The Maginot Line, Or, How To Defend Your Kitchen Core

johnliu_gwJuly 7, 2010

misanthrope: a person who hates or distrusts humankind

I hesitate to admit this, but that sometimes describes me during a dinner party. Oh, we all start out with the best of intentions. Our shopping is all done ahead, ingredients are all ready, our mise is prepared, we may even have flowcharts and timing plans figured out - and then Things Go Wrong.

I read a book once about the military. How silly the rigid chain of command, rote drills, and massive redundancy seem to civilians. How much more efficient private business is, surely. But, said the writer, how would that lean, flexible, low-cost private enterprise cope when Things Go Wrong? When mortar salvos are landing in the secretarial pool, machine gun fire is ripping through the executive suite, airstrikes are pounding the just-in-time supply chain? Things Go Wrong.

No-one has machine-gunned my kitchen yet, unless you count verbal abuse, but when the scallops are scorching, the chard is wilting to mush, smoke is issuing from the broiler, and the sauce just broke . . . okay, it's not the fighting retreat from Chosin, the desperate street battles of Hue, or the doomed Charge of The Light Brigade, but it is definitely time for some martial law. Some triage. The wilted greens, they are past saving, but we can salvage the bavette and maybe the sauce, if we move fast.

Arrgh, what's this, wandering into my path? A small child, looking for a glass? A revered elder, questing for a teaspoon? A hearty guest, looking for a comfortable niche to park his wine-swilling rear? Kill them, kill them all, collateral damage be damned!

I've mentioned before, that my ideal kitchen would be in the basement, from where food can be sent up in a dumbwaiter. Just me, plenty of steel, and a few buddies who know the secret club password. We'll crank up The Clash, knock back single-malt, char meat with flame, and chant the club motto - No Girls No Girls No Girls! No, seriously. We're all too decrepit to let girls in the clubhouse. Ladies, now that is a different story. But I digress. And offend, no doubt.

My ideal kitchen is not going to be. SWMBO won't allow it. We must have a Pretty Kitchen. But I still want to find some way to defend the cook's space. Barring chainlink fence or strobe lights, how to do this?

The idea is, to have range, prep zone, and prep sink clustered tightly together in the core of the kitchen, and to have Absolutely Nothing There that anyone but the cook could possibly want to access. No glassware. No silverware. No beverages. No coffee maker. No plates, no snacks, no microwave, no teapot, no wine opener, no no no. Especially, no comfortable place to lean. Only pots, pans, knives, prep bowls, onions, sauces, burners, cutting board, spatulas, and raw food.

Everything else will live on the periphery, where appetizers are arranged, drinks are poured, rugrats spill soda and revered elders hold forth about their time in the frozen Chosin and similar long-ago days, clogging traffic and swilling wine.

Does this make sense? Anyone design a kitchen like this? A kitchen organized like an onion, in layers? Will it work? Should I just take a Valium?

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So funny!! I totally agree. I cannot understand why people want company when they cook when I cannot tolerate anyone near me. I am counting out something and they are chatting. Oh, where was I?

2. Or they bring something, a course, and often it's partially prepared. So I have to stop what I'm doing and monkey around with their stuff-oh I guess it then becomes mine. Sometimes the offering is a surprise. When I bring something, it's ready to serve, in or with a serving dish and utensils. I actually think about it.

3. Nice gesture, but please don't bring me flowers. I already have the ones I want. You all will be offended but I have to stop, cut stems, find a vessel, find a place in a crowded k, and that sets me back. And I always give myself extra time,-and I do make timing charts ;)and have the serving pieces ready

4. I, too, want a basement k, with a dumbwaiter and peace and quiet.

5. It's difficult for me to cook and be a hostess at the same time. I do prepare ahead and get catered.

I have a one butt kitchen.

John, you've described exactly my feelings only in a marvelously witty way-which I could never do. Thanks for writing. Always a treat to read yours.

6. I sound like a crabby, ungrateful, b---h. Go ahead, call me names.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 4:11AM
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westsider - I hope nobody resorts to name calling. Your comments brings to mind the saying "different strokes for different folks". Some people are in disbelief, maybe even horrified, when they find out I planned my kitchen and opened walls adjoining the kitchen to have the party near me or right by my side.
...and john, that was an enjoyable morning read. After you get your mankitchen in the basement, you need to put a writing studio next to it.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 6:09AM
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"Mankitchen" refers to the fact that john wants the kitchen in the basement away from people. It has nothing to do with having an organized kitchen.

- I thought about it and I decided my comment may need some clarification so no one takes it in a negative way :)

    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 6:26AM
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What a great am chuckle to start my day with! johnliu, yes, you need to take a valium, but you are very funny!

Westsider and you may draw lines in your kitchen, but there will always be folks like me, drawn to the action, who will be invading the space, wanting to be part of the spectacle. But, while in the midst of harassing, I will be pouring your wines and beers to keep them full. The chard may be wilted, but we will all be of good cheer!

country smile, I think we could cook well together!

    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 6:33AM
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Ah, well - the answer is no. You can try all you like and it won't work. Child will still ask you for the glass and revered elder will not be able to find the spoons.

People, unfortunately, like you, want to talk, want to see what you're cooking, need help, want to help and really don't care if the meal is on time or is as perfect as you'd like to make it. For them, the evening is about the people, socializing and some food. For you, the evening is about the art of cooking and presentation of the food. Then socializing.

Setting things up so the popular reasons for coming into the kitchen lead people elsewhere is a fine thought. It will divert about 20% of the interruptions. If you can manage to put your main prep space between you and them, it will satisfy their need to chat with you or see what you're cooking without physically blocking your space. I know that's only marginally possible in the design you're going with.

So, you can have the "Man cooking - stay well back" sign or biometric locks on the kitchen door and they won't matter when the position of the ref leads them into your side of the kitchen.

