Ellen Reinheimer Whitaker (ewhitaker) Tue 7 Dec 99 09:38
As far as "kitchen essentials" go, we noted a few major trends (but did not really track the type of small appliances/"gadgets" listed in your question). The large design ideas that emerged are: Primary eating space in the kitchen - very few had separate dining rooms. Lidia Bastianich prefers to entertain at her large farm table in the kitchen and says her dining room is rarely used because it "cuts the cook off from the party"; Larger and deeper than normal sinks, for big post, sheet pans, etc.; Two sinks - distinct areas for food preparation and clean up; Higher than normal work surfaces - 37 or 38" high counters, so they can work without bending over; Speedy dishwashing - some chefs have commercial dishwashers (Hobart) with 90-second cycles, some had two dishwashers - Lydia Shire has a dishwasher in the kitchen proper and a second one in her pantry; High-end fire power - there were many brands of ranges and cooktops mentioned (Wolf, Thermador, Viking, Dacor and Gaggenau led the list). Most of the chefs opted for 6 burners, two ovens and high BTU output. We did note, however, that a majority have quality stoves built for =residential= use, and they cautioned strongly against buying a straight "commercial" range and installing it at home (commercial ranges are not insulated as well as residential models, for starters.) The manufacturers of high-end ranges, ovens and cooktops now all make "commercial-quality, residential" equipment. The biggest design controversy was open storage (shelves w/ no doors, open pantries, equipment hanging on walls or on racks) vs. lots of cabinets/the "put-away" look. The group was split right down the middle, ranging from Tom Douglas' Seattle kitchen with =everything= out and at hand to Joachim Splichal's LA kitchen with the most beautifully designed, ingenious and extensive cabinetry I've ever seen.
Reva Basch (reva) Tue 7 Dec 99 12:25
I love the idea of a quick-cycle dishwasher. Do they really work as well as the conventional kind? My own experience with open shelving is from my whole-grain early Berkeley days: Love the look of stuff -- beans in jars, colorful imported packages, herb vinegars -- but, unless you can live with the layers of grease and dust that accumulates on everything... I mean, you shouldn't have to DUST your groceries.
Linda Castellani (castle) Tue 7 Dec 99 12:59
True! Ellen, would you please say more about Joachim Splichal's cabinetry and what makes it so spectacular. Details, please!
Ellen Reinheimer Whitaker (ewhitaker) Wed 8 Dec 99 12:18
I don't own one, but as far as I understand the quick-cycle dishwashers work very well (they're designed for commercial applications, so I guess they'd have to). Yeah, dusting the groceries is way down on my list too. But I think that having a good, high-powered vent goes a long way toward alleviating the grease part of the problem. When we talked to Ken Hom about the cleaning difficulties that come along with having everything out in your kitchen, he said that if it's an "active" kitchen - where everything's being used frequently - you have much less problem with dust and grease build-up. I guess that makes sense, even though I don't =totally= buy it. Linda, Joachim Splichal's maple cabinets are very nicely designed. Examples: His work island has two dozen small (maybe 4"x6"x10" deep) drawers with glass fronts that run around the top of the island. They make a handy and very attractive display of spices and dried ingredients such as beans and pastas. (The Brittany sea salt drawer is directly opposite the range.) Also, on one side of the island, the drawers are both horizontal and vertical for storage of different-sized equipment. Some of the drawers are extra-deep for large pots and pans. Additionally, Joachim's kitchen has a wide back hall that is fitted out with three large, floor-to-ceiling pantry cabinets and a second refrigerator. Good china is housed in nifty cabinets with pull-out shelves, so you never have to unload what's in front to get at something in the back. But my favorite use of cabinets is to create an open division (as well as a storage area) between the kitchen and an eating banquette and table. The counter runs at a right angle out from the wall that has the sink and range. Cabinets over the counter have ripple-glass doors =on both sides= so that they can be opened from the eating area or the kitchen and the light from large windows over the table floods through the cabinets, into the kitchen. If you're into cabinets, his kitchen is well worth some study.
Linda Castellani (castle) Wed 8 Dec 99 13:11
Thank you. That does sound spectacular!
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Wed 8 Dec 99 13:40
Oh my. I love the idea of the narrow, glass-fronted drawers for grains and dry pastas. Ellen, were you bold enough to ask any of these chefs how much money they put into these fabulous kitchens?
Ellen Reinheimer Whitaker (ewhitaker) Wed 8 Dec 99 17:53
Well, I =wanted= to ask how much they'd spent, but didn't. Actually, I'm sure the price tags are all over the map since some of the chefs just updated their equipment and made a few aesthetic improvements, while others did whole hog, ground-up construction. Also, the kitchens range in size from 10'x10' to 21'x65'!
Linda Castellani (castle) Wed 8 Dec 99 22:38
But somewhere up there didn't it say that the books contains price charts or some such? I just assumed that meant the prices of the things in the kitchens you showed. If that's right, couldn't we just kinda extrapolate?
