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The $12 Essential That Gets a Chef Through a Long Day in the Kitchen

Chef Diana Dávila swears by coconut oil, and not for cooking

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Born and raised in the Chicago area, Diana Dávila has channeled her deeply personal take on Mexican cuisine into Chicago’s Mi Tocaya, the award-winning restaurant where she’s both owner and executive chef. Holding down the fort in the Mi Tocaya kitchen, Dávila relies on plenty of tools. She blends the many sauces on her menu with a hand blender (for chunkier salsas like the cacao salsa) or a Vitamix for “a silky smooth sauce.” She plates dishes, like peanut butter and lengua, with rubber mixing spatulas which are “helpful for getting everything off the side of a pan… and they help us combat waste by being able to scrape every last bit of a sauce out of a container.”

But the real MVP of Dávila’s kitchen is a humble tub of coconut oil that never even makes it into the food. While the specific flavor of coconut oil isn’t part of her menu, Dávila swears by it “on skin and lips.” During a long day in the hot kitchen, she says, “It works as a nice barrier against the heat and is hydrating for dry skin.” Dávila also has long hair — which she wears ponytail, bun, or braid (sometimes adding colorful flowers) for work — and says, “I also use coconut oil in my hair as a mask.”

When she comes home for the night to her family, she uses it to cleanse and remove makeup, simply by putting a small amount on her face and rinsing it off. “It really does take everything off and it leaves my skin really soft,” she says. All in a day’s work of running a restaurant.

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