Have a really fine beer, mourn and get over it! It's not the kitchen's fault and not the design's fault and not the company's fault. Stop thinking clash (showing your very young age) and starting thinking rolling stones. Version chosen to remind you that everyone has different points of view.

Here is a link that might be useful: Kitchen design theme song

    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 7:00AM
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I know what you mean John --I'll be cooking dinner and then DH will appear and start cooking dinner for the dogs (yup, for the dogs. turkey burgers, rice, veggies and assorted vitamin additives -- they have to eat too!) and I'll mutter and push stuff aside. But, in truth, I am so happy to have him there ( and to have the dogs there as well) -- and if he were not there (dirtying up my burners but oh well) I would just be cooking for myself, and that's no fun.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 7:34AM
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I don't understand why it Wouldn't work if designed properly --except that I don't know if it would work in your current design concept, I don't remember it.

After all, isn't this what people do when they set up zones and there is essentially a butler's pantry area that has all the glasses, dishes, flatware, etc. stored by the "clean up zone" and a "snack zone" with a drinks fridge, coffee maker etc.?

I thought that this is what a number of people were trying to accomplish in here, in theory, anyway. Your idea just sounds a bit more "structured". Restaurant kitchens tend to be set up like this.

Just because someone could come in an ask for a glass or silverware doesn't mean it has to be in your cooking command central. Your answer could well be "over there, middle drawer." Or in the house I grew up in "Did you intentionally Wait til I was this busy to get a glass? Get Out! Wait until dinner!" Sometimes people need to learn the concept of delayed gratification.

Of course, I don't know if your currently drawn concept works like this or not, or whether you have the real estate to do so.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 8:18AM
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I perked up when I saw your name, and you did not disappoint. Please tell me that you write for a living and where I might read more of your wonderful observations.


    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 8:55AM
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Ahhh, John, your scenario is missing an ingredient! "The Official Host/ess" is the one who steers the traffic, gives out information, furnishes guests requests, and generally keeps the distractions to the cook at a minimum. This works well for a single cook household. If you have two cooks, well, you've already surrendered a bit of your independence and might as well just plan an evening incorporating the guest's help with everyone assigned a task---much like the military!

And, I think we may have all received a compliment if listening to The Clash shows our "very young age" LOL! I'd hesitate to mention that Nine Inch Nails is often played during meal preparation for fear that I might be considered not just young but infantile! LOL!

    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 9:16AM
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Please don't take a valium.....start a blog instead and give us the link so I can read it regularly! In answer to your question, though....I think the best you can do is to design the core as you detailed, and then invest in a roll of bright yellow "Crime Scene - Do Not Pass" plastic streamer tape. Just tape a swag of that from the island to the countertop (or whatever opening best protects the heart of the kitchen from trespassers.) If masking tape to hold the ends of the crime scene tape is too tacky, you could tie it in a bow to the kitchen hardware, or invest in a couple of heavy doorstop thingies to set on the counters and hold the ends of the swag. You could even add a few other bright yellow pops of accent color to the rest of the kitchen.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 9:44AM
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John, this was so well written - & so familiar - it made my morning! The problem is that guests like to be in the kitchen because they want you to be part of the party & they want to be where the action is - & you're the action. It's entertaining for non-cooks to watch a 'professional'! My pet peeve is someone trying to engage me in a serious conversation when I'm trying to do 5 other things simultaneously.

I've had kitchens that weren't big enough to spit in & yet 20 guests preferred to gather there rather than the large connecting room so this time, the kitchen is the back half of a great room. The real work zone is somewhat blocked by a diagonally placed table, the refrigerator & MW are on the outside perimeter & the flow is much improved when entertaining.

Even if you were in the basement (& I don't recommend it), the stray child & revered elder will make there way down, if for no other reason than to see the basement.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 10:05AM
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John, loved your post!

I have posted here several times over the years in response to people's questions about separate kitchen vs. kitchen open to the living room. I have a separate kitchen for all the reasons you are talking about. To my guests: the TV and stereo are in the living room, now leave me alone! Also, let's not forget Julia Child's frequent advice on her shows that if you drop the roast or something, just put it back on the platter, cause your guests will never know. Well, how can you do that if your guests are all hovering while you're cooking?

Similarly, people post asking about a cooktop on an island facing the living room, so that they "can cook while talking to/facing my guests". Huh? I've got boiling water/hot oil/delicate sauces on my cooktop--how the heck am I "facing my guests" when I am minding my cooktop? Plus, they're yammering--how can I keep track of what I am doing with all that distraction?

Feels so good to get that off my chest. Thanks for the great read!

    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 10:18AM
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So funny! I think you have a book in you. A sort of David Sedaris/cookery book. Thanks to you, I have "London Calling" jamming my brain. And love feeling young early in the morning. Better than a caffeine fix.

About the kitchen defense lines, perhaps some bayonets around the perimeter?

Unfortunately, I think I agree with bmorepanic. You can reduce the interruptions, but people will still wander in, asking for spoons, water, and the general, 'So how goes it?" Of course, you could save the serious flames and sweat-inducing balletic meals for those very close to you who know to leave you alone. Their reward, of course, will be the most phenomenal meal that will be plated for them.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 10:19AM
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I tried this and was undone by the trash. For some reason, when I am moving from range to fridge to sink DH always needs to get to the trash, next to the sink. I put glasses and a bev fridge outside the zone, but forgot about trash. But if it wasn't trash it would be something else. Or they just want to "help". I ended up with a severe burn in the middle of a party because someone got in my way when I was removing something from the oven, and I still have to (bad) scar to prove it.

My mother didn't want anyone in the kitchen so she deliberably did a tiny kitchen. Wouldn't you know people want to be IN the kitchen? Mom is gone, but my father and I banish everyone else on holidays. We have a routine down and the kitchen can't handle more than 2 people.

