6 (Often Overlooked)
Kitchen Essentials
A short list of must-haves to make the simplest of menus feel five star.

Check out the third installment of “HomeWork with TRNK” – our weekly column for GQ.

So maybe you’re not the next Daniel Boulud – no big deal. Thing is, you don’t need to be a master chef to impress at the dinner table. If you suffer from a few culinary shortcomings, another way to wow them is through a nice presentation.

With a few key items, even the simplest of menus can feel five star. But it’s not your bowl or fork that they’ll likely notice – it’s the little accoutrements that we often overlook which really make the display.

Take a look at our short list of must-haves for the kitchen that you may have forgotten, and see how it compares to what’s already stacked in your cupboard.


One of the most useful and versatile items in your kitchen is actually nothing more than a slab of wood. Whether you’re serving a humble block of cheddar or your finest charcuterie, a quality wood serving board is an easy way to increase the amount of perceived effort.

Don’t skimp on quality here. Look for a solid board with unique grain pattern (walnut is a favorite of ours). It should be substantial – at least 1” thick. A well-made board can last decades when treated with the proper care. Avoid soaking it in water, never put it in the dishwasher, and apply a light bit of mineral oil every few weeks to restore its original luster.

Cloth Napkins

A Brawny bib is never a good look. You should always keep a clean set of cloth napkins ready for your company. It’s one of the lowest investment essentials on our list, but probably the most likely to get noticed.

We’re always fans of mixing and matching, but recommend keeping within the same fabric texture and color story.


Your canister of Morton’s iodized salt has no place at the table. Invest in a nice finishing salt and a new dispensary to go along with it. If you’re like us and prefer a coarser, flakier sea salt, we’d recommend a cellar over a shaker.

And you’ll need some pepper to go along with your new, fancy salt. We much prefer freshly-cracked to anything pre-ground, which means you’ll need a pepper mill. Look for a one that sits nicely alongside your salt cellar, like this handcrafted option made from walnut.


Have you ever tried serving salad with two dinner forks? Not only is it completely inefficient, but we’ve gotta say, it looks a little silly – as does a big, plastic Kitchenaid spoon sitting on your dining room table.

Serving utensils do justice to all of your preparation, and go a long way with your overall presentation. Don’t be so concerned with matching it to the rest of your serveware, but instead find a material that will make a nice accent. We love horn, turned wood or forged metal.


A stylish steak knife can make even the cheapest Standard Grade cut seem like a dry-aged ribeye from Peter Luger. Fine – maybe that fantasy starts to wear off once you begin to chew, but a set of quality steak knives aren’t merely for show – a dull knife will butcher your prime chop to shreds.

While a straight edge will give you the cleanest cut, you’ll have to sharpen them after every few uses. For a lower maintenance option, we recommend a serrated set.


And what good are your new, fancy knives if your plate is sliding all over the table? Equally functional and aesthetic, placements keep everything in order, and make the entire table setting feel complete.

Think back to your napkins when deciding a color and texture. We prefer something neutral in color, but with a bit of pattern or texture.

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