A chef's advice for home chefs

Looking to set up your own kitchen? Macintosh and Oak Steakhouse executive chef Jeremiah Bacon shares his advice for the home chef:

You only need three knives

Jeremiah: I have all kinds of knives, Wusthof and Henckels. But you only need three. If you have a Santoku (a knife with a beveled, dimpled edge that can cut, dice and mince), a serrated knife for bread and some tough vegetables, and a paring knife, you can do anything. You can take your knives someplace like Coastal Cupboard to sharpen them, or you can use a diamond steel to get the burrs off the edge and that keeps them pretty sharp too.

Keep your kitchen clean

Jeremiah: I have a KitchenAid, a waffle iron, a Vitamix, all in a cabinet above the microwave. I take it down to use it, and then I put it back up. Clean as you go, that's huge.

Liz: Jeremiah believes in putting your toys away.

You don't really need fancy pots and pans

Jeremiah: I tell home cooks to use a nonstick saute pan. It's the most forgiving. And it's not like you're going to be searing things at a heat like we do in the restaurant. What you think is hot isn't hot to us. At work, we have a pan and then we use such high heat we have to re-season it. And our pans buckle after three years with all that heat. That's a lot of work for a home cook. Just use a nonstick pan. You only need one to two large and small sautee pans, maybe one nonstick and one stainless steel. And a Dutch oven is nice. That's really all you need.

Editor's Note: This occasional series reveals how some of Charleston's best chefs equip their home kitchens.

By Helen Mitternight

Special to The Post and Courier

If you want to stress chef Jeremiah Bacon out, just show him into a cluttered kitchen. He hates clutter.

"You should just have your food out and your cutting board and knife. It states your domain, it says 'I'm setting up right here, this is where the magic is going to happen,' " says Bacon, executive chef of the Macintosh and Oak Steakhouse.

But exceptions can be made, and he says he has gotten used to stepping over his 54-pound English bulldog, Dottie, sprawled atop the air vent at his feet as he and his wife cook.

Of course, Dottie isn't just any bulldog. The Citadel's Beautiful Bulldog contest awarded her the "Miss Congeniality" award in 2013 and the "Best Smile" award two years before that.

Dottie shares the kitchen with Bacon and his wife of two years, Liz, in a 1935 house built near the I-26 overpass. The house was disassembled and reconstructed in Wagner Terrace within sight of the Charleston Rifle Club, and Bacon and his wife bought it the same year they married. The kitchen is a straight shot past the living room and dining room and then opens beyond to the couple's bedroom.

"It has a gas stove," Bacon says. "That was a real step up for us."

He adds that the privacy is a step up as well, since the kitchen in their previous Franklin Street digs served as the common house laundry room as well, and they never knew when fellow tenants would wander through.

"They'd just leave their beer in our refrigerator, and then they'd drink my beer," Bacon recalls.

Dottie is at the vet ("She was overserved treats," Liz says) but the two Bacons agree to answer some questions as they chop kale for a stir-fry in their home kitchen.

Q: How often do you entertain at home?

Jeremiah: We enjoy entertaining. We'll usually have two to three people, and there's always going to be food involved. Sometimes I'll come home and it's all girls and dogs, and Liz is cooking with her sister.

Q: What do you like least about your home kitchen?

Jeremiah: I call it The Electric Corner. It's this odd little piece of counter you can't really do anything with. We have everything plugged in there ... the coffeemaker, the frother, the toaster.

Q: What would your dream kitchen have?

Liz: We spend all our time in the kitchen. It's where the company always winds up hanging out. It can get crowded.

Jeremiah: I would open up the kitchen, living room and dining room and have one big open room with a big island. I'd move the stove to the opposite wall so it could vent outside."

Liz: And a sink with a pedal on the floor for when your hands are messy ...

Jeremiah: Yeah, maybe a sink in the middle. And my dream kitchen would have a Subzero refrigerator."

Q: It has to be asked: Do you actually like bacon?

Jeremiah: I do. (He pulls out a drawer with a hand towel embroidered with the saying "My favorite color is bacon.") I always keep some Nueske's bacon around.

Liz: Bacon, the gateway meat. If you're a vegetarian, that's the meat that's going to get you.

Q: What are the kitchen essentials you can't live without?

Jeremiah: "I can't live without my cutting board. It's a (John) Boos. I got it when I was studying at the CIA (Culinary Institute of America) and I was assisting at the Aspen Food and Wine Classic. And I can't live without "Black Beauty."

Black Beauty is a battered black wooden Peugeot pepper mill that he says he carried everywhere with him in his early days, when he had to bring his own equipment like the Black Beauty and his knives.

Next to his stove, Bacon keeps three covered miniature blue enameled cast-iron pots with garlic and two kinds of salt. One is Maldon Sea Salt.

"He loves Maldon. I think he wants to name our first son Maldon," Liz says. "Not gonna happen.