OMG, and the people who bring something that you need to do something with but they didn't tell you they were bringing it ahead of time? I had a party where a certain person brought 2-3 trays of crudite and store-bought containers of dip...on plastic plates! Sorry, but it wasn't a barbeque, no way I was putting that out for guests. So I had to find decent plates, transfer the food, find bowls to put the dip in. And none of it was eaten. I made vegetable soup later. I understand the person means well, but it throws a wrench in things when you have things all planned out and people show up with stuff. But I should know this by now. 20 years ago I through my first bridal shower for a friend. I was brought up never to ask someone to bring something so I didn't ask any of her relatives to bring food and none offered (responses were all by phone then). I made enough food for 70 people. And I'd say 50 of them brought food. It was insane.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 10:50AM
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I don't mind gifts of liquor. It helps some of the stress for both the cooks and the guests. We're not much of a drinking household, so although I have a decently stocked bar for gatherings, I don't have 3 different kinds of rum and 4 of tequila and 5 of bourbon. If you want something out of the norm, you'd better bring that with you. I don't stock grapefruit juice and cherry liqueur and pickled onions unless I'm planning on serving a libation with those ingredients. Drink your provided cheap vodka and stay out of the way of my chopping up the capers thank you very much.

And you can ask me for the recipe later, (not during prep!) but I won't be able to give it to you. I don't use recipes when I cook. Yes, I know that's annoying to someone who wants to recreate what I've served them, and I appreciate the compliment, but it's just the way my brain works. If I have to write it down, it won't be the same. Don't give me that injured puppy look! I'm not refusing to share with you, I honestly don't know how to quantify what I just created.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 11:22AM
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I think zones help keep people out of the cooking area -- at least with a little practice. My cooking is on one side of the island and others had better steer clear. It took me a couple of family dinners and some advance apologies in case I knocked someone over while moving around quickly, placing appetizers on the breakfast room table and insisting on others bringing beverages or bread and not part of the meal to get things under control. My dishes, glasses and beverage service are all on the other side of the kitchen and in the breakfast room. Yes, I still have family that arrive more than an hour late or someone bring something they didn't say anything about, but it won't be critical.

When all else fails, walk softly and carry a large pot or pan of something very hot. ;-)

    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 11:47AM
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Johnliu, you are such a charming grump! (You too, westsider... I have no other name calling to do.) And yet I see your point.

I had a good ironic laugh in my new kitchen the other day when I was washing dishes with hot water in the big main sink, and DH walks right past the prep sink and sticks the tea pot close to the running water waiting for me to switch to cold so he could fill it up. I said dryly, "We have another sink". (I think he got a little huffy, but he won't be doing that again.) Maybe he misses the sharing aspect of our previous kitchen, or perhaps he truly forgot.

Anyway, THANK YOU for a great laugh! I could read your writing all day long... won't you please answer the question... do you have a blog? (Will you start one?)

LWO, I'm with you on the non-recipes... that's how I cook my best stuff. I do try to recreate on paper for anyone who asks, but I never guarantee my work.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 11:56AM
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Johnliu - Are you my husband writing under a pseudonym? Down to the war references this is his point of view exactly. I suggest he build himself another house in the backyard, but that is if we ever finish this one.

Although I do not share his point of view -- I get it. My motto about entertaining is try to minimize what has to be cooked that moment and prepare as much as possible ahead of time. I want to be visiting with friends and family, not stirring, chopping, checking or more likely burning because I am distracted. When people want to bring stuff I tell them what I am serving and suggest -- veggie side dish, dessert (you can never have enough), bread & cheese and of course the always appreciated wine/booze. Things never go quite as planned, but it always helps to lower your expectations as bit (stop gasping :)

I applaud your desire to create a cook/prep zone and I do think you can be somewhat successful. We have not moved in, but our kitchen is an L around an island. From the inside cabinet corner along the short edge of the island to the next corner is counter, stove, fridge. The fridge can be reached without passing through the "work zone", from where the island seating is. It will require a little training, but we can take the long way around the island to get to everything else without cutting through the work zone. I guess a few choice words from the cook might train us quick ;) And don't forget large aisles if you can afford the space - that way people can pass you without bumping into you.

Sue36 - I love your comment about the trash. Now that I think about it our trash is right in the "cooking zone" - we have failed before we even turned on the stove :) But now I can rethink that one.

Happy cooking, or maybe you should stick to the grill outside, particularly in the winter when it is cold out. No elder or rug rat will follow you there.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 12:03PM
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john- clever and enjoyable post. Dinner party hosting has always been my "thing". Guests can count on good food, at proper serving temperature, in great quantity, on time. I suppose a Kitchen Nazi like me is an odd ball in the Pot Luck Dinner crowd.

I am praying that the layout in my new separate room kitchen serves my need for "core space." I removed the seating area from the island. Perchers will have to move to the back of the kitchen at the table. I placed one of the dishwashers to the back of the island for caterers, but my loveable but impossible to re-train relatives (who insist on ruining my after dinner experience by jumping up from the table as the last fork full of desert has passed their lips, and running to the kitchen for some well intentioned but highly unappreciated clean up) may play with that machine post-dinner from time to time.

There is a big bar in the adjacent room. No need to bother me with their beverage needs. There is 2nd refrig in the laundry room so they can pack away all the unsolicited cold stuff there, or unsolicited warm things on the counter in the pantry. All I want is to possess the 8 feet on the sink side of my island, the first 10 feet behind it, my refrigerator, and my ovens. It is a small piece of the available space in the home.

From one Nazi to another, do you think it would be rude to have a little counter top sign stating, "Henceforth the Kitchen Nazi will not permit the serving of unsolicited side dishes, hors d'oeuvres, or deserts"?

    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 1:07PM
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Thank you! That was fun! Do you have newer plans for your kitchen? I remember stalking your plans several months back...

    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 1:10PM
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John, a great read as always...good luck with your plans to keep everyone out :-) Based on a couple of your other posts on other threads, I would definitely try to maximise your budget for the appliances, as that is clearly what is most important to you - aesthetics be damned!

