Shopping for Kitchen Supplies: Smart & Final

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.

Yesterday we looked at Standard Restaurant Supply. Today, we're checking out:

Smart & Final 2742 E Indian School Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85016 (602) 224-6118 Web site

Smart & Final is a warehouse-style store, geared towards restaurant professionals. Since it is smaller than other supply houses, it does lack some of the selection of other stores. But item for item, Smart & Final packs a price-winning punch.

Unlike other warehouse-style shopping, Smart & Final does not require a membership. This is good, since their prices on pre-cut tin foil were the least expensive we could find in the whole city. Not sure you'd use boxes of pop-up tin foil? From making stuffed salmon pouches for cooking on the grill to wrapping sandwiches to be eaten on the road, the uses are endless. And for around $6 for a small package, it's an easy investment.

The same is true with the Sterno fuel jars. At less than $50 per flat, you'd keep a summers worth of food warm. Speaking of keeping food warm, their buffet selection was impressive. Chafing dishes of all sizes, and fabrications, from steel to disposable, lined the shelves. For around $12, the best deal was on a Party Pack Chafer Set, which comes with aluminum chafing dish, pans, wire rack, 2 cans of chafing fuel, and serving utensils. Score!

At Smart & Final, the showstopper was a table topper. Instead of purchasing individual disposable tablecloths, which can easily clear $5 for one, grab a large roll for about $15. From solid color, to kid friendly designs, to the ubiquitous red and white checkers, they can be cut to size, and cover many, many tables.

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