As a chef, spoons are the nerdiest thing you can get into,” says Angela Dimayuga, who estimates she has upwards of 40 in her own personal collection. But Dimayuga, a James Beard Award–acknowledged chef for her daring work at the buzzy New York institution Mission Chinese Food, isn’t spending as much time in the kitchen these days. As the creative director of food and culture for The Standard hotel group—a position created specifically for her—the 34-year-old daughter of Filipino immigrants is busy criss-crossing the globe in search of new ideas and inspirations—and spoons. Here, the food powerhouse gives us the scoop on just a few of her many favorites—16, to be precise.
1. “I picked this baby up from a market in Bangkok last summer. It’s very delicate. I like it because it can be used to pull a small dollop from a deep jar of something intensely flavored, like mustard.”
2. “Aeri is an old friend from college, and she’s a nerd like me. We used to ride bikes together, eat yummy food, party all the time, and have sleepovers. She’s the type of person who makes craft coffee at home, so of course, she carves her own spoons. She visited me in New York back in 2013, and after we went foraging in Green-Wood Cemetery, she presented me with this spoon as a gift. The hand-carved olive wood with a tapered tip and a thin edge, the hefty handle in a diamond shape—all show her art deco flair.”
3. “I just got back from a trip to Hokkaido, Japan, where I got to hang out in volcanic thermal activity spots and natural sulphuric hot springs. I did a lot of shopping there because me and my girlfriend love shopping. We like to buy each other secret presents while we shop in the same store. I don’t know which shop she got this at, but it’s really cute, wacky, and practical. There’s a bend in the spoon so that when you scoop something like jam or honey, the spoon doesn’t get messy. So, yeah, she got me that. We’re really gay.”
4. “This is one of my favorite melamine spoons that I got in 2006 from the old Pearl River Mart in New York for $1.25. I call it a baby spoon because it’s baby blue. I like it for creamy things such as ice cream and yogurt.”
5. “I know that everyone says their grandmother is an amazing cook, but my lola really was. This is a melamine spoon from her collection. She and my mother come from Pampanga, which is known as one of the culinary epicenters of the Philippines. If you’re from Pampanga, you have an excellent palate. My lola was an insane cook and baker, holding it down at family parties and on holidays. She was 100 years old when she passed away a couple of years ago, and everyone in my family fought over her different collections. I saw this beauty flapping about in my mother’s drawer this past Christmas, remarked how pretty it was, and now it’s mine.”
6. “This silver slotted antique spoon was a relic from the first legit kitchen I worked in, at Vinegar Hill House in Brooklyn, back in 2007. It’s perfect for sieving food quickly into a diner’s portion, and was probably made by a Christian, hence the cross on the top.”
7. “This spoon gets a ton of use in my kitchen. It’s about four years old, but it’s pretty banged up with a chip on the bowl, probably because some joker threw it in the dishwasher. I use it for stirring stews and sauces. I love how long the handle is because it protects your hand from the bubbling and steam, and because it’s wooden, you can taste as you go. In professional kitchens, you often use a plastic spoon because of the Department of Health regulations, but that’s bullshit for home cooking. If I’m making a meal for you it’s because I love you, so you probably won’t mind if I taste the food. If you do mind, you probably weren’t invited in the first place.”
8. “This was my all-time favorite spoon until 2012. I saved it because I’m a sap. One night I got stoned and wanted to use it to eat ice cream, but the ice cream was so hard that it cracked the bowl and the neck. Now I keep it around to touch it, feel the irregular carved grooves, and get misty-eyed.”
9. “This was a gift from Ferran Adrià, who is such a baller that he had someone design spoons specifically to his tastes. At his restaurant El Bulli, they popularized spherification, which is the gastronomic term for creating caviar with any type of juice. Think cantaloupe caviar. This limited-edition, 24-karat straining spoon can collect your spherical caviar blobs from their liquid for ease-of-plating and maximum style. But this spoon in particular was made for a cereal eater who likes to eat her cereal first and drink the milk later. For real.”
10. “Gray Kunz is a famous Singaporean-born Swiss chef who works in New York and who I look up to because he developed such a utilitarian spoon that you’ll find it in most nerdy New York kitchens. This is the slotted small Kunz spoon. You can get them for, like, $14 a piece at JB Prince, which is the ultimate nerd-chef store. I have a JB Prince sticker on my laptop, and if you know, you know.”
11. “I got these two during a wild trip to Morocco last year. They were only 50 cents total at the medina in Marrakesh. They’re ideal for doling out dry powders like flour, or any of the massive piles of spices you find there. Perfect scoopers.”
This article appears in the March 2020 issue of Interview Magazine. Subscribe here.