Shopping for Kitchen Supplies: Costco Business Center

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Ask any chef or great cook and they'll tell you - it's all in the tools. Home cooks could spend the rest of their lives amassing their collection, and truth be told - they often do.

But what if you're just starting out, on a budget, or widening your culinary horizons? This week, we'll give you a guide to get you through the salad days of stocking up. From hidden gems found at your local fashion discounter to gigantic pots and pans in restaurant supply houses, there's something to be found for every kitchen, and at every price point. Here's how to kit your kitchen like a pro, from five different points of view.

Today, we're checking out:

Costco Business Center 3801 N 33rd Avenue Phoenix, AZ 85017 602-293-2123 Web site

It's a little known fact that Costco doesn't just pump out mega-sized Cheetos at its warehouse stores. At the Costco Business Center, the mega-sized options are geared toward businesses, with restaurants front and center.

The setup is the same as any other Costco, so if you've ever frequented one, you'll be right at home. Gone are beauty products and food samples (during lean times, we've called them "microwaved tapas lunches"), replaced by aisles of commercial cleaning products, packaging and Willy Wonka-worthy stacks of candy.

If you can break away from the sugary goodness, head towards the kitchen appliances. This is where Costco Business Center really shines. A Paul Bunyan-sized Zojirushi rice cooker (around $250) could cook enough rice to feed half of Minnesota, should the need arise. Or a counter-top pizza oven (around $90) is a real temptation.

But the real winners here are the huge selection of gleaming pitchers, frothers, and mugs. Entry prices start at under $10, and top out at around $30 (truly a miracle, since the same pitchers were found elsewhere for over $100!).

A decent selection of kitchen tools rounds out the selection. It's hard to beat metal tongs, in varying sizes, that start at around $2 each. Their spatula selection might be smaller than other stores, but at prices that never clear $10, it's hard to be too upset.

This store was also the only place we found in town that sells Metro shelving, the modular stainless steel and chrome grid storage system co-opted by modern design freaks, piece by piece. This allows for full customization, since the pieces are purchased individually and not as a unit. Metro shelving holds over 350 pounds per shelf, which makes it an excellent choice for commercial, and home, kitchen storage.

A decent selection of dishes and serving accoutrement are here, including French Onion Soup crocks (about $5 for 4). But the showstopper of the day has to be the stainless steel, industrial strength mandolin for under $50. This tool slices and dices just about everything into Martha-worthy perfection, and at this quality, isn't usually found under $100. Score!

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