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Holiday Gift Guide: This Celebrity Chef Tells Us What To Get Your Foodie Friends

* Unique food-themed gifts and experiences for hard-to-please people on your list
* Ideas from one of the best chefs in Los Angeles
* Look for familiar items with an updated twist

Chef Maynard Llera is one of the most-esteemed and respected chefs in LA. Having honed his chops at Bestia, Grace and BLD, among others, he was brought on this year as The h.wood Group’s Culinary Director.

Known for his creativity and innovativeness, Chef Llera now oversees all culinary consultations on the food and development at The h.wood Group’s LA hotspots – The NICE GUY and Delilah. It’s not uncommon to see Llera mingling with the restaurants’ celebrity clientele (fans of The h.wood Group’s restaurants include Kendall Jenner and Drake). After all, it’s not just about elevating the menu — it’s also about elevating the entire experience.

According to Llera, the same premise goes into choosing holiday gifts for your foodie friends. You want something that’ll satisfy their taste buds (or other senses), but you don’t want anything too generic. Just like cooking a great meal, the key is to start with things they’re familiar with, but look for a unique or updated twist. Here’s what he suggests:

1. Eclectic Cookbooks

Cookbooks look great on the countertop or bookshelf, but, believe it or not, they’re actually designed to be used. The problem is, most cookbooks aren’t particularly inspiring, or they repeat the same types of dishes over and over again. Llera likes “Memories of Philippine Kitchens.” It’s a nod to Llera’s Filipino-American heritage, and offers hundreds of sumptuous photographs and stories tracing the traditional (and non-traditional) Filipino dishes that have been passed down through generations.

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2. A Professional Apron

Ditch the thin, cheap aprons you get at the department stores and upgrade to this Professional Grade Chef Apron by Bluecut Aprons. Handcrafted from heavy weight, 8 oz. denim, this apron is constructed with solid antique brass hardware. A ton of double stitched pockets and reinforced hems add strength and structure. Multiple sizes available, making it suitable for men and women. Built to last.


3. A Bottle of Japanese Whiskey

The whiskey revival is in full swing, but if you really want to impress your friends, get them a bottle of Japanese whiskey. We like this one from Kikori, one of the most popular brands leading the Japanese whiskey charge here in the U.S.

Distilled in Japan, and made from 100% rice, Kikori Whiskey is a smooth and welcome newcomer to the whiskey category. Aged for 3+ years in American Oak, French Limousin oak and Sherry casks, Kikori is golden and pure in color with a floral and fragrant aroma and a velvety smoothness to the palate. At 82 proof, Kikori delivers a distinctively different style of whiskey that is memorable, delicate and delicious. Need more convincing? Kikori was a Gold Medal winner at the 2016 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

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4. A Wine Club Subscription

Considering how many bottles of wine you drink in a month, it makes a lot of sense financially to enroll in a subscription service. But more than that, a wine club also offers you the chance to try new bottles or hard-to-find varietals that you wouldn’t have otherwise discovered on your own.

We like Winc, which delivers 4 bottles of wine to your door every month, with free shipping. Prices start at a very reasonable $13 per bottle, and you can either mix and match your own delivery, or let them customize a pack for you based on your tasting notes and preferences. Not into signing up for a subscription? Winc has a solid selection of ready-to-gift boxes and packages too, that you can make a one time purchase on. Your wino friends will thank you.

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5. One-Week Food Trip to Palawan 

Okay, so this might be best saved for your closest friends — or even a close family member. Giving the gift of travel isn’t cheap, but Llera knows that sending a foodie friend to Asia will be the ultimate food-hopping experience. He suggests Palawan, where fresh food and drinks abound, from market stalls to some of the best and most unexpected culinary experiences on the continent. We’ve found flights to the Filipino destination starting at just $750 on Expedia, with 4-star hotels starting at just $50 a night.

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Check Prices on Flights and Hotels in Palawan


6. Gift Card

If all else fails, it’s never a bad idea to give a restaurant gift card. Use to find gift cards that work in more than 62,000+ restaurants nationwide — including local, independent places too (I.e. not just Cheesecake Factory). The gift cards never expire and you can set any amount you’d like. If you’re lucky, maybe they’ll use the gift card to take you out for dinner as a thank you.

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The Ultimate Holiday Gift Guide