One of the unspoken myths perpetuated by glossy food magazines (and even glossier chef-driven cookbooks) is that you need to spend a lot of money on your kitchen tools. In a perfect world, we all could shell out $150 for a Shun knife or $200 for a Le Creuset, but for amateur cooks and kitchen hobbyists, that kind of investment isn't always feasible.
The good news: A tight budget shouldn’t keep you from getting the equipment you need to toss together a proper stir-fry or make that bundt cake recipe you’ve been eyeing. Here in L.A., there are several stores offering professional-level kitchen supplies at warehouse prices. The bargain suppliers might not have the polished, upscale veneer of places like Sur La Table and Williams-Sonoma, but their prices are much, much lower.
Ta Fong Restaurant Supply
Just east of Chinatown, a block away from Lax-C, there's a bulk grocery market commonly referred to as “Thai Costco.” Ta Fong is a massive warehouse filled with crowded shelves that resemble the ones from the end scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark. This is no-frills retail — items are stacked tightly in cubbies or piled in large bins, and you’ll have to dig though on your own — but you can find deals on all types on Asian cookware, like a steel wok for $9 or a heavy-duty Chinese boning knife for $8. 121 W. Elmyra St., Chinatown; (323) 223-1488, tafongusa.com.
Located on the basement level of the Koreatown Galleria, Kitchen Plus is a great resource for items you’d often find in a Korean kitchen. Think steamer baskets, clay pots and metal grates for grilling. That said, you also can find pretty much any item that Alton Brown might require, often at half-price compared with traditional cookware shops. Our advice: Pick up one of the Japanese-import knives for less than $20, plus a sharpener, and you’ll have a reliable go-to knife that will last you for years. 3250 W. Olympic Blvd., Koreatown; (323) 732-1160.
Need a giant rice cooker? How about a 10-gallon stockpot? ChefsMart in the South Bay is a warehouse supplier for both professional restaurants and those who are looking to take their array of kitchen equipment to the next tier. Prices are a bit higher than the previous two locations, but in general you will spend less than you would at most brick-and-mortar outlets and probably about the same as the cheaper online vendors — with the added bonus of great customer service. 1355 W. 190th St., Gardena; (310) 630-1688.