David Chaplin-Loebell (dloebell) Thu 9 Dec 99 04:06
I'd be interested in hearing about the 10'x10' kitchen. My kitchen's about that size.
Reva Basch (reva) Thu 9 Dec 99 09:01
I wondered about the cost factor, too. I mean, these folks are all successful, well-established chefs. What are we common folk to do? Talk about not totally buying a concept, I'm not quite sure what to think of those arrangements -- a couple of people had them, if I remember correctly -- of drawers packed with open-top spice bins. I worry about freshness; those are big containers, and you'd have to go through an awful lot of stuff very quickly, it seems to me, if you don't want to end up with dusty, tasteless ex-spices. And there's the mess factor -- stuff getting into other stuff as you scoop it up in the heat of your creative frenzy. Or maybe I'm just projecting. otoh, I've never solved the spice storage problem in a satisfactory way, and this obviously works for some people.
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Thu 9 Dec 99 10:06
(once more, to purchase Ellen's "Great Kitchens" book, visit: http://www.well.com/bookstore/index.html and click on the book cover, which will whisk you right off to amazon.com. In addition to being a great addition to any home cook's collection of culinary texts, it might also be a wonderful gift for that hard-to-buy-for friend who's always inviting you over for gourmet meals at his/her house) Ellen, since you've had the opportunity to see so many marvelous kitchens, which aspects of each kitchen you saw would you like to combine into your own dream kitchen?
Ellen Reinheimer Whitaker (ewhitaker) Thu 9 Dec 99 12:28
Re $$, must be another kitchen design book. We included a list of resources - manufacturers' names and phone numbers, but no prices. The smallest kitchen in the book belongs to Cecilia Chiang, widely considered to be the single greatest influence on the Chinese (Mandarin) restaurant scene in the U.S. Before she opened The Mandarin in San Francisco, the only Chinese food to be had in this country was Cantonese (egg foo yong, chop suey, etc.). So, thank Cecilia next time you blithely order Mongolian beef or kung pao shrimp. Cecilia is retired now (she just turned 80!), although she is frequently drafted to help open new restaurants such as SF's pan-Asian phenomenon, Betelnut. At home, Cecilia's kitchen demonstrates a careful working-out of what to do with a small space when you love to cook. She opened the kitchen up on two opposite sides; to the dining room and the family room. (The dining room side has folding louvered doors which can be closed for formal dinners.) Cecilia's "hot line," with a four-burner cooktop, grill, built-in wok, and a few feet of counter space takes up one wall. The recessed wok has a hinged, stainless steel cover that creates a little more work area when it's closed. The facing wall houses a Sub-Zero refrigerator - there's a second refrigerator in the garage - two Thermador wall ovens, and a few cabinets. In the center of the room, Cecilia put a large, square chopping-block-topped island with a huge skylight and square pot rack overhead. The island has the sink and dishwasher at one end (a good arrangement, Cecilia says, even though you have to be careful to keep the chopping block countertop oiled so water from the sink doesn't ruin it) and, at the other end, a tilt-up, 2' extension to the chopping block, which she presses into service when she's cooking with friends, hosting a crowd, or teaching a class - the extended island top actually protrudes into the family room. Actually, there's very little floor space in this kitchen, just a narrow walkway around the center island. On the aesthetic side, Cecilia kept the kitchen extremely simple, since it's open to the other living spaces. Plain white-painted cabinets with no observable hardware and the use of the same-sized brown tile for the counters, backsplash and floor make a nice foil for her elaborate dining room which features a gorgeous, ornate, carved rosewood table and tons of Chinese art and antiques. You have to seek them out - because the over-the-top kitchens in the book are so, well, eye-catching - but there are =plenty= of solid, simple design ideas for the rest of us (you, too, Reva!) For instance, Nancy Silverton and Mark Peel's (LA's LaBrea Bakery and Campanile restaurant) kitchen is very modest and, to my eye, quite lovely. They specifically said that they didn't want a high-end, professional kitchen at home, so they worked with what was there when they bought their house. By replacing cabinet doors, painting woodwork, and re-tiling the countertops, they created a very homey, warm, old-fashioned kitchen that is perfectly in keeping with their 80-year-old Craftsman home. They also pulled up new oak floors because Nancy hated the way they looked, exposing Douglas fir underneath, which they thought was perfect. Because they decided to leave all the cabinets as is, they had to scramble to find updated appliances that would fit the existing spaces. A Dacor four-burner cooktop suited perfectly, but to install their new KitchenAid refrigerator, the couple had to borrow some space from a closet behind the kitchen. In other chapters, chefs talk about such thrifty ideas as: adapt free-standing armoires or other antiques for kitchen storage - it can be a lot cheaper than custom cabinetry (Bruce Aidells/Nancy Oakes); acquire a few "stock" commercial pieces such as rolling units with storage racks below and a butcher block top - they're generally pretty