I am amazed at how many of you mention that guests bring over unsolicited food. Our friends know I love to cook (and always make WAAAAY too much food), so they come hungry and empty handed (aside from the usual niceties like wine/flowers).

Speaking of which, I like the idea of bringing over unusual liquors, and not just wine, as LWO mentioned. Sometimes I've done that thematically (eg Spanish sherry with a pretty bowl of marcona almonds and a jar of Spanish olives, for instance). If we are going to bring flowers, I have often ordered flowers to be delivered earlier in the day to the host/hostess, so they can arrange them as they wish and not have to deal with vases etc when we show up. Because so many guests do bring flowers to our place, I try to have a couple of vases out and tucked in an inconspicuous corner of the kitchen *just in case*, so that I don't have to scramble (the vases are in a high cab over the fridge and not easy to access).

And I also love that listening to The Clash makes me young...does Elvis Costello count too?


PS. John, I also posted some pix of our ss sink on your thread about that - don't know if you saw them...

    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 1:48PM
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And what about the guests who find it odd that you can focus better by listening to a novel on tape while you cook, instead of listening to them?

I don't think I'm a hostile cook, but I'm so used to banning people from my mini-kitchen that I wonder if I'll still be defending the cook space in my new kitchen. I do know this--do NOT stand behind me in any kitchen. Ever. I cannot abide it.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 1:57PM
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''I tried this and was undone by the trash.''

Aieee! This is why the Kitchen Forum is so helpful. I never considered the issue of needing trash on the periphery. Now I definitely will. Thank you.

'' "The Official Host/ess" is the one who steers the traffic, gives out information, furnishes guests requests, and generally keeps the distractions to the cook at a minimum.''

That would be SWMBO, the girl who was born to entertain. Thank goodness.

''this time, the kitchen is the back half of a great room. The real work zone is somewhat blocked by a diagonally placed table, the refrigerator & MW are on the outside perimeter & the flow is much improved when entertaining.''

I really like your kitchen, including the strategically placed table. Your great room also gives guests a comfy place to sit and swill, while still ''hanging out in the kitchen''. It seems like a terrific design.

''people post asking about a cooktop on an island facing the living room, so that they "can cook while talking to/facing my guests". ''

Personally, I think this is influenced by cooking shows, where the hosts have island cooktops with no visible venting, absolute sangfroid, great teeth, and abundant cleavage. (What? I was referring to Mario!) Nothing gets spilled or burned and everything is beautiful, delicious, perfect, wonderful. Yeah, I'd like a pony too, please.

''Stop thinking clash (showing your very young age)''

That has to be the nicest thing anyone has said to me in a while. Mmm, must savour it, mmm.

''Or they bring something, a course, and often it's partially prepared.''

I notice that when people bring dishes, they are either salads, desserts, or something that has to go in the oven. I am hoping that placing serving-ware, microwave, and an oven at the periphery will help. SWMBO always swoops in to handle the brought items.

''try to minimize what has to be cooked that moment and prepare as much as possible ahead of time.''

Whenever possible, absolutely. That definitely makes things less stressful. Unfortunately I seem to like some things that have to be prepared at the last minute and served right away. I hate it when food gets cold on the plates. Which means I would love to find some room for a warming thingy - a warming drawer maybe, more likely a warming shelf.

''do you have a blog?''

That would be too much like work.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 2:04PM
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Island mounted ball turret guns?

Or, do what I did, and for the same reason: a very long island, with the seating exclusively in a galaxy far, far away from the range, which is under a VERY LOUD hood, which gives me an excuse not to hear the people who would interrupt my concentration. I ranted about this a couple of years ago. Maybe I've become weak on the multi-tasking front, now that my kids are grown up, but I really need to concentrate when I cook, especially with sauces. Maybe we could add another forum here: Anti-Social Kitchen Design

    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 2:29PM
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Mine has ended up that way, sorta by accident.

The glassware, beverage fridge, snack fridge, microwave, both dishwashers, and one trash and sink are completely out of the space behind the island. Of course, I have a ton of room to do this, so I don't know how to suggest ways for a more compact place. But I sure like how it works for me... I get that little corner all to myself. :-)

    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 3:16PM
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John, I am really enjoyting this posting and am completely sympathetic to your cause and yes, I date myself to the Clash and earlier (Doobie Brothers, Foreigner, CSN&Y).

I'm only in the early planning stages of my remodel of a smallish one-cook kitchen (never occurred to me that it was small until I started seeing the kitchens posted here), but I'm hoping to put some open shelves on either side of my cooktop to store all my most-used cooking stuff. Pans will be in drawers probably to one side of the cooktop (don't like the idea of having to step to the side of the cooktop when I need a pan and have things already cooking). If I can fit it, I'll have fridge drawer(s) in kitchen side of penninsula for beverages & snacks and the tableware & glasses will all be over on that side of the kitchen to keep people away from my cook & prep zones. I won't have an island to separate me from the masses--I have a small island now (no penninsula) that blocks flow terribly--I can't tell you how many bumps & bruises I've given myself on those corners over the years carting the veggies over to the sink!

Here are some suggestions to keep people out of your zone that have worked for me: play opera music and sing to it whenever possible (at least "la, la, la" or loud humming), have 2-way conversations with yourself (tends to make people uncomfortable) or sing your favorite tunes loudly (hopefully your singing voice isn't too good and tends to be off key). ;)

BTW, if you ever write something for publication, I'd love to be your editor (it's what I do in the real world)!

