″ chefs knife, a 12-quart stock pot, and cheesecloth.

I think I can cook pretty much anything I can find, but these tools should serve multiple purposes. In addition to cooking, I can use the knife to whittle some sticks into spears. The stock pot could be used for catching rain water or boiling water to make it safe to drink. I think I could use cheesecloth for a fishing net, plus it is highly flammable, so it would hopefully work for tinder as I am rubbing sticks together since I forgot to bring a lighter.”

View our July 2017 Nine on the Line with Marcus van Winden.

Janos Wilder

DOWNTOWN Kitchen + Cocktails
Executive chef Janos Wilder at Downtown Kitchen + Cocktails (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Executive chef Janos Wilder at Downtown Kitchen + Cocktails (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“Solar desalinator, solar 3D printer, cup.”

Jackie is a food writer and photographer native to Tucson. He loves corgis and still thinks rickrolling is funny. If you'd like to stalk him, visit jackietran.com.
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