South Florida home cooks shop where the pro chefs do

Bargain-hunting home cooks who shop at restaurant-supply stores know not to expect the samples of warm banana bread or neat shelves of cookbooks one may encounter at Williams-Sonoma or Macy’s.

Instead, these warehouse spaces are stocked floor-to-ceiling with commercial-grade restaurant equipment, a cook’s dream of low-priced but durable pots, pans, plates, utensils, gadgets and bulk goods.

“At Williams-Sonoma, they’re cuter,” said Zarina Raja, an owner of Global Restaurant Equipment & Supplies in North Miami.

South Florida restaurant-supply stores like Raja’s serve local restaurants, caterers, country clubs, cruise ships as well as clients in Latin America and the Caribbean. But there’s nothing preventing home cooks from taking advantage of the value offered by places like Global.

“[The equipment] is meant to be used rigorously,” Raja said. “When we cook in the family, we use the fry pans, the industrial pots and the smaller stuff like utensils. It makes things easier.”

It also makes things cheaper.

A set of four steak knives that costs $35 at Miami Restaurant Supplies typically runs about $60 at a department store, according to Diana Dumet, the store’s vice president of marketing. Plain, white plates start at $19 a dozen, less than $2 a plate.

“Customers go crazy for white designs,” she said, noting that shoppers like to buy similar plates and utensils that they see in their favorite restaurants.

Miami Restaurant Supplies, which opened to the public in April, encourages home cooks to stock up on its restaurant-quality equipment.

“We really want to extend that restaurant experience to the house,” Dumet said. “Why not use professional dishware and cookware?”

Well-known brands with fancy packaging may not be readily available at restaurant-supply shops. But that shouldn’t matter so long as the equipment is well-made and properly maintained, said Alex Feher, executive chef at the InterContinental Miami.

“How you handle your pans and knives is how they’ll perform,” Feher said. “A knife needs to be treated with respect.”

Katherine Kallergis is a Miami-based writer. Follow her on Twitter at @kkallergis.

What you’ll pay

Here’s what you can expect various home-kitchen items to cost at a restaurant-supply store versus a department store or other traditional retailer.

Pots and pans

Traditional retail: $100-$300

Restaurant-supply store: $20-$50

Whisks, spatulas and other utensils

Retail: $5-$50

Supply store: $3-$10

Pastry brushes, bags, etc.

Retail: $10-$40

Supply store: Less than $10

Measuring cups and spoons

Retail: $10-$50

Supply store: Less than $10

Baking sheets, pans, pizza stones

Retail: $15-$150

Supply store: $4-$10

Where to shop

ABC Restaurant Supplies & Equipment

1345 N. Miami Ave., Miami


Metro Food Equipment

1353 N. Miami Ave., Miami


Miami Restaurant Supplies

7101 N. Miami Ave., Miami


Global Restaurant Equipment & Supplies

650 NW 123rd St., North Miami



Moroccan snake cake

Equipment used: food processor, stainless steel bowl, pastry brush, cookie sheet

1 1/2 cups assorted dry fruit (apricots, dates, figs)

1/4 cup assorted candied fruit

2 tablespoons honey

Orange flower water, to taste

1 to 2 egg whites

1/2 (7-ounce) tube almond paste

1/4 cup pine nuts

1/4 cup white raisins

1/4 cup almonds

2 eggs

4 tablespoons butter

Phyllo sheets

2 cloves

Cocoa and confectioner’s sugar, to decorate

Macerate the dried fruit and candied fruits in honey and orange flower water; cover and chill overnight. In a food processor, add 1 egg white to almond paste and process. In a bowl, combine almond paste with dried and candied fruits, pine nuts, raisins and almonds. Add 2 eggs. (If too wet, add bread crumbs.)

Melt butter. Place 2 sheets of phyllo on a damp towel. With a pastry brush, spread melted butter on phyllo. Repeat five times. Add fruit and nut mixture, leaving an inch on both ends. Add 10 more sheets with melted butter and roll like a log.

With both hands, coil log onto a greased cookie sheet. Place cloves as the snake’s eyes. Bake in a 350-degree oven until golden brown, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven. Sprinkle with cocoa and confectioner’s sugar mixture and serve while warm. Serves 6 to 8.

Source: Wendy Kallergis.

Main dish

Fish Stew

Equipment used: large pot, large can of tomatoes.

1 bunch chopped green onions

Chopped garlic, to taste

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 bottle dry white wine

2 tablespoons sherry

1 (15-ounce) container fish stock

1 (28-ounce) can plum tomatoes

2 tablespoons chopped basil

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

Fish of choice (shrimp, scallops, oysters, etc.)

Shot of Cognac

Sauté green onions and garlic in butter and olive oil over medium heat until soft. Add white wine, sherry, fish stock and tomatoes. Bring to a gentle boil, then stir in basil, parsley, salt and pepper. Add fish, then reduce heat and let simmer 20 minutes, or until fish is just cooked through. Top with a good shot of Cognac. Serve with garlic bread. Serves 4 to 6.

Source: Wendy Kallergis.