10 Essential Ingredients You Should Always Have In Your Fridge

Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Life doesn’t always allow for intricate, Pinterest-inspired recipes. Sometimes, you just want to spontaneously cook something delicious without having to head to the store. And, while last-minute meals are by definition, well, last-minute, you can always whip something good up — as long as you keep the right ingredients in your fridge.

Ahead, 10 renowned chefs share the one essential food they have in their kitchens at all times, to use in a pinch. From eggs to sriracha sauce, these items will make those “Oh, what am I going to eat?” moments a whole lot easier. Keep these go-tos in your pantry, and you’ll never have to rely on late-night delivery again. 
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Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Chef: Ray England
Restaurant: Craft, Los Angeles, CA
Essential Ingredient: Organic or Non-GMO Eggs

“Eggs can be added to anything and are the easiest complete protein, whether you eat them for breakfast or dinner. Sometimes, I will put eggs on a salad, in a curry, chili, or use up random vegetables in my fridge to make an omelet.”

About The Chef:
Ray England is the chef de cuisine of Craft in Los Angeles. He attended Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts and trained under chef Rollie Wesson, who taught him the importance of cooking with local produce. After working at various restaurants in the early 2000s, England joined Tom Colicchio’s team at Craft Los Angeles in 2007 as a sous-chef. Two years later, he led the kitchen at San Francisco’s Hog & Rocks, and then returned to Craft for his current position.

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Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Chef: Mashama Bailey
Restaurant: The Grey, Savannah, GA
Essential Ingredient: Cheese

“Cheese is my fridge essential, because I can eat it alone or use it in dishes. It’s so easy to make a snack with — just add crackers, vegetables, or make something like toasted cheese on bread for an instant meal.”

About The Chef:
Mashama Bailey is the executive chef at The Grey in Savannah, serving up modern Southern cuisine. She grew to love cooking as a social worker for a homeless shelter, where she would create meals for potluck and holiday dinners. After cooking school, she worked at The Oak Room at The Plaza Hotel and Aquagrill in NYC. The Grey was recently named a semifinalist for the James Beard Foundation 2015 Best New Restaurant award.
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Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Chef: Megan Garrelts
Restaurant: Rye KC, Leawood, KS
Essential Ingredient: Buttermilk

“[I always have] buttermilk to use for pancakes, biscuits, dressing, chicken and dumplings, and fried chicken.”

About The Chef:
Megan Garrelts is the executive chef and co-owner of Bluestem in Kansas City, MO, and Rye KC in Leawood, KS, alongside her husband Colby. Her recipes have been featured in publications such as Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, and Saveur. She’s also a James Beard semifinalist for Outstanding Pastry Chef.
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Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Chefs: Janelle and Jayson Reynolds
Restaurant: @t Large, Austin, TX
Essential Ingredient: Bacon

“Bacon can be used in so many ways. We love making BLTs, pasta carbonara, bacon-and-potato hash, breakfast tacos, even adding it to salads. We also use it to bard whole, roasted chicken.”

About The Chefs:
Janelle and Jayson Reynolds are chefs and co-owners of @t Large, a boutique personal-chef and catering service in Austin. After years of individual culinary experience, the two married and opened the company together in 2008. Janelle is a season 17 Chopped champion.

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Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Chef: Alexandre Baumard
Restaurant: Le Logis de la Cadène, Saint-Émilion, France
Essential Ingredient: Butter

“Butter is used for so many things in France — it’s the base of French gastronomy. You can use it to cook meat, fish, vegetables, and dessert. If there’s a choice, I always go with salted instead of unsalted butter.”

About The Chef:
Alexandre Baumard is the executive chef at Le Logis de la Cadène in Saint-Émilion, France. He has trained under renowned French chefs Paul Bocuse and Christophe Bacquié, as well as Daniel Boulud of Daniel in NYC. The restaurant, founded in 1848, is currently owned by the family who runs the French winery Château Angélus.

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Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Chef: Timon Balloo
Restaurant: Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill, Miami, FL
Essential Ingredient: Frozen Vegetables

“Whether it's a spinach to make a quick pasta or peas and carrots to mix in with fried rice, frozen vegetables are a lifesaver to eat healthier with a convenience.”

About The Chef:
Timon Balloo is the executive chef and partner at Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill in Miami. After working at Sushisamba Park in New York, he opened Sugarcane, Samba Brand Management Company’s first new-concept restaurant. It was nominated for “Best New Restaurant” by the James Beard Foundation in 2011.
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Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Chef: Camille Becerra
Restaurant: Navy, New York City
Essential Ingredient: Sausage

“Sausages are the secret key to a fast meal! You can toss them with pasta and your favorite sauce, or my real favorite is to top them on some herby, whole grains with a dollop of salty, spiced yogurt.”

About The Chef:
Camille Becerra is the executive chef/partner at Navy, a restaurant and raw bar in SoHo that focuses its cuisine on seafood and vegetables, using seasonal and local ingredients. She’s also a professional food stylist, recipe developer, and writer, and was a contestant on season 3 of Bravo’s Top Chef.
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Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Chef: Asha Gomez
Restaurant: Spice to Table, Atlanta, GA
Essential Ingredient: Tomatoes

“Tomatoes are a great accent and starting point for making a quick and easy sauce base for pastas, a wonderful addition for an easy-bake spiced black pepper tomato savory pie, and a fantastic way to flavor simple dishes like tomato and cumin rice.”

About The Chef:
Asha Gomez is the chef and owner of Atlanta’s Spice to Table, an Indian patisserie that features artisanal food with fresh interpretations of traditional dishes. Her professional career was launched with an underground dining club called Spice Route Supper Club, and she later opened the upscale restaurant Cardamom Hill. She was also a semifinalist for Food & Wine's People’s Best New Chef award.
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Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Chef: Nathanial Zimet
Restaurant: Boucherie, New Orleans, LA
Essential Ingredient: Hot Sauce

“I always have hot sauce in my fridge. I put it on anything and everything and have a bunch of different types on hand — my top three are Tabasco, sriracha, and Matouk’s.”

About The Chef:
Nathanial Zimet is the executive chef of Boucherie in New Orleans and a season 13 Chopped champion. He grew up in North Carolina, inspired by his mom, who made her own stocks from scratch. He then trained at Le Cordon Bleu in London and Sydney, before making his way to the Crescent City and opening a hit food truck called The Que Crawl. In 2009, he opened Boucherie, where he serves up contemporary Southern cuisine.
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Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Chef: José Mendín
Restaurant: Pubbelly Boys, Miami Beach, FL
Essential Ingredient: Cooked Quinoa

“I like to have cooked quinoa in my refrigerator. I’m barely ever at home unless it’s to get some rest, so having the cooked quinoa eases the cooking process. It’s a great base for a salad, a quick sauté, [or] a wrap.”

About The Chef:
José Mendín is the founding partner and culinary director of Pubbelly Boys in Miami Beach. His restaurants include Pubbelly, Pubbelly Sushi, and L'echon Brasserie. Mendín has been named semifinalist in this year’s James Beard “Best Chef South” category, his fourth nomination.