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In the Kitchen with AjMadison and Chopped Grand Champion Saba Wahid Duffy

Depending on what kind of chef or home cook you are, the sheer variety of cooking appliances available today is either mind-boggling or incredibly inspiring. We choose to see it as the latter; after all, the sky is the limit in terms of customization, with brands offering a staggering variety of color and finish choices to appeal to your unique design preferences! Tune in to learn from AJ Madison’s in-house experts, in conversation with Chopped Grand Champion chef Saba Wahid Duffy, on how the placement, selection, and design of the kitchen will redefine what it means to cook and entertain with ease.

 

Chef Saba Wahid Duffy is a well-known culinary educator, chef demonstrator, recipe writer, and food content creator. She has worked as a television host and culinary media personality and won the grand prize on Chopped with Martha Stewart on Food Network. She’s invested her winnings from the episode into a small food truck business which she runs with her sister, Sara Wahid.

 

To learn more about her food truck business, visit kushbysaba.com

Learn more about her TV career and her time abroad at sabawahid.com

This episode of Ask the Appliance Experts is supported by Monogram. Discover Monogram Appliances, including the award-winning Statement Series dual fuel professional range at ajmadison.com/brands/monogram-appliances

[00:00:00] Amy Chernoff: Welcome to the Appliance Experts, a new podcast from AJ Madison Pro that tackles the ins and outs of appliances, making an often confusing and really technical topic, approachable and dare we say, even fun. 

[00:00:14] Amy Chernoff: I’m Amy Chernoff, VP of Marketing here at AJ Madison. 

[00:00:17] Jessica Petrino-Ball: And I’m Jessica Petrino-Ball Director at AJ Madison. We are the brands in-house experts we’re on tap to interview installers, builders, renovation pros, and other leaders in the field on all things appliances. 

So Amy, we have someone really amazing coming on the show today, here at AJ Madison. We love to talk all about kitchens, and this guest definitely knows her way around one. We’re chatting with Saba Wahid Duffy. A culinary educator, chef, recipe writer, and food content creator. Saba appeared on Chopped with Martha Stewart on the Food Network, beating out [00:01:00] a number of competitors to win the grand prize back in 2020. Those Chopped winnings quickly came in handy, bolstering a noted food truck business that Saba runs with her sister. 

[00:01:10] Amy Chernoff: It’s such an unusual mix, right? To be a chef and an appliance expert. I, I’m just so glad that you nominated her to be on the podcast. 

[00:01:23] Amy Chernoff: What do you think advice is gonna be for home chefs outfitting their kitchens. 

[00:01:26] Jessica Petrino-Ball: I think from a chef’s perspective, Saba is really good and really honest too about helping consumers navigate the ins and outs of really what the best products are for every situation. 

She is a fan of steam convection cooking. So I think we’re gonna be talking lot about of some of those lesser known specialty cooking products like Steam, people really don’t know about, but deliver tremendous value. 

[00:01:53] Amy Chernoff: I can’t wait to ask her opinion on induction. That’s a hot topic these days, especially with everyone on the [00:02:00] lookout for ways to save energy and to save money and to have, really a great cooking experience.   

[00:02:09] Jessica Petrino-Ball: I’m really interested to get her opinion though, for sure. 

[00:02:13] Amy Chernoff: So let’s join Saba in the kitchen. 

[00:02:15] Jessica Petrino-Ball: Let’s do it! I’m so excited to be speaking with you today. Welcome Saba.  

[00:02:21] Saba Wahid Duffy: Thank you so much for the introduction, Jess. I’m very excited to be here too.  

[00:02:26] Jessica Petrino-Ball: Saba, can you tell us a little bit about how you help clients navigate the appliance selection process and, during that process, clients often ask, you know, where do you recommend people splurge versus safe.  

[00:02:42] Saba Wahid Duffy: What I break it down with initially anyways, is what is that particular person’s cooking style? What do they like to do in the kitchen? 

Do they spend more time cooking on the stove versus baking versus reheating? [00:03:00] versus steaming there’s so many different aspects to day to day cooking in, a family’s home. those questions really help to navigate the world of appliances and when it comes down to it. you know, the dishes you cook every day will dictate the type of appliances that you invest in. 

[00:03:21] Jessica Petrino-Ball: The breadth of technology today is really exciting. How do we help design professionals translate that information to a client that hasn’t looked at appliances in the last 5, 10, 20 years maybe ever? 