    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 4:32PM
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John, like most others, I first have to tell you how much I enjoy reading your posts. You really are an excellent writer! But beyond form, I also want to tell you that I'm totally with you on your content. As a single empty nester, I confess that I've grown to truly appreciate total peace and solitude in my cooking zone. On top of that, though, my small, galley-style kitchen is located in a closed off room of its own at the rear of my old house. Perhaps if I had a large kitchen and/or an open floor plan, I might think differently about this matter. But with only 150 sf of cooking space to work with, and with my typical straight from pot-to-table cooking scheme, I have no problem gently, but firmly, banishing those beloved wandering youngsters and revered elders to other parts of my house when Chef Martha is at work. :-) (Mind you, I am continuously engaged in the kitchen banning process until the meal is finally ready for presentation. This because, even after the youngsters and elders are sent on their way, the would-be-cooks and various other interlopers are always waiting in the wings -- at the ready -- to rotate into my "privileged" kitchen space!) Interestingly enough, I hardly ever have this same problem when all are sitting around after dinner patting their bellies while I'm alone in the kitchen cleaning up. LOL!

Sorry I don't have any advice to give you on how to design a "layered" kitchen but I did want to tell you that you are not alone in your preference for a chef-only cooking space . . . even though few of the people we like and love are likely to seriously honor that choice! :-)

    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 8:13PM
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Loved reading your post John! We've mostly solved the problem with the layout of our kitchen post-reno--tabletop with stools at end of kitchen opposite my prep/cooking space and we swapped the LR and DR so there's a nice comfy couch within view and hearing distance for guests who would otherwise be underfoot. Of course, I invariably need to move someone sitting at the tabletop so I can access the pantry cab (always the same friend each time!); someday I will remember to take out everything I need before the guests arrive!

DH on the other hand, is always underfoot while I am cooking, cleaning-up, or unloading the DW. He just won't stay out of my path, so it's his own fault if he gets knocked down, right??? LOL

    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 8:29PM
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Fun post and interesting problem, John. An onion approach sounds great. No one thing that stops people, but lots of things added up.

In addition to the storage functions, etc., you're planning, how about making your private work section a dead end so traffic cannot pass through? People are always drawn toward sunshine--make sure your space is outshone by other areas. If you're the big attraction yourself, keep a full-body apron ready to hide behind.

A long time ago friends who like to entertain created a kitchen with a U-shape island turned upside down inside a big U. She called it her cockpit, but it could be an onion core. People could cruise around the outer layer but were never allowed in. She loved it, but would have to cross her own Maginot line to get to the larger kitchen.

A dead end onion core could instead be a similar sort of cockpit U at one end of kitchen with a bigger U at the other, like a very long continuous counter ending by turning in on itself. The bigger U could even continue farther out and then turn up toward/outside the cockpit to create a breakfast/audience counter layer.

Or maybe your own personal cave? Such as a walk-in pantry AND workspace. It's almost never seen on TV, but Julia Child's kitchen was two rooms, with a small inner work room (door in the wall opposite the windows), which was both windowless AND dead end, if I recall correctly.

Too cavey? Maybe just a short wall creating a private corner as part of your main work space for regrouping? My MIL long ago loved her little out-of-sight corner formed by a short wall in her kitchen. That was where she went to pull up her stockings when guests were over. :)

    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 9:23PM
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Rosie's idea about the cockpit sounds great! On the other hand, I had a more usual dead end in my previous kitchen--a G shape--and it's BAD. It's much harder to banish people if they get in. Much harder to shoo them out. I've grabbed cousins by the shoulders, physically turned them, and pushed.

I feel the same way as you about those who interfere, and I think I did get a lot of what Rosie's friend has, without the embracing sides. Mine is a U with island, pantries across from the U, with the fridge and microwave on one leg, the ovens on the other leg, and the stove, DW and sink on the connecting leg. People can reach whatever they want without getting into the way of the island-prep or stove areas, and, perhaps because people are accustomed to kibbitzing across an island, they stay out of the work area SO much better. I can just ignore them there, or tell them where to get something I need from the pantry, and they talk to each other or leave to find drinks (I always set those up in the other room to keep people out of the kitchen). They don't kibbitz as much if you don't respond, btw!

Either that, or they're too intimidated by the new kitchen. :)

What also helps, because sometimes there are half a dozen people who are supposed to be doing different tasks in my kitchen at one time, is that I have good aisles. The main work aisle is 48". The side aisles where there aren't work counters other than the narrow parts of the island, are 42". It's easy for people to pass.

As to all those questions, I pass them off. "Can I have a spoon?" is answered by "Brother, get her a spoon from the drawer near the dining room." There are always glasses on the beverage table and a moratorium on using kitchen glasses starting an hour before people arrive. I always have fridge space saved for the dishes that I know are coming. For the one I didn't know about, I tell them where the trays, and serving utensils are in the butler's pantry. For the bunch of flowers, I will pull out a florists' vase, which I keep accessible, and tell the bringer to take it into the powder room to fill, and to put it on the beverage table (I don't put flowers there because they tend to arrive).

The great thing about this plan, is that not only don't I have to be distracted by the requirements of the stuff that isn't in my plan, sending them off to do their chores gets them out of my kitchen!!

    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 10:17PM
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"And you can ask me for the recipe later, (not during prep!) but I won't be able to give it to you."

I DO use recipes & I'll be glad to give it to you after dinner, but not during. Invariably, when you tell them it has "onions or olives or sour cream" the one who has been scarfing it down doesn't like onions or olives or sour cream.

"but my loveable but impossible to re-train relatives (who insist on ruining my after dinner experience by jumping up from the table as the last fork full of desert has passed their lips, and running to the kitchen for some well intentioned but highly unappreciated clean up) "

I would LOVE help with the cleaning but PLEASE LET ME FINISH EATING! I've worked hard on this meal & have waited until everyone else is served before serving myself; I'm a slow eater & talk during the meal. Let my food settle, please.

