What Ben Van Leeuwen Can't Live Without in His Kitchen

Like his famous ice creams, the co-founder keeps it simple without sacrificing quality.

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September 09, 2022

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Photo by: Photo courtesy of Van Leeuwen

Photo courtesy of Van Leeuwen

For Van Leeuwen’s artisan ice cream, co-founder and CEO Ben Van Leeuwen turns out made-from-scratch pints like Marionberry Cheesecake, Honeycomb and Peanut Butter Brownie Chip with real, premium ingredients like fresh cream, cane sugar, extra egg yolks, French chocolate, Italian pistachios and sun-ripened berries. Creative vegan recipes made from coconuts, cashews and oats (Cookie Crumble Strawberry Jam, anyone?) don’t skimp on the flavor, either. By choosing to exclude common additives like dry or condensed milk, stabilizers and corn syrup and focusing on the good stuff, Van Leeuwen proves the power of quality — and simplicity. We asked the ice cream entrepreneur to share the top-grade tools, ingredients and other essentials that improve his time in the kitchen, all shoppable online.


While it might seem like there’s a new direct-to-consumer pan on the market every day, Van Leeuwen stays loyal to one of the classics. “I love All-Clad sauce pans and sauté pans,” he says. “They feel good in your hand and have great conductivity. I’m not a nonstick pan person — put a little oil in and I never have trouble.”

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Sometimes Van Leeuwen gets cooking inspiration from his ice cream flavors. “I always have pistachio butter at home since we use so much in production for our Sicilian pistachio ice cream,” he says. “I’ve found it’s an awesome ingredient for salads or sauce or more classically sweet things like nut butter on toast.”

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Having worked as a server in many restaurants before starting his eponymous brand, Van Leeuwen swears by this modest corkscrew. “I always used it and realized this is the world’s best wine opener,” he says. “It’s so durable. I like it better than any of the really expensive fancy ones that look like bunny rabbits.”

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If you’re the type who likes to finish off an entire pint of ice cream while watching TV, you can’t do better than Van Leeuwen Praline Butter Cake. “It’s great because if you’re in the mood for cake, you get to satisfy that craving too,” says Leeuwen. You can also feel good about eating this flavor. “The brown butter cake pieces come from Greyston Bakery in Yonkers, which is a really nice company that employs people who have trouble finding jobs and trains them.”

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For a twist on the typical vanilla ice cream and dessert pairing, Van Leeuwen recommends his brand’s Earl Grey Tea flavor. “It sounds unusual, but it’s still versatile and has mass appeal,” he says. “It goes so well with just about anything, especially any pie or cake that’s fruit based.”

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For delicious, easy-to-cook rice, Van Leeuwen likes this compact machine. “All you do is follow the directions and it gives you that slightly chewy texture on each grain,” he says.

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When it comes to dishes, Van Leeuwen recommends one of his best friends and talented potter Jordan Colón. “Everything he makes is wood-fired in this huge, underground Japanese-style pottery oven,” says Van Leeuwen. “The colors are beautiful.”

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This simple peeler developed a massive — if unlikely — following in New York City where an enigmatic salesman sold the device in Union Square Greenmarket for decades, appearing in the likes of The New York Times and Vanity Fair. “I must have bought mine from him when I was 16,” says Van Leeuwen. “I still have it and have never sharpened it. It’s far and away the most ergonomic peeler.” Today you can find the same one online.

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Craving a spicy snack? Van Leeuwen can’t get enough of these whole Calabrian chili peppers. “I love making a sandwich with them, Wild Planet smoked sardines, mayonnaise, lettuce and toasted frozen sourdough bread from my local bakery in Greenpoint,” he says.

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This sleek pepper mill is a favorite of professional chefs and design enthusiasts alike. “My dad’s wife gave me hers when they moved in together,” says Van Leeuwen. “She had it for 40 years and it still works perfectly.”

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