Spring is upon us which means it's graduation season, and as someone who recently graduated from pastry school (shoutout to Cambridge School of Culinary Arts), I thought I'd do you a favor and put together a list of thoughtful, creative gifts for culinary school graduates.
It can be hard to know what to get someone who works in a fairly specialized field, especially one where a lot of the tools they use daily are probably provided by their school or workplace.
Most culinary schools provide knives and chef's coats, and most professional kitchens have uniforms, which means as nice as it might seem to buy a newly graduated chef a fancy custom chef coat or apron, there's a good chance they might not actually be able to wear it at work.
Not that they wouldn't appreciate it, because we all know it's the thought that counts, but if you want more than the thought to count, keep reading because I have some really great gifts for culinary school graduates below. Bonus: These also make great gifts for chefs!
11+ great gifts for culinary school graduates
1. Mercer culinary tasting spoon/fork that fits into their chef coat
This brilliantly designed tasting spoon-slash-fork also made an appearance on my list of pastry school supplies, but it's also a great gift for a new chef. The fork is narrow enough to fit in the arm pocket of a chef's coat, and with the unique double-ended design, your fave chef will never have to worry about their tasting spoon getting mixed up with everyone else's.
2. A fancy gourmet smoking cloche for creating meals that are also ~experiences~
Have YOU ever seen someone who isn't a chef use a gourmet smoking cloche? This is one of those fancy-shmancy things they'll probably never buy for themselves but will be secretly delighted to own and put to use. If you're very lucky they'll thank you by making smoked cauliflower soup, which is just *chefs kiss* divine coming out from under one of these glass lids.
3. A custom engraved chef's knife by Victorinox ($) or Wustoff ($$$)
Most culinary school students will graduate with a nice set of knives, so you probably don't want to gift them a regular chef's knife. Victorinox and Wustoff are two classic, quality brands that make excellent knives. Customize a nice chef's knife with the name of your favorite culinary school grad. They'll definitely appreciate a gift they can use pretty much forever.
Fun fact about the rivets on the handle of the Wustoff knife: They're ¼" across, making them perfect for checking that you've perfected your ¼" dice.
4. A personalized hanger for their crisp new chef's coat
The reason chef coats are white is because a "true" chef can get through service without spilling or staining their coat. Give the gift of a wrinkle-free chef coat with this cool hanger customized with their new title.
5. These foodie dice for fun, creative dinner challenges
You can't get favorite culinary school graduate the gift of being a competitor on Food Network's Chopped, but you can get them the gift of these foodie dice so they always keep their skills sharp. The dice have different cooking techniques and ingredients on them, and the combinations and interpretations are endless!
6. Burlap & Barrel Chef's Choice gift set of six classic spices
Burlap & Barrel is known for high quality, equitably sourced spices that come in beautiful packaging. So when it comes to gifts for culinary school grads, you know these spices will be appreciated.
The "Chef's Choice" spice set, which includes black Urfa chili, wild mountain cumin, sweet pepper paprika, buffalo ginger, royal cinnamon, and new harvest turmeric, is the perfect gift for someone with the shiny new title of chef.
7. A mug that says what they're really thinking
Excellent for any newly graduated culinary students with a bit of a potty mouth and/or sense of humor.
8. The Duchess dutch oven by Great Jones to add a pop of color to their home kitchen
UPDATE 7/2021 - Given recent news of how Great Jones co-founder Sierra Tishgart treated her employees and business... along with reports of a decline in quality in GJ's products and poor customer service, I can't in good conscious recommend The Dutchess. Instead, I recommend going with a Le Creuset or Staub Dutch oven, both classic brands which truly stand the test of time. The original copy in this post is preserved below.
This cast iron enameled dutch oven from Great Jones comes in a range of trendy colors and is a beautiful addition to any kitchen. At a roomy almost-7-quarts it's small enough for soups and stocks but big enough for loaves of crusty bread too. It's oven safe to 500F, has spacious handles so your fingers don't get burned, is dishwasher safe, and has a unique grey-colored interior that resists stains. Culinary school students get spoiled by access to fancy, high quality cooking tools — they'll love having one of these in their home kitchen.