I confronted one of my sisters. I would be getting the turkey carved, making the gravy, serving the oven things when she would come in as I'm trying to get everything on the table and try to make her & her husband's ice tea (getting in the way to get the cups & water & sugar & tea & in the way by blocking traffic at the microwave) and not helping get stuff on the table at all. I told her that she could NOT do that any more--if she wanted to make tea at my house, she had to make it at least an hour before the meal. She thought I was silly but has respected that. (She did walk out once as I was serving spaghetti to buy soft drinks because she didn't like what I was serving. I kept my mouth shut on that one--everyone else knew what a jerk she was--I didn't have to put myself on her level.)

This thread has opened my eyes to one of my friends who never wants help in the kitchen; she told me her husband was in the way of her appetizers last weekend; it never dawned on me she didn't want me there either. I DO want help in the kitchen & am designing our new house's kitchen for multiple persons and assume everyone else does. Next time we talk, I'm going to have to tell to her about this thread.

Let's all be more assertive.

I've enjoyed everyone else's comments and insights. Very entertaining. Thanks for starting it.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 10:35PM
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John - I'm working on a kitchen design that will be somewhat like that.

The design goal is to be able to set and clear the table, get cereal, coffee and cold beverages without getting between the cook and his/her work surfaces, sink, range and ovens.

It's a galley kitchen with a "cooking end" and a "eating" end. One side is all-wall with inset for fridge, the other side is currently all window except for the range hood section.

The prep sink is where the cook's zone starts, with the range and oven(s) inside the zone. There will be plenty of storage for cooking implements inside that zone, and the bulk storage pantry is also inside that zone, where the main frig and freezer are. We don't plan on shopping often.

That means that the DW has to be on the dining side of the sink, and so does the refrigerator. They are sort of the border or DMZ. You can get to them without getting between cook and cooking.

Storage for dinner and serving ware, flatware, the coffee center, and wine storage are all outside the cooking zone, either at the dining room end of the galley or completely outside in the dining room. I have a posh antique buffet I can use.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2010 at 10:00AM
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Wow. I never thought to read anyone else use the word "defend" in regard to kitchens, except me. In a cruel twist of fate, I'm buying a house with a kitchen that's about as defensible as the Neder Rijn bridge. Oh well.

See, the thing about the Maginot line is, it failed. The Germans just went around it. You can put in as many barriers as you want, but bet that some well meaning guest is just going to stand there thinking up a Schlieffen plan to get between you and your saute pan. It's just the way people are these days. If you're going to restrict your social circle to polite and considerate people, it's just gonna be you and Carey Grant on DVD.

So I think all these planning techniques are useful. But not impregnable.

Me, I rely on sheer terror. I cook like a pit bull in a blood rage. You will come between me and the fridge or sink exactly once, if you want to keep your leg. Bump into me once while I'm chopping, and the ER techs won't be able to understand what you're saying through the screaming.

If you want to try this technique, you cannot obey the Geneva Convention. Innocent moms, little children and harmless old ladies--all are legitimate targets. No trying to be "reasonable," or excusing or explaining yourself. It won't work. Your goal is fear-nameless, unreasoning fear. You want panicked hands clutching back the suicidal fools who step into your workspace, terrified faces glancing at each other for reassurance they have not provoked a blowout. Once in a while, you must make a dinner guest cry.

Do all this, and you can relax in your kitchen unmolested. Your guests will have fun, too--in the dining room, where they belong.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2010 at 10:47PM
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Oh no - are you buying a - dare I say it - ''theatre kitchen''? Will it be ''Marcolo Live'' complete with musical guest and Bam ! ? !

I more pictured you in a fortified redoubt. Monte Cassino, let's say. Where you could hold off divisions of small children, revered elders, and hearty guests.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2010 at 12:18AM
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Funny good read John and I can relate.
Assertiveness is as important as or more so than the perfect floor plans.
You can train your family and friends to stay out. My grown sons brains take the clatter of me in the kitchen as a cue that they are hungry and must have food and must have food while I am preparing a meal. They are told to get out and wait. Then dogs come to beg, the big one is partially out of the way as his spot is under the butcher block table, the other near the garbage can and the little one is just there to trip me up, but they are my babies so they can stay. What I really hate though is when guests come in the kitchen and want to help and do not believe you when you say no thank you. I have found you just canÂt beat around the bush about turning them down. One friend would stand at my side and question everything from am I sure I want to put food in that serving dish to asking about a recipe or what ever, drove me nuts. When I would try and give her a job to keep her out of my hair I had to constantly give directions on where the knifes or things are that she needs and all the while she would ask how small to chop veggies or ask if I am sure I even want that item in the recipe because she doesnÂt use it in her recipe. I have wanted to beat her on the head with a dead chicken! Instead of the dead chicken I tried keeping her Stoli martini full but that made her worse. She has since told me a few stories of other women getting out right rude with her when all she wants to do is helpÂsome people will just remain clueless unless you tell them. I finally did tell her she is very annoying to have in the kitchen as help because she is a control freak. Problem solved! Just say NO to kitchen help and traffic, oh, and make sure you have a separate frig for beverages.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2010 at 9:51AM
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beachlily z9a

Oh, my Gaud, this reminds me when I embarassed myself on a Thanksgiving by yelling, "OUT, GET OUT! THE FOOD ISN'T DONE YET!!" That was probably 4 years ago, and to this day, none of those guests edge into the kitchen without an invitation. Funny!

    Bookmark   July 9, 2010 at 10:07AM
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Great thread, and all so true.

In my wide-open kitchen I've learned to belt out a slightly comic theatrical growl when anyone tries to pierce my Maginot line.

It works really well, and people still come to visit us, but no one tries to mess around in my kitchen.

The older I get, the more I have to prepare and cook ahead, and leave myself a list of what I made and where I stored it.

I'll stop now -- I can feel a new thread coming on, "What I forgot to serve at my last dinner party."