[00:03:37] Saba Wahid Duffy: Yeah it is overwhelming. It was just like a stovetop and an oven or a grill or a griddle, and now you can get a water bath with sous vide and induction and gas and steam and air fry. 

So there are a lot of options I guess it, you know, comes down to who are you cooking for? What’s your family size? How much food do you need to produce out of this,[00:04:00] range? That can sort of help narrow down some of those specialty features, but also if there are, those like culinary enthusiasts out there that like to have all these gadgets in the kitchen, then why not? 

[00:04:16] Saba Wahid Duffy: I mean, if you are passionate about cooking and experimenting, then it’s really nice to have an option to be able to, to use it. But it, yeah, It’s it’s a lot. It’s a lot for the average, home cook to take in so I think just, you know, piece by piece, break it down and some people don’t want all the bells and whistles, and there’s still a lot of great, appliances out there that are basic, that just offer, you know, high BTU power. On a gas range and a great, oven with convection. And you can get that too. So there is the full gamut of products out there.  

[00:04:58] Amy Chernoff: I think the point is also from [00:05:00] everything that, I’m hearing you say Saba is that you should take your time. A lot of people, I think it really wrapped up in the refrigerator, but I really feel like the cooking surfaces are super, super important, that’s how you feed your family or your household, And it’s also, the appliance that I think gets replaced less frequently, right? Typically the cooking surfaces are very durable and, last longer than potentially, a refrigerator or even a dishwasher based on the use. 

When you think about how you’re using your cooking surfaces and your kitchen versus how many times a day you’re opening and closing your refrigerator door, making ice, or having water and all of those things mixed together with the electronic components. Same thing with the dishwasher where I feel like the range 

[00:05:47] Amy Chernoff: it’s a, whole different thing. You, don’t wanna be sitting there after you design your new kitchen and say, “Ugh, I wish I had known about this.” Right. it’s a category that’s worth some research. And thinking, as you said, just about how [00:06:00] you, typically cook for your family and how you might be using these appliances to really get the features that would be most useful. 

[00:06:09] Saba Wahid Duffy: Oh yes. A hundred percent.{laughter} Designing a kitchen it does require a lot of thought and it’s long term. These appliances are gonna be with you for a while. So don’t rush it. Think about it. Think about what, your own cooking style might evolve into if you invest in a certain type of appliance. There’s a lot of potential to grow as a personal, home cook as well 

if you invest in the right stuff. When you start to see great results, it’s motivating a great convection oven, you put food in there and it comes out perfect every time. That’s gonna motivate you to wanna cook more and more. spend time on your ovens, on your cooktops it will benefit you in the long.  

[00:06:58] Jessica Petrino-Ball: Saba can you talk a little bit [00:07:00] about, you know, your experience helping clients decide if induction is the correct choice for them? What are some of the things that are going into that conversation and, what are some of your favorite benefits of induction when it comes to actually cooking on the products? 

[00:07:15] Saba Wahid Duffy: Yeah, it’s I get so many people shocked by my response and my love for induction because as a professional chef, most people, automatically think, I’m going to love gas ranges more, but I love cooking. 

I hate cleaning! So when I’m at home and I wanna, have a more smooth and efficient cook, the cleanup on induction is so much quicker. I also love the precision of induction. to go from, zero to boil in, you know, 90 seconds is incredible. I mean, I just made some Mac and cheese for my daughter I unfortunately don’t have induction in my kitchen right now. 

It’s on my [00:08:00] dream list. Of course, it just took a while to get the water going. So it would alleviate all of that wait time. and also holding your sauces and soups, on essentially the warm plate function, you don’t have, that option on gas ranges. 

[00:08:16] Saba Wahid Duffy: Yes. You have the lower function simmer on some of them, but yours. Still not as low as you could get on induction and you end up drying out your food, to be honest on gas ranges. Induction just has so many incredible benefits and I feel like a lot of people are switching.  

[00:08:34] Jessica Petrino-Ball: We’re noticing that too. Induction is becoming one of the fastest growing appliance categories, I think that people are ultimately looking to comply with new efficiency standards, et cetera, but one of the potential drawbacks of induction has been that you need to have specific cookware. 

Can you talk a little bit about [00:09:00] how clients are navigating that conversation? 

[00:09:04] Saba Wahid Duffy: Definitely you have to have pans that are made with some sort of ferrous metal that are magnetized a lot of stainless steel pans, out there are already induction compatible and you simply have to just take a magnet and see if it sticks on the bottom. 

