The 4 Essential Tools for Restaurant Workers
Anyone who has ever created tangible items knows the importance of having the right tools for the job. Hell, even if you're not in the business of creation, you've experienced the frustration of having inadequate or downright improper tools. This happened to me recently when I got a flat and had to struggle in sub-zero temperatures with the factory-provided lug wrench. I was able to eventually finish the job, but not before stripping the skin off of a knuckle and my right forearm cramping from exhaustion and the entire time, I cursed myself for leaving my heavy duty lug wrench in my garage. Moral of the story, if you want to avoid bloody knuckles, then use great tools. Whether you're a cocktail bartender, sommelier or home enthusiast, this guide will surely prepare you for any beverage related task that should come your way.
DUAL STAGE WINEKEY
As a professional, this will probably be the most versatile tool in your arsenal and it's kind of like a swiss army knife for the service professional. Besides having the obvious ability to open wine bottles, it can also open crown cap bottles, open boxes, remove pour tops from bottles and so much more. Although fancy versions exist, a great one can be had for under $20 as long as you pay attention to a few key details. First, it has to be of the two-stage or "dual stage" variety which means that the opener has two separate points of contact with the bottle for easier opening. This feature proves useful when opening bottles with longer than usual necks and lessens your chances of you breaking a cork in front of a guest. Secondly, it must have a sharp knife. Some debate whether or not the blade should be serrated or straight edge but personally I think it's a matter of preference, however, I do find the serrated ones to last a bit longer
SHARP PARING KNIFE
If you bartend in a high-volume establishment, either you or your barback are going to be cutting a lot of garnishes. Depending on the place, these will as simple as lime wedges or as complex as banana dolphins (seriously). Some places rely on a long serrated knife, usually designed for bread cutting, but I find this inadequate when it comes to cutting more intricate garnishes or smaller fruit. I like a simple 4'' paring knife preferably made out of steel or a comparable alloy material. Try to avoid ceramic knives as they're difficult to sharpen by traditional methods. Again, don't go to crazy here as we're not making sushi. Look for one around $30 but home enthusiasts will be able to spend a bit more as theirs won't be subject to the daily abuse of a bar environment. As for care, always hand wash blades of any kind! The quickest way to dull or chip a blade is to throw it in the dishwasher. After you do hand wash it, be sure to dry it off with a soft cloth (I like microfiber) and oil it regularly with a food safe oil to keep your blade in pristine condition.
HAWTHORNE STRAINER + TEA STRAINER
I've included these two together as you'd almost always use these two in conjunction with each other. Find a hawthorne strainer that's sturdy and has a tight coil. This is key, as lesser versions have loose coils that do very little in straining out the majority of debris. A tightly-coiled strainer will filter all but the smallest of ingredients. For an even more fine strain, you'll need a cone-shaped tea strainer. The cone shape allows for more material to be collected which, in turn, allows you to strain larger volumed drinks or even two at one time without the need to dump the tea strainer as frequently. As a bonus, the tea strainer can be used to strain broken cork out of an old bottle of wine. Quality tea strainers can be had for about $6 while hawthorne strainers are a bit pricier at around $20. Like with paring knives, do not put your hawthorne strainers into a dishwasher as they will tarnish quickly and make sure to polish these while still damp with a microfiber cloth to maintain their original luster.
PEN AND PAD
This is mainly for professionals as there is very little need to be able to record notes on demand at home. From taking orders to writing down recipes, these two items are simply indispensable even in the most sophisticated establishments. I've yet to find a more practical or cost-efficient method of accomplishing the above-mentioned tasks that arise daily in every service environment around the world. As for as what type of pen, it all depends on your writing style. I write in cursive so I find pens with finer points work better for me but to each their own in that regard. For pads, avoid any garish colors that may look tacky on the floor and look to spend around $4-$6 for a pack of three at your local convenience store.
The term "tools of the trade" is an old one that simply sums up the importance of having specified tools catered to your job. In the food/beverage industry these tools enable us to craft products of the upmost quality and deliver unparalleled service to everyone that walks through our doors.