Food & Drink

‘Top Chef’ Finalist Dan Jacobs Shares 3 Go-To Adaptive Cooking Tools

In season 21 of Top Chef, you may have cheered on James Beard nominee and Milwaukee local Dan Jacobs as he impressed judges with his creative dishes. Aside from accomplishing challenges with flair in his hallmark turquoise glasses, Jacobs also openly shares his journey as a working chef navigating frenzied professional kitchens while living with Kennedy’s Disease. 

Jacobs was diagnosed with the genetic neuromuscular condition in the same year that he opened DanDan and EsterEv in Milwaukee with co-owner Dan Van Rite. The disease, which can sometimes be mistaken for ALS, causes muscle weakness and atrophy over time. Since his diagnosis, Jacobs has helped raise more than $100,000 in funds for Kennedy’s Disease through local initiatives, including Milwaukee’s first annual Kennedy’s Disease fundraiser called Dim Sum + Give Some, a charity gala put on by Jacobs and other industry professionals.

Kennedy’s disease impacts mobility and Jacobs uses adaptive tools to stay nimble in the kitchen. Thanks to these tools, he maintains speed and dexterity to deliver the perfect dish, both on set and in his own restaurants. Jacobs recently shared with us his top three tools, including a rolling garlic peeler, these easy-to-pinch tweezers, and super sharp kitchen scissors.

Cestari Silicone Easy Roll Garlic Roller


“It’s great because you can put the cloves of garlic inside of it and use your hand for pressure to rub the skins off,” Jacobs shares. “When you’re peeling garlic without a tool like this, and you want to keep it whole, you have to use a knife — and because of the way my fingers have lost their precision, this is challenging for me.” The silicone garlic roller is also dishwasher-safe and the peels easily shake out into the trash for quick cleanup.

Coutelier Nola Tweezer


A pair of easy-to-pinch tweezers is another must-have adaptive cooking tool. According to Jacobs, these Coutelier Nola tweezers “literally act like dexterous fingers. They allow me to put things where I want to put them with precision. I also like to use the longer tweezers for grilling. When it comes to grilling, tongs are too hard for me to squeeze, so these long tweezers come in really handy.”

Joyce Chen Original Unlimited Kitchen Scissors


“First off, they’re really sharp,” Jacobs says of these Joyce Chen kitchen scissors. “This makes it super easy for me to cut things and use that ‘push’ or ‘squeeze action’ as I would with a pair of traditional kitchen scissors. That thumb squeeze that you need with a pair of scissors is really hard for me, so these shears are a great tool.”

On competing as a Top Chef contestant with Kennedy’s disease, Jacobs shares, “A big reason I wanted to compete on Top Chef was to inspire people with disabilities. I hope this platform allows me to inspire people who are differently-abled to pursue their passions, especially in the culinary world, where physical constraints can be a big barrier.”

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