Tools  of the Trade is a series in which we ask chefs, bartenders and other restaurant folks which tools they simply can't live without. Today we talk to Tal Ronnen, chef/owner of Crossroads. 

At Crossroads, Tal Ronnen's Beverly Grove vegan restaurant, there's a lot of magic happening behind those kitchen doors. Because while the chefs, cooks and bartenders have all the regular pressures of managing the flow of a busy upscale restaurant, they also have to figure out how to make everything just as well as any other restaurant, without using any meat or dairy. That means separating starch to act like egg whites for flip-like cocktails, and learning how to create the consistency of cream from plant-based sources. It got us wondering: What are a vegan chef's favorite tools? They're pretty similar to a meat-lovers favorite tools, it turns out. Here are the three things Ronnen and his team turn to most often when performing their meat-free sorcery. 

]3. Vitamix Blender
“We use this blender to get the silky texture for the cream that we make in house. Standard blenders would leave grit and we would have to have the cream strained through a fine mesh strainer which you don't have to do if you use this one. A lot of our cooking takes an extra step that a traditional restaurant wouldn't have to go through. For example, if we want to use heavy cream in a sauce or soup there isn't an off-the-shelf product that we can buy through a food distributor, since we don't use dairy products in a restaurant. We have to make it. This takes a day to do. We soak raw cashews overnight and then the next day rinse and blend them in the Vitamix with filtered water to make our own cream. This cream will reduce in a pan as quickly as heavy cream – if you were to try and do that was soy milk it would just evaporate.”

2. Large Kettle
“I love our tilt kettle, we make all our soups and sauces in it and lets us make large batches. Our house marinara is a recipe that Chef Scot [Jones] has been making for over 20 years and it's a mother sauce for many of the other sauces like our Bolognese and eggplant Ragu that we make so it's essential that were able to make a lot of it efficiently. The tilt kettle allows me to free up quite a bit of space on the stove top which when cooking our marinara sauce – we would normally have about four large stock pots on the stove. The tilt kettle is on every chef's wish list.”

1. Pasta sheeter
“Our pasta sheeter is running all day long, every day. We hand roll every shape and size you can imagine for our fresh pasta program. Tortellini, agnolotti, ravioli, pappardelle and everything in between. We use it so much that we have a backup in case it goes down. It is electric so we don't have to deal with a hand crank which can be time intensive.”

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