Holiday Central

50 gift ideas for the foodie who has everything

Finding the perfect food lover gift

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They're the holiday season's three F's: family, friends and food. From Thanksgiving to New Year's Day, every day is a foodie paradise with plenty of opportunities for wining and dining into a new pants size.

But what do you get for the discerning food lover whose idea of a good time is perusing new menus or whipping up a multi-course meal from scratch?

To discover the perfect gifts for the foodies, CNBC emailed top chefs and restaurant industry executives for their suggestions.

Click ahead for more than 50 of their top gift ideas.

—By CNBC's Katie Little
Posted 5 December 2014

All-aboard! A culinary escape

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Zac Young, David Burke Group executive pastry chef

Food meets travel in Young's idea of a great gift for the foodie. Last year, Young traveled to Greece, Italy and Spain as part of a weeklong cruise he describes as a "carbo-palooza."

"Every trip I take turns into a culinary tour. Cruises are a great way to literally eat your way around the world. …" Young said.

This year, he'd like to begin with Shanghai dumplings and end with Tokyo sushi.

For serious chocoholics, he recommends this pricey To'ak Chocolate bar, which clocks in at $260.

Rounding out his list is a bottle of Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve, which he says is "super smooth, fruity at first, the finishes with just a hint of smoke."

Do-it-yourself bacon


Matt Maloney, GrubHub CEO

Although Maloney's the head honcho of a food takeout and delivery site, his gift recommendation is a bit more hands on.

"It's probably no surprise that the CEO of GrubHub is a huge fan of bacon, and this kit (has) everything you need to cure and smoke your own. I plan to buy this for some of my more 'DIY' friends and family members," he said of this $99.95 Williams-Sonoma bacon smoking kit.

Another pick, Pappy & Company barrel wood cuff links, serves as both a "great conversation starter" and a great gift for a whiskey-loving father or father-in-law because they're subtle and blend it with most men's styles.

He also likes Lillie's Q barbeque Sauce Set (his own go-to for takeout) and Bittercube Bitters Variety Pack for craft cocktail lovers.

DIY picks for the kitchen

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Chef Dan Coudreaut, McDonald's executive chef and director of culinary innovation

Just like McDonald's increased push toward meal customization, the fast food giant's top chef also favors tailoring gifts to the interest of the receiver.

"I think the greatest expression of love is to make something for someone," Coudreaut wrote. "I like theme gifts that combine homemade elements with store bought elements."

Here are some ideas for the various chefs in your life from "Chef Dan."

The vegetable gardener: high-quality gardening tools and bag, gardening book, heirloom seeds, homemade canned vegetables from your garden and dried chilies or herbs from your garden.

The baker: baking pan with nonstick silicon pad, baking book, homemade vanilla extract in unique bottle or jar and homemade cinnamon sugar or vanilla sugar in a unique jar.

The BBQ fanatic: restaurant-quality hand tools, such as tongs or a spatula, a great book on BBQ, homemade spice rub in a unique jar and homemade BBQ mop sauce in a unique jar.

Regular cleaning help

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Dominique Ansel, owner and chef of Dominique Ansel Bakery

Best known for creating the dessert hybrid Cronut, Ansel recommends giving your special foodie a gift certificate for six months of a biweekly cleaning service.

"Someone gave this to me once, and I thought it was the best gift," Ansel wrote. "You cook a whole lot more when you don't have to do the dishes."

"It's the gift that keeps on giving well after the holiday parties and spring cleaning," he added.

Also on his list? A scale—a must for serious bakers and a gift that opens up the number of recipes they can perfect. He also suggests food movies, such as "Ratatouille" for kids, "The Hundred Foot Journey" for couples and "Tampopo" for serious film gurus.

Wine shopping made easy


Nick Taranto, Plated co-founder, co-CEO

We've all been there. You're ate a great restaurant, love the wine, but don't know where you can buy some bottles to enjoy again at home.

Taranto's gift suggestion answers that problem.