    Bookmark   July 9, 2010 at 10:36AM
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Confession time: I knew that I would have to surrender at Thanksgiving. I put in a second cooktop and a second oven in different parts of the kitchen. I also put in a mini kitchen in the gameroom, to which wayward troops can be banished during insurgencies. I am also considering adding an incidental 24 to 27 incher and hood in the laundry room--in a loud and beckoning color. We have a growing third generation in the family and I'm finding myself less tolerant (and more fearful) of kitchen company.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2010 at 10:37AM
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Funny! Plus I learned something (Googled Maginot Line and read the Wikipedia info.)

So I've dreamed of perfectly prepared, styled and served meals too. But I was raised in a family with big family dinners where everyone brings something, so I keep the warming drawer warm and some space in the fridge for the "incoming". I've had some interesting experiences: the BIL who brought a bag of Fritos as a Christmas appetizer or the very energetic terrier (my cousin's) that joined us for Thanksgiving. I stand with an island between me and the chaos, and I actually have fun, gesturing with a big knife when people want to know where to get the wine opener / serving spoon / platter etc. I burn some calories running around, bumping into guests, doling out wine and hugs in equal measure.

And you know what? I think I have more fun and my guests are happier (and more impressed) with lots of yummy yet imperfect food served in the midst of mayhem where everyone got their fingers in the sauce, so to speak, then if I toiled alone and served a picture perfect meal.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2010 at 10:47AM
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Sadly, this kitchen will be too small to be a theater kitchen. Unless it's a puppet theater. The realtor suggested "opening up" the kitchen into the dining room, but quickly piped down after I shot her a look implying that if there ever were any such opening, it would be realtor-shaped.

Don't worry, you'll all have a chance to have at it once we tackle the kitchen in the fall. First I need a contractor in Boston who won't charge 20K to gut and redo a 5 x 7 bath.

I do like the redoubt idea, especially the thought of being protected by two-foot-thick concrete walls with only narrow slits through which to fire, um, serve food.

I haven't been following the board much, distracted by my house purchase, but have you posted a layout recently? There are many interesting tricks used to direct traffic flow in retail stores, casinos and other temples of consumerism. If you can get hold of an article from a trade book or mag, it might give you some ideas.

I remember one accidental traffic flow that used to baffle architecture students in college. There was a busy pathway across a courtyard into a corner entry where two buildings met at a right angle. The courtyard had raised rectangular planting beds right across your path, so you had to walk around them no matter which way you were coming. In other words, if the beds weren't there, you'd naturally walk from the near corner of the planting bed to its exact opposite corner. No one actually crossed the beds because there were trees in the middle, so they had to go around. The funny thing is, people always chose the path that followed the shorter side of the rectangular beds first, even though the distance was exactly the same no matter which way you walked. You still had to follow either a long side of the rectangle, then turn down a short side, or vice versa. But the short side always won out.

Psychology. Use it.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2010 at 11:11AM
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I wonder if that first turn was a right-handed turn.

Johnliu, you could tile the kitchen floor so that the organized onion layers can be seen with the change of color and felt by a change in texture. There could be an outer area acceptable to observers helping keep you company, a one-tile transitional boundary area, and an inner sanctum where the critical cook spinning around on his heels choreography is performed. Those who move into the boundary area are given a summons to move back.

You would need to have one source of water accessible to them. A glass filler on the fridge door or somewhere else.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2010 at 1:54PM
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''The realtor suggested "opening up" the kitchen into the dining room, but quickly piped down after I shot her a look implying that if there ever were any such opening, it would be realtor-shaped.''

''you'll all have a chance to have at it once we tackle the kitchen in the fall.''

That's funny. Looking forward to seeing your bunker, err kitchen.

''have you posted a layout recently?''

Not for quite a while. After being distracted by a car project, I've only recently returned to the kitchen plan. I am trying to nail down things like exactly what goes where, what plumbing and electrical gets moved (and how can that be minimized), the precise dimensions for everything, and what each piece will be made of and how it will be constructed. Because the next step will be a materials list and cut list, and after that, money starts getting spent and wood starts getting cut.

I am also trying to take out cost and finalize a budget, so there is some ''de-contenting'' going on. There's no 48'' range in the plans now, and there won't be Bluestar or Sub-Zero badges anywhere.

I'm not sure which was the plan last one you saw. Here is a quick layout sketch. It is not 100% agreed to. SWMBO says the refrigerator should go in the upper-right corner, we are negotiating. And I keep learning new things here that get incorporated.

A rather busy 3D (which you have probably seen). SWMBO dislikes open uppers, and wants all cabinets to be white-painted wood, so more negotiations.

And an example of what I'm doing now. Although this particular design has been scrapped - issues of plumbing access.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2010 at 2:05PM
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Your vent hood sticks out 38"??

    Bookmark   July 9, 2010 at 2:11PM
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These posts crack me up!

I am of the I'm-the-cook-stay-of-of-my-kitchen mentality. My kitchen is not large and there is only room for one person, maybe two if the other one is on the other side of the island. I put the glasses and silverware in the end cabinets/drawers on purpose to keep people out of my line of fire but inevitably someone always crosses that imaginary line in the sand and I just give them THE LOOK.

We don't entertain a ton, but when we do, like everyone here, all the guests want to stand around the island...even though the family room is only 10 feet away!....and I don't even have seating at my island.

My husband got THE LOOK from me yesterday. I was about to drain the pasta when I swung around and he was right there in front of me. He almost got a chestfull of hot pasta/water. I snapped and said "for #@*$^*@ can't you see I'm trying to get dinner ready???" I felt kind of bad afterwards, but seriously, I can't chat when I have hot pasta and sausages burning on the grill outside.

I love open floor plans but I really need to get either a sign or some laser beems at the edge of the kitchen area that keep people out until I'm done.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2010 at 2:23PM
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''Your vent hood sticks out 38"??''

The default plan right now is a ceiling-mounted commercial grease hood, 42'' front-to-back, either 48'' or 60'' wide. The ceiling is 8' 10''. One will actually be standing ''under'' the hood.

