Dear Santa ... We asked: What's on your culinary wish list?


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Anne Freeze

Anne Freeze


Jakeiro Dismuke

Jakeiro Dismuke


Jay Yates

Jay Yates


Mary Helen Hawkins

Mary Helen Hawkins



Jan Swoope



Granted, most letters on their way to the North Pole this time of year are penned by youngsters, but that doesn't mean the rest of us aren't tempted from time to time. If the art of cooking and appreciation of good food are among your joys in life, your wish list probably has something on it for the kitchen. We thought it would be revealing to ask several people who spend plenty of time preparing food what their letters to St. Nick might include. Most are professionals in the culinary world. If there's an avid cook in your family you're shopping for, you might find a spark of inspiration in their responses. We start with some suggestions from former Dispatch food columnist and former restaurant general manager Anne Freeze. She may have relocated from Columbus to lake life in Jasper, Alabama, but her food savvy endures.



Anne Freeze



"Here are two things I love, love, love in my kitchen that I'd give to someone: First, a meat chopper. I was introduced to this by Sandy Imes and Sunny Whitaker when they were making chili at St. Paul's (Episcopal Church, Columbus). It's long-handled and has wedges at the bottom. I use it every week to cook sausage for our food bank. It breaks up the sausage flawlessly.


"Secondly, quarter-sized cookie pans by USA Pans -- just the right size for small batches of things, and this brand is nice and heavy."


Freeze's personal wish list includes:


  • A cast iron spice grinder;


  • Silicon Frywall, which keeps grease and spatters off of the stove top;


  • Emile Henry ceramic garlic pot -- "I'm constantly losing pieces of garlic, and this will keep them cool and contained."


  • Insulated potluck casserole tote -- "I had one but didn't realize that the top level was for cold food only, and I melted the inside of the lid with a potato casserole."


  • "And at the top of my list -- a new kitchen!"



    Jakeiro Dismuke


    Jekeiro Dismuke, culinary arts instructor at McKeller Technology Center in Columbus, didn't hesitate a moment when asked what leads his list.


    "I want a Dutch oven," Dismuke said. "If you're cooking a pot roast, for example, you can sear it on top of the stove and add all your (other ingredients) to it and then go straight to the oven with the same pot. I'd also like a set of ceramic baking dishes, so that if you're having a dinner party, all your dishes will be matching."


    Dismuke hopes Santa will also have room in his sack for a new cutting board -- "a good, sturdy, even one, like a good wooden one that won't slide all over the table, versus the plastic ones."



    Jay Yates


    Jay Yates is owner and chef of The Veranda restaurant in Starkville, where he oversees its menu of upscale-casual New American cuisine with a Southern accent. On his list for the well-appointed kitchen is a 10-inch high-quality knife.


    "Keep it very sharp; watch YouTube to learn technique," he advised. "You can get a three-stage sharpener online relatively cheap. A sharp knife is where it all starts."


    Yates' list also includes a pair of heavy, commercial-grade metal tongs and a box of snug-fitting rubber gloves, to be used throughout the cooking process during the heavy prep.



    Mary Helen Hawkins


    At the Mississippi University for Women Culinary Arts Institute, Chef Instructor and Certificate Program Coordinator Mary Helen Hawkins is wrapping up the semester but took time out to drop Santa a note.


    "My Christmas wish list would include Madagascar vanilla bean paste, an embossed wooden rolling pin, and a Viking ice machine," she shared. "I love Christmas baking, and one of my secret weapons that I use is Madagascar vanilla bean paste.


    "I love to make cookies at Christmastime, but rolling out sugar cookies can be a chore. That's why I hope Santa brings me an embossed wooden rolling pin, to make his cookies faster.


    "The last item, a Viking ice machine, is at the top of my wish list -- and Santa, if you happen to read this, it's my absolute favorite because it makes 'Sonic ice.'"



    And for consideration


    A look online for gadgets and gizmos trending for the kitchen this holiday revealed few surprises. Instant Pot, stand mixers, immersion blenders and espresso machines seem popular. But I did come cross a few items that stand out. The first isn't a gadget at all, but what would be a truly personal gift -- custom family recipe towels. These turn a favorite family recipe in a treasured mother's or grandmother's handwriting into a something memorable by having it printed on tea towels. Visit or, but an internet search for "custom recipe tea towels" will yield other results to check out.


    Also of interest for the busy cook, an automatic pan stirrer with timer might be just the thing. They run about $25 and keep everything in the pan consistently stirred. Or, perhaps the instant marinator fills the bill. These gadgets can marinate and tenderize meat, fish, chicken and vegetables in just minutes.


    Did you know there is such a thing as Toastabags? These reusable eco-friendly bags can make toasted sandwiches and other snacks with no mess in most toasters. You'll find them on Amazon and at other online sellers.


    The gift choices go on and on, some innovative, some tried-and-true. Santa may need to know which one you'd most like to see under the tree. No time like the present to get writing.



  • Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.


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