I am not a chef. I have never owned a restaurant. And yet, some of my favorite kitchen purchases have been from restaurant supply stores.
Before I had braved one of these stores, I assumed shoppers needed some kind of food-industry ID to be allowed in. I didn’t realize that many restaurant-supply stores are open to the public.
Based on my experience, I can guarantee you that no one will quiz you on roasting techniques before letting you in the door.
There are two main types of restaurant supply establishments. The types overlap somewhat when it comes to their products. Both are fun for everyday home cooks to visit:
- Restaurant supply stores typically sell kitchen furniture, kitchenware, appliances and gadgets. You might find a squeeze bottle for $1 or a professional gas range priced at five figures.
- Food-service supply stores, as others call themselves, may carry food and drinks in big, Costco-like containers. They also carry takeout containers, wrappers, straws, napkins and many other supplies.
Read on as I share my favorite purchases from restaurant and food-service supply stores.
1. Parchment paper
What did I ever do without parchment paper? It keeps pans clean and prevents baked goods and roasting food from sticking to the pan.
You can get a good deal at Costco, but you’ll need to buy it in rolls. For me, that means I have to rip off a sheet and wet the pan’s edges to make the paper lie flat.
Restaurant supply stores sell parchment paper in large flat sheets and in more than one size. I buy half-sheets because I don’t have chef-size pans.
2. Mixing bowls
The shiny metal mixing bowls your mom may have used back in the day don’t make cute decor, but they’re stackable, unbreakable and easy to clean. Restaurant supply stores sell them cheap, and in many sizes.
I like the bowls with nonskid silicone on the bottom. They don’t go careening off the counter if my stirring gets a little spirited.
3. Compostable takeout containers
Here’s one of my favorite items. You’re more likely to find these at a food-service supply store, but some traditional restaurant supply stores sell them, too.
Years ago, I purchased an enormous package of compostable clamshell containers — the type your favorite burger joint might give you for your leftovers.
I bought these because every year at Christmastime, I host a cookie swap for friends. Everyone takes home several dozen cookies. But not everyone brings a container big enough for their haul.
I set out a bunch of compostable clamshell containers at the cookie party so departing guests could take all the treats their sweet teeth can handle.
Even though I bought the clamshell containers more than five years ago, the package contained so many of them that I’m still not close to running out.
I enjoy an artful handmade cocktail.
Setting up a home bar can be pricey, though, especially if you’re serious about buying specialty accessories.
Restaurant supply stores sell everything you’ll need, from glassware and cocktail shakers to shot glasses. They may not be fancy, but they’re usually durable and inexpensive.
I’ll drink to that.
5. Cake and candy decorating supplies
Shhhh. Don’t tell the sweet woman who once tried teaching me cake decorating, but I never mastered the art of crafting a rose from frosting.
My talents bloomed elsewhere. I love using pastry bags, piping tips, cake stands, dipping tools and other cake-making supplies.
You’ll find elegant displays of cake and candy decorating supplies at craft stores and gourmet shops, but investigate restaurant supply stores for a different selection and better deals.
6. Cutting boards
After paying for purchases during a restaurant supply store visit in 2019, I stumbled upon an enormous rack of cutting boards. I had to double back.
I use at least one cutting board each time I cook. They come in a rainbow of colors and a variety of sizes, and they’re priced to move.
7. Baking sheets
Take a close look at your favorite cookie sheet the next time you pull it out to bake a batch of snickerdoodles. Is it getting kind of crummy? Is it time to recycle it?
Restaurant and food-service supply stores have industrial-grade baking pans of all shapes and sizes. You’ll find one that fits your oven, whether it’s enormous or so teeny the Keebler Elves could use it.
8. Fancy serving trays
Restaurant supply stores are where caterers shop, so you may find an entire aisle of silvered, scroll-embossed trays — the sort a butler might carry around Buckingham Palace.
Well, psst! Here’s a royal secret: Those pans look fancy, but they probably are chrome-plated stainless steel. They will impress your party guests without draining your bank account.
Take a few home and load them up with elegant cucumber sandwiches or down-home pigs in a blanket.
Party on, dude.