Gifted Giver: Chef and CCO, Grant Crilly

For the second season in a row, we’re counting down the crucial pre-Christmas shopping days with a series called Gifted Givers, in which friends old and new share their thoughts on stylishly spirited giving and receiving.

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Meet Grant Crilly: magician in the kitchen, diver, wool sock lover. After collaborating with photographer Ryan Matthew Smith to come up with the gorgeous visual brand that defines the Modernist Cuisine series (the cookbook to end all cookbooks), Grant went on to cofound and become chief creative officer at ChefSteps. Another Seattle-based company, ChefSteps is serious about helping people cook smarter—while having fun doing it (as evidenced by their Instagram).

It’s been a big year for Grant—described by his coworkers as having a “hipster mustache and whistling a lot.” Last spring, his company brought home two James Beard Awards (NBD) and recently launched Joule, a super-sleek sous vide immersion circulator designed and engineered completely in house. We’re Grant Crilly fans—for his high-quality contributions to the culinary space, for inspiring us to try new things in the kitchen (liquid nitrogen, anyone?) and for that hipster mustache—which is why we asked him to be today’s Gifted Giver.

What stands out as the best gift you’ve ever given?
The best gift I have ever given was more of a series of gifts or experiences to my dad a few years ago. His boat was vandalized and it took him a year to repair it. Fishing is his passion in life, so it was hard to watch him lose that opportunity to get out on the water. Fishing is what we do in our family. While he was repairing his boat, I took him out on different charters and tuna fishing trips. He loved it. And, it opened his eyes to different fishing areas and techniques.

What’s the best gift you’ve ever received? 
When I was 19 years old, I moved to France to work for two years. For most of my time abroad I had been just working and had not yet had any family or friends visit me. My family didn’t have a lot of money, but my mom planned a trip where she, my dad and my two brothers came to see me and we spent more than a week traveling all over Europe together—from France to Belgium to Switzerland. It was a gift from my mom to our whole family, and it was an amazing experience that I will remember forever.

Do you have a holiday shopping strategy?
I am a huge gift giver. I honestly spend almost all of my disposable income on gifts for my family and friends, but I gift all year round, whenever I see a moment when I can give a gift with meaning. As far as my holiday shopping strategy, I make things, and I shop online. I don’t have the patience for visiting physical stores during the holiday hustle.

What’s the weirdest or most extreme thing you’ve ever done to create or secure the perfect gift?
I spent 90 hours to make one box of perfect chocolates for a former boss’s wife only to find out later (after giving it to her) that she hates chocolate.

What is “the perfect gift,” anyway?
For me, giving the perfect gift, means that the person who receives it may not have known they needed it, wanted it or even that it existed, but they are thrilled at how perfect it is for them. A gift is a symbol of how well you know somebody. You have to really do your homework and put love into it; it’s not about how much it costs.

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What’s your go-to host or hostess gift, either for a party or for a weekend or extended stay?
Every year I spend about two days making macarons and buy a case of champagne, and then I can gift a great bottle and a box of our amazing macarons throughout the season (check out the ChefSteps class). And, as a chef, I find one of the best gifts to give anyone who loves to cook is a big, thick wood cutting board no matter what your cooking level. When you cut on one of these, it’s a surprising experience; it makes cutting, butchering, baking and rolling out pie doughs just better.

What makes for the ultimate in giving or receiving?
For me the ultimate gift-giving experience is when it’s unexpected and simply perfect for the recipient; context is everything.

Feel free to allow us to alert your friends and family in this very public format: what would you love to unwrap this year?
Free time and perfect visibility in the ocean for diving. But seriously, I love really high-quality epic wool socks, throw blankets and real down pillows. No one ever gifts those because they think it’s not exciting enough, except maybe my mom, but those are things I can’t get enough of—great bedding and great wool socks!

See more from all our Gifted Givers.

—Jeff Powell

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