And if it does, then you’re ready to go. Cast iron is actually also induction compatible and they’re pretty reasonable in terms of pricing. It’s something I encourage every home cook to keep in their kitchen anyways, and along the same lines of cast iron, your enameled cast iron cookware like your Le Creuset Dutch ovens or your stoves, anything that, is in that category of Dutch oven will also be induction compatible. 

[00:09:48] Saba Wahid Duffy: So there are a lot of options out there and there’s a lot of cookware that is now on the market that is induction compatible already.  

[00:09:57] Amy Chernoff: I just think it’s much a do about [00:10:00] nothing. Right? I think like everyone has something already in their kitchen and if you have to swap out your cookware, to be better prepared for your induction surface, there’s so many other benefits to it from an energy efficiency standpoint, cleanup, as you mentioned, Saba, and also safety. 

If you have small children in the house, it is definitely a much safer surface than any of the other cooking options. There’s a lot of movements in municipalities around the country to not install new gas lines, new construction. You know, they’re really forcing everyone to move over to induction because it’s a, more efficient, fuel source having it to be electric. 

And no one really wants to go back to a traditional electric, cooktop or stove, like those were terrible.  

[00:10:47] Saba Wahid Duffy: Oh, and very unsafe. I remember placing something on top of the coil and it was ruined because the coils remain hot for a long time after you stop cooking.  

[00:11:00] Amy Chernoff: No one wants to do that. No one. Absolutely. And in the appliance world, we’re all on the edges of our seat with this, Inflation Reduction Energy act that was passed that the President signed that gives so many fantastic rebates for induction, cooktops and ranges. 

[00:11:18] Jessica Petrino-Ball: Can we talk a little bit about appliance selections for clients that love to cook? We get these clients and they’re super, super passionate how do you help them figure out the best products to really fuel that passion.  

[00:11:34] Saba Wahid Duffy: My number one recommendation for people that are really enthusiastic in the kitchen is to invest in a steam oven the potential is just so incredible. You can do so much with it. You can even sous vide cook in a steam oven. You don’t need a water bath and an immersion circulator. 

[00:11:55] Saba Wahid Duffy: I know, a lot of like food geeks, you know, culinary [00:12:00] nerds love that kind of technology, but you don’t need that extra gadget anymore. You can do everything in that oven. You can, sous vide, you can make your own yogurts, you can skip the bain-marie, and you can do your custards you can also roast some incredible, proteins in there with added moisture that keeps things like a Tenderloin, which is traditionally a very lean meat. Nice and juicy with the added benefit of steam.  

[00:12:30] Amy Chernoff: How does that work Saba? I’m really a novice in the kitchen. I’m more of a baker, but when you say steam oven, I’ve never had one. I probably need to look into this, but I’m just wondering steam just always sounds so bland and awful to me.  

I’m thinking of like steamed asparagus with no flavor. So tell me, what are the benefits of using steam and cooking? I mean, you just mentioned the Tenderloin and making it moist and I think most people wouldn’t be thinking about cooking a Tenderloin that way. So how does that work?  

[00:12:59] Saba Wahid Duffy: Yeah, I [00:13:00] guess I should mention combi steam is the actual term and combi is short for combination. So we’re using a combination of steam and convection heat. Or you can use straight steam or you can use straight convection. So there’s really three different modes. and then there’s sub modes underneath those three modes. 

So that’s where that versatility comes in. So yeah, with straight steam. You can make steam asparagus, but it’s the best de-stea med asparagus you’ll ever have. I promise you that.  

[00:13:34] Jessica Petrino-Ball: And isn’t it true that if you cook an esteemed convection oven, you can multi rack bake. And the idea is that the convection capabilities are going to reduce flavor transfer.  

[00:13:48] Saba Wahid Duffy: Yes, actually. So combi steam ovens have the ability to multi rack cook. And when you’re using convection on your combi steam mode, of course, there is a fan in [00:14:00] there that is circulating and burning the air, which means that there is going to be, little to no flavor transfer  

[00:14:08] Jessica Petrino-Ball: I think just thematically, we’re seeing more appliances take on multiple roles, right? Like you spoke to the steam oven, having that dual or triple functionality where it can take on, multiple jobs within the kitchen space. We’re seeing that with combo wall ovens becoming the it product to, stand in, for that traditional double oven, just imparting more versatility. 

Is that something that you’ve been noticing as well, whether it’s combo ovens or even luxury pro ranges taking on more jobs? 

[00:14:42] Saba Wahid Duffy: First I would say, the whole double wall oven is, kind of out of the picture and people are going with a wall oven and a specialty oven combination. 