"I've been using Vivino to keep track of wine—you can snap a photo of the wine label, and it automatically tells you the price, nearest place where you can buy it, you can rate every wine you try, and now you can also scan wine lists and the app will automatically tell you what you should order based on your personal taste—it's awesome!," he said.

He also recommends coffee alternative Yerba Mate, which he began drinking after his five-cup plus coffee habit made him feel bad.

"[I]t's a great conversation starter, and I feel much less jittery at the end of the day," he said.

Art-inspired knives

Jon Stout

Gramercy Tavern Executive Chef Michael Anthony

"Middleton (Made) Knives are handmade in South Carolina by Quintin Middleton who is a real craftsman, taking pride and pleasure in each knife he makes," Anthony said. "He listens to what chefs need and want and makes distinctive, beautiful knives that are truly American."

Another unique idea comes from John Ragan, Union Square Hospitality Group director of wine and restaurant operations and master sommelier.

To kick up the champagne toast, Ragan suggests a classic Champagne saber from Laguiole.

"It's a perfect and unexpected gift for someone who loves Champagne or often entertains at home," Ragan said. "Just make sure they practice hacking on the prosecco before going for the Cristal!"

A charitable donation in your foodie’s honor

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Steve Ells, Chipotle founder, chairman and co-CEO

With a company focus on "food with integrity," it's no surprise that Chipotle Chairman and co-CEO Ells chose to focus on food transparency with his gift suggestion.

Ells stressed that food lovers also care about where their food comes from and how it's raised.

"By making a donation in the name of your favorite foodie to one of the really great organizations that is addressing issues in food, you can help them bring about that kind of change," he wrote. "Some of my favorites are the National Young Farmers Coalition, Animal Welfare Institute, Land Institute and our own Cultivate Foundation."

An added bonus? Your tax deductible gift will hit just before the new year—locking in some tax savings for you too.

Oysters from the Cape

Cotuit Oyster Company

Arby's Corporate Executive Chef Neville Craw

When giving to fellow chefs or foodies, Craw prefers to deviate from the beaten path.

This brings him to Cotuit Oyster Company in his Cape Cod hometown.

"I've only been able to find them at a few select seafood restaurants and raw bars across the country, but you can order online and they will go from water to table in one day," he said. "The super fresh and briny flavors are unmistakable if you've had them. These were a mainstay at our holiday gatherings growing up."

He also recommends a subscription to "Diner Journal"—no frills, just stories, art and recipes for the food lover, he says.

A new twist on the cast iron skillet


Stephanie Le, blogger at

This patented octagonal skillet includes a stainless steel spring handle that cools quickly and comes with a "good forever" warranty, which makes this FINEX item's $270 price a little easier to swallow.

"This skillet is (an) heirloom piece," Le said. "At first, I wasn't totally in love with the design, but the machined bottom makes it indispensable in my kitchen and the cooling coil handle actually works."

She also recommends scientific beakers for measuring small amounts of liquid and a Japanese citrus sauce she calls "super addictive" that she uses "on anything and everything."

Honey with a twist

Marcus Samuelsson, chef and author

Sweet meets spicy in Mike's Hot Honey, a favorite of Samuelsson, whose Red Rooster restaurant is a well-known foodie destination in Harlem.

"It takes classic honey and adds a mix of chilies and vinegar for a spicy, tangy burst of flavor," he added. "I enjoy it on a holiday charcuterie plate, which is great if you're hosting any events this season."

A Drop smart kitchen scale, which prevent cooking disasters by timing and measuring, along with Gabrielle Hamilton's "Prune" cookbook, round out Samuelsson's picks.

Wine without the waste


Colin Bedford, executive chef of The Fearrington House

The $299 Coravin 1000 Wine Access System is a "game changer" for people who want to put together wine by the glass and food pairing, Bedford said.

The gadget uses a thin needle to pour wine without having to remove the cork and allows users to preserve the rest the bottle from oxidation.