9 Jewelry from the al dente collection of pasta shapes that take macaroni necklaces to the next level
Pasta is for dinner but pasta jewelry is for always. Give the gift of farfalle, penne, macaroni, cellentani, and a bunch of other pasta shapes so your favorite culinary school grad can wear their love of good pasta on their sleeve (by which I mean on their ears, or wrist, or neck). Don't go thinking this is novelty costume jewelry either — each piece comes in sterling silver or 14k gold. The best part? A portion of every sale is donated and used to buy meals to help feed the hungry.
10. This whisk necklace because everyone loves tiny kitchen tools
Okay, so maybe they don't like pasta. Get them the gift of this adorable whisk necklace instead. The backing card says "beat it, just beat it" which is a cheeky reminder that they conquered culinary school and is absolutely not a reference to anything else.
9. A personalized dough whisk for all their dough-mixing needs
Of course any new pastry chef will know this, but a dough whisk is designed to quickly and efficiently mix dense bread doughs and more delicate cupcake and muffin batters without over mixing (read more about dough whisks here). Dough whisks aren't super common in home kitchens, so they'll definitely appreciate this gift!
10. A custom chef bobblehead to nod and say "yes, chef" to them while they cook
I don't know a single person who wouldn't love a custom bobblehead of themselves. There's no better way to commemorate the achievement of graduating from culinary school than to give the gift of a custom bobblehead doll tricked out in a chef coat and apron. I got my dad one of these (in IRONMAN marathon gear) for his birthday last year and it was so fun seeing the artist bring it to life.
One thing to keep in mind: There's a longer lead time for making sure this gift arrives on time because of the design time (and additional time if you request any changes). So if you decide to gift a custom chef bobblehead, it's better to start the process sooner rather than later!
11. GBBO-inspired Star Baker apron because you can't earn the real one once you aren't a home baker
One of the biggest upsides to graduating from pastry school comes with a downside; you're officially a pastry chef, but that means you're no longer a home baker and therefore are disqualified from competing on The Great British Bake Off (aka The Great British Baking Show).
So if there's a newly graduated pastry chef in your life, trust me when I tell you they'll love the gift of their very own Star Baker apron.
12. Menus book by Jacques Pepin to save their favorite menus for posterity
Filled with gorgeous, watercolor and illustrated pages meant to be filled in over time, Menus, a memory book by internationally acclaimed French chef Jacques Pepin, is a way to keep a record of dinner party menus and guests.
It's also perfect for the newly graduated chef who's looking to try out a lot of menu ideas on family and friends! And if you're really lucky, your name will appear in the book more than once.
13. A sweet gift box tin designed just for chefs
This adorable little tin is the perfect gift for culinary school graduates. It comes with a tiny bamboo tasting spoon, a bar of handcrafted natural hand soap to soften calloused fingers, chef's burn balm, and a sachet of mulled wine spices. So they can indulge in a little TLC after a hard day in the kitchen.
13. Baking Steel no. 10 pan because carbon steel pans always have a place in the kitchen
I absolutely love my No. 10 carbon steel pan from Baking Steel, the Massachusetts-based company behind my favorite tool for making pizza at home. This is a heavy-duty 10" carbon steel pan which gets better with age — literally, it darkens in color, forming a burnished patina and sleeker, non-stick surface with every use.
It requires a bit of the same care as cast iron (no soaking, some regular seasoning) but it's lighter weight and has a long heat-resistant handle. It's a delight to use on the stove but also safe in the oven, a really nice utility-slash-statement piece for any chef's home kitchen.
14. Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat prints to bring some of their fave lessons into the kitchen in a beautiful way
Flash cards are ugly; no one wants to frame those. But these gorgeous prints from Samin Nosrat's foundational cookbook Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat will help keep some of the best kitchen lessons top of mind without being in your face about it. It's a lovely gift that will remind your recipient of all the work that went into learning those lessons and earning the title of chef, without reminding them of all the stress and studying they had to do to get there.
15. Finally, a congratulatory card to pair with literally any of these
Do I really need to explain this one to you? It's a card! You write nice stuff in it and give it with a gift.
I hope you found this list of gifts for culinary school graduates useful. Got any other ideas? Drop them in the comments below!