[00:14:54] Saba Wahid Duffy: So that still allows for additional oven space, but it gives you a specialty [00:15:00] appliance as well, which gives you more variety in your cooking. And then in terms of ranges that offer more than just a stove top and an oven. There are a lot of options out there where you can get a gas, and induction in the same range, along with an oven, and a steam oven, I mean, there’s mini air fryer ovens. I believe Fisher Paykel actually makes one that has an air fry function in the smaller oven, and it still has a regular, oven as well, plus induction plus high powered BTU gas. there’s a lot out there. You just have to really know what you want. But you know, if I could get a one stop shop that has it all. 

[00:15:46] Jessica Petrino-Ball: You mentioned the and Fisher Paykel product, which is really cool. There’s several brands that all kind of have their special sauce, right? Like 10 years ago, it was how big is the oven capacity and how hot can the burners get. And that’s where the [00:16:00] conversation ended,  

[00:16:00] Saba Wahid Duffy: Right!  

[00:16:01] Jessica Petrino-Ball: And today we’re seeing, you know, Miele has a 48 inch range with a built in speed oven microwave in a warming drawer. Thermador’s pro range has built in steam oven. We’re seeing Dacor with a large steam capacity, within their oven. Monogram has an award-winning 48 inch range where you can set a gas burner to a specific temperature. Through your smartphone, which is, is wild, wild. If you were to design your dream kitchen, what would that process look like?  

[00:16:34] Saba Wahid Duffy: First of all, I would want two dream kitchens. I want my show kitchen. So I want that to be like the pretty one that, is where we all hang out and then I want my functional one where I actually do my cooking. 

And that is, not far fetched, a lot of people do that. They have a show kitchen, and then they have their work kitchen. So in my dream kitchen, I definitely want [00:17:00] something, aesthetically pleasing, I would love a beautiful, like LACO new range with custom colors and brass hardware, just something really, really like a statement piece. 

And of course, I do, want my specialty ovens as well. in my functional kitchen where I’m gonna do all my work, I would love an induction cooktop and my steam oven and an oven with a really good convection system as well. 

[00:17:35] Saba Wahid Duffy: I love using convection for cooking, almost everything. So I do appreciate a good convection system  

[00:17:42] Amy Chernoff: Saba if you were advising a design build professional, do you think it’s more important for them to be knowledgeable about appliances or to rely on a local resource to send their customers, How they should approach this.  

[00:17:59] Saba Wahid Duffy: Yeah. [00:18:00] definitely if you do, have a local showroom, a lot of sales people are knowledgeable with the variety of products, but it is really good to get a, chef’s or a cook’s perspective because that will just sort of help 

[00:18:18] Saba Wahid Duffy: navigate and pinpoint, more specifics about the appliance selection process. So, investigate it, see if there are people around that can help. Guide and help, point you in the right direction and, how to sort of work specialty appliances or even regular appliances into the kitchen design. 

It does require an extra input from a, professional.  

[00:18:44] Amy Chernoff: I think this will be really useful for trade pros. They’re trying to, give advice to their clients and also, customers that are redoing or reinventing their kitchen or their spaces. Sometimes you don’t have to gut the whole thing. You can also just add a new [00:19:00] appliance. And I think Saba very clearly sold us all on a steam oven. So I think we should all go out and get steam ovens at this point. 

[00:19:08] Jessica Petrino-Ball: And now for our Ask the Appliance Expert takeaways. 

One, designing the dream kitchen is not a one size fits all package. There are endless possibilities for customization to get started, think about you or your client’s cooking style and your entertaining needs. 

Two, innovative products like smart ovens, induction cooktops, and steam convection ovens can be a game changer in the kitchen. 

[00:19:36] Jessica Petrino-Ball: Three, when it comes to luxury ranges, there are endless possibilities for customization make your kitchen stand out with a custom color or hardware finish. Plus you can make it your own by adding a grill griddle, steam oven, warming drawer, or even a microwave.  

Four, Go to AJmadison.com/guides to see our pro cooking [00:20:00] guide. That’s where you can get a deeper dive into anything you’d ever wanna know about professional cooking. 

Thank you so much for listening. Catch us next time with a conversation with one of our Michael Foti at Renovation Angel.  

[00:20:15] Amy Chernoff: Make sure you follow the show so you never miss an episode. AJ Madison is part of the SURROUND podcast network. 

Check out our show notes and discover other architecture and design shows at surroundpodcasts.com. That’s podcasts with an S.  

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