All-Clad pots and pans also made Bedford's list of picks because they cook evenly, resist warping, retain heat and perform well. He stressed the importance of investing in top quality hardware for the kitchen.

"You don't want to skimp here, because no matter how good your technique is, if your equipment doesn't perform well, the end result will suffer," Bedford said.

For those looking to splurge even more, Bedford places a culinary trip to Tuscany at the top of the list, recommending the Cooking Under the Tuscan Sun package at Il Falconiere, a Tuscan villa.

A Sous Vide immersion cooker—a method used at Fearrington and other top restaurants—is his final pick. The cooker cooks food at a low temperature in sealed pouches to increase its tenderness.

Just in time for holiday baking


Sophie Kallinis LaMontagne and Katherine Kallinis Berman, Georgetown Cupcake co-founders

These sisters and Georgetown Cupcake founders have the baker on your list covered. First up is a KitchenAid seven quarter mixer in candy red.

"This is a splurge, but a wonderful gift for the serious home baker," they wrote in an email. "We collect KitchenAid stand mixers (and have them in over a dozen different colors!), and we love this glossy candy red color—it's perfect for holiday baking."

They also recommend this MacKenzie-Childs cake stand as an elegant piece to showcase bakers' creations in addition toValrhona's 'Dulcey' blond chocolate. The pair use it in Georgetown Cupcake's blond chocolate ganache and blond chocolate buttercream and think it would make a great stocking stuffer.

Rare and rich scotch

Macallan | Facebook

Thomas Keller, chef and proprietor of Thomas Keller Restaurant Group

"The Macallan does it again! Another extraordinary bottling," writes Keller of the Macallan Rare Cask Single Malt Scotch Whisky.

Kathleen Weber's "Della Fattoria Bread" cookbook is another Keller suggestion. It's filled with bread-baking tips and information on baking equipment.

Say goodbye to cold butter

Le Creuset | Amazon

Francisco "Paco" Robert, Dinner Lab Chief Operating Officer

For Robert, room-temperature butter is a must. This LeCreuset stoneware butter crock solves one of Robert's biggest pet peeves: non-tempered butter, which can be difficult to spread.

He also recommends the Shark Skin grater that can be used for any root and acts like a cross between a mortar and pestle and a grater.

Swap the cookies for pears

Harry & David

Susan Ungaro, James Beard Foundation president

Often, the holidays can turn into one big gorge-fest, which is one reason why Ungaro's suggestion of Harry & David Royal Riviera Pears is so refreshing.

"Yes, I know this is probably a cliché gift, but my kids and I really enjoy these sweet and juicy pears—and we feel so 'healthy' eating them along with all the other calorie-laden treats round the holidays," she wrote.

She also recommends Laura's Fudge, a favorite stop on vacation. Her top picks are the chocolate peanut butter and vanilla chocolate chip varieties.

Take a break from the spice rack


Daniel Patterson, chef and restaurateur

These concentrated flavors from Aftelier Perfumes, which chefs can use in substitute of spices and herbs, work in everything from entrees to desserts to drinks.

"These dazzlingly aromatic drops and sprays are perfect for making Sunday supper a lot more exciting," Patterson said. "They're not only for the kitchen—the sprays can be found behind some of the best bars in the country."

Another idea is this Benriner Japanese Mandoline Slicer, an inexpensive one found in professional kitchens.

"Just, um, mind the fingertips," Patterson said.

Pastries from Bordeaux

Epicurie Bouloud

Tim Ryan, Culinary Institute of America president

"Delicious" and "highly addictive: is how Ryan describes Daniel Boulud's Canele de Bordeaux, handmade pastries from France. They're $29 for a set of six online.

Books for the foodie

Barbecue Bible

Dorothy Cann Hamilton, International Culinary Center president and founder

Food memoirs head up the list of Hamilton's gifts she likes to give and receive. For the barbecue fan or meat lover, she suggests barbecue expert Steve Raichlen's books. Dorie Greenspan's books are another favorite.