Take a mental inventory of your pantry. Maybe it’s stocked with random cans of beans, SpaghettiOs and instant noodle packets that date back to the days before the Ramen Renaissance.
Now, imagine your pantry isn’t just a last resort for those nights when you open the fridge to find nothing remotely appealing. Imagine instead that it’s packed with non-perishables that are actually useful.
What are those secret-weapon ingredients that will make your pantry more adult-ish? Here are 13, straight from Chicago chefs and restaurateurs who lean on ’em to take sauces, marinades and even ice cream to the next level. Build your own pantry accordingly, starting with fish sauce, a clear favorite among the group. Let’s be real, though: There will always be room for a box of mac and cheese.
“It’s a natural salt, so you can use it as a seasoning in almost anything. Can’t live without it!” —Naoki Nakashima, Naoki
Several good olive oils
“There are many different nuances, it makes everything better and it’s good for you. Plus, it doubles as both a sauce and a dressing.” —C.J. Jacobson, Ema