inexpensive and can add a welcome flexibility to your kitchen (Anne Quatrano/Clifford Harrison, also Tom Douglas); get an attractive stainless steel dish drainer and hang it right over the sink, freeing up counter space in a small kitchen (Charles Dale); make a garbage cutout, with a waste can directly underneath, in your prime area for food preparation (Tom Douglas, also Paul Bertolli). And that's just a few ideas! On to the thorny question of spice storage. As I recall, Tony Ambrose is the only chef in the book who has open "pinch trays" for spices. And they're in a drawer next to the range, so he can close them up to some degree anyway. Yeah, I guess wastage would be a problem if you don't use a lot of spices, but Tony points out that if you have to go opening up little bottles all the time, you'll never really experiment and become adept/creative with them. Maybe a solution would be to load a drawer with small open trays for the 6-8 spices you use frequently (as many cooks do with Kosher or sea salt) and then store the rest in their little bottles/cans. Also, did you check out Tom Douglas' homemade spice rack constructed of magnetic strips and small tin boxes? Pretty neat. Things I'd have in my dream kitchen: A cook-in fireplace and pizza oven A true island instead of a long countertop that comes out at right angles from the wall (I'd like to be able to get to the dining table from either side of the kitchen) Granite countertops (my current French-import tile is lovely, but the grout is very hard to clean and not very pastry-friendly) with a garbage cutout A quick-cycle dishwasher A refrigerator with the freezer on the bottom Some better-designed cabinets that really fit my equipment, or maybe a few antique armoires customized for storage A beautiful overhead pot rack loaded with copper pots A more accessible, bigger walk-in pantry (to get into my current pantry-cum-laundry-room, you have to leave the kitchen and walk a few steps down a hall) Two sinks - one for prep, one for cleanup Finally, a little trapdoor in the floor with a staircase down to a root cellar and wine storage (yes, I'm incurably romantic). That's not asking for much, is it?
Reva Basch (reva) Thu 9 Dec 99 12:54
No, not a whole lot! Our current kitchen floor -- Mexican pavers -- drives Jerry crazy, because you (read: he) just can't keep 'em clean. And both of us dislike the tile countertops, for exactly the reason you mention. It's a very narrow kitchen too, which you don't notice when you're working alone, but with two people, you have to sidle by one another. Still, it works pretty well, and the most appealing element, which I noticed most of your chefs' kitchens had, too, is that it's open to the dining area and to having friends hang out with you while you cook. Ellen, this is such a visual book, and a visual topic: Are any of the pictures from the book online anywhere? Do you have a web site for it? I should have asked you this at the beginning.
Ellen Reinheimer Whitaker (ewhitaker) Fri 10 Dec 99 12:42
Yes, virtually all of the kitchens are open to a dining/living area, so entertaining really centers on cooking - not surprising for chefs, or for anyone who likes to cook. I think cleaning and maintenance issues are generally forgotten when kitchen design is happening. One of my favorite tips from the book is =insist= on thin grout lines if you're having a tile floor or countertop installed. Cleanup is so much easier! Well, a few bits from Great Kitchens are on Taunton's website, www.taunton.com, but I haven't had the time to put up a separate site. It =is= an extremely visual book (about 300 photos) that was labor-intensive and (I guess) relatively expensive to produce, so we're hoping people will want to buy it, rather than just viewing it online.
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Fri 10 Dec 99 15:16
> we're hoping people will want to buy it, rather than just viewing it > online. Seems reasonable. I checked out that Web site and I'm even more tantalized, Ellen. > cleaning and maintenance issues are generally forgotten when > kitchen design is happening. I was wondering about that. Those glass-fronted drawers for grains sound like they'd require cleaning after every meal is prepared. At least they would the way I fling food around when I'm flailing in the kitchen. I'm thinking of having my kitchen done in camoflage. ;-)
Reva Basch (reva) Sat 11 Dec 99 11:53
This is the official ending time for our interview with Ellen Whitaker, author of the lovely and inspring Great Kitchens: At Home With American's Top Chefs. Of course, everyone's free to hang around and talk about food, cooking and kitchen design indefinitely, as far as I'm concerned. But I'd like to thank Ellen for the terrific interview, and wish her continued success with the book.
Ellen Reinheimer Whitaker (ewhitaker) Sat 11 Dec 99 21:59
Thanks to all you Well-ites for asking me to do this interview and for posing such interesting (at least, to me) questions. All fast balls down the center, gracefully hanging curves and honest change-ups. Not a spit-ball in the bunch! I wish all interviews were this much fun. See you around.
Erik Van Thienen (levant) Sun 12 Dec 99 02:46
Thank *you* !
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Sun 12 Dec 99 17:39
Yes, thanks for telling us such tantalizing things about your book, Ellen. I've really enjoyed this interview.
Linda Castellani (castle) Mon 13 Dec 99 13:56
Me, too. Can't wait to see the book and start dreaming!
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