The sketch included an attempt to draw a custom hood that might be more attractive. That is probably not going to happen.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2010 at 3:27PM
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Yes, a barrage of enough blue language acts like a shock wave to repel even the most dense non-cook.

I could go on and on why I think this is true. "The kitchen is the heart of the home." Yeah, well keep your *@%* fingers out of my chest cavity. That "heart of the home business" is marketing, to my ears. It's supposed to recall the days when my Mom, a consummate cook, turned out bowls and platters and dishes and piles of unbelievable food no one could ever replicate. While sewing your buttons, attending your scrapes and ironing your church clothes. In other words, it was the domain of a highly skilled woman who knew what she was doing.

Now, my Mom was very happy to show you to cook, as long as you behaved like a student and followed directions. But when Ma gave an order, the moon stopped in its orbit, the rotation of the earth abruptly ceased, and the angels stopped in flight. All shared one single though: "Must obey!"

These days, there's been a lot of de-skilling. Forget knowing how to darn socks. Most people live out of the microwave. But the real problem is that they all think they're cordon bleu chefs because they watch the Food Network. Yes, just nuke a frozen dinner, sit back, and expect the praise circle to give you a trophy just for trying.

Not in my kitchen.

If you know how to cook, we'll probably get along fine. Good cooks can be very in tune with other cooks. If you pretend you know how to cook, then stay out of the kitchen. Or lose a leg.

BTW johnliu, I'm not too crazy about that pull out board thingie by the range. It's going to be awful to get into that cupboard. Personally, I like Super Suzans, but only the kind where the door is attached to the pie-shaped shelves. Mine works great--one push, it opens, and I can easily access my whole batterie.

Just my $.02.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2010 at 6:46PM
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ROTFL!!! This thread gets more and more fun.

Unlike John, who makes things that amaze me, I'm what one might call a "home cook". I don't do exotic, though a lot of the things I think are normal (i.e. learned from mom) are exotic to someone, whereas exotic to me is fish and seafood (allergies). Most of my guests are good home cooks too, so there's no intimidation factor by the time they arrive. They really do know how to help with a roast turkey, or how to take appetizers out of the oven. But they don't know how to carve! I'm not great at it, but at least I know how. I probably won't get good at it until my father retires from bird service.

Maybe I need a sound clip to come down out of the ceiling speakers, booming, "Step BACK from the BIRD!!!" in a basso profundo?

Nope. The ones that want to help are perfectly good cooks. But I still don't want them underfoot in my kitchen. I usually have paid help to order around if I need minions. The really hard ones are the ones who bring candy or bottles or whatever into the kitchen and tell me about them. Like I'm really going to remember who brought what? If you want a thank-you note for the hostess gift, put a tag on it for heaven's sake!

    Bookmark   July 9, 2010 at 11:30PM
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johnliu is it still possible to change your layout? Is there still time?

    Bookmark   July 10, 2010 at 8:18AM
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As someone who blundered onto the GW Appliances and Kitchens forums a month or two ago, I find threads like this to be not only entertaining (and as a retired Army Infantry officer, I can relate to BOTH of John's metaphors and predicaments) but educational as well.

My wife and I are down to the wire waiting for an appraisal to come back on a house we want to build. If the lot and plans appraise, we're off to the races (or, perhaps the torture racks) for a year or so. If not, we have our eyes on a house that would be a good catch, and definitely needs a kitchen re-do.

This whole experience of layout out the kitchen and planning new appliance purchases for the last few months has been a staggering welcome to the world of You Don't Know What You Don't Know.

John, count me among those waiting for the URL of your new blog!

    Bookmark   July 10, 2010 at 9:41AM
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We have a galley kitchen and after the remodel a galley kitchen it will remain. It drives me NUTS to have people in there! What is especially annoying are, as others have mentioned, the well intentioned folks who want to help clean up. With limited counter space, 12-20 place settings quickly overwhelm the landing area next to the sink. People want to help put stuff away. In the wrong spots. People want to help get dessert and coffee ready in the midst of the chaos that is ensuing from other people bringing in place settings and putting stuff away. ARRGH. My husband and I have a very well-oiled dinner party machine thing going, and it really truly works best if folks leave us alone and let us do that thing.

I think the nadir was last Thanksgiving when a relative-by-marriage not only showed up with literally 10 bags of stuff to prepare/serve/use (none of which was asked for or needed) then after dinner point blank refused to get out of the kitchen where she was "helping" clean up after being asked repeatedly to go on out and enjoy herself with the other guests. She said 'Nobody tells me what to do and I'm not going to stop.' Ooooooookay. As they say you pick your friends but you can't pick your family. Although, you sometimes wish you could have helped pick a parent's latest spouse. Oops, did I just say that out loud?!


    Bookmark   July 10, 2010 at 9:44AM
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One other viewpoint. It may be a cultural thing. As I posted earlier in this thread, I want people to stay out of my kitchen most of the time. And that's how my mother was, and my grandmother. However, I remember when I was dating my now-DH (a million years ago!), and had the first scary dinner at his Mom's. His entire family was there. I stayed out of her kitchen as I was brought up. Found out later that future-MIL thought I was being cold/distant for not hanging out with her in the kitchen while she cooked. And future-SIL thought I was lazy for not helping in kitchen clean-up after meal (there were, like, 6 people in the small kitchen helping clean so I thought I'd be in the way). Of course my in-laws don't think these things now, and I always hang out in their kitchens, which they really like, so clearly there are different schools of thought on this issue. BTW, my in-laws' kitchens at Thanksgivings seem to me to be chaotic free-for-alls, complete bedlam, but somehow the meals are a success.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2010 at 10:21AM
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Yeah, shannonplus2 is right. I am on the side of not wanting people in my kitchen (or at least on my side of the island), and I am WAY in the camp of not wanting people to clean up. That drives me crazy. I was just on my feet for hours, cooking and stuff, and I want to sit and chat and not worry about cleaning up until you all leave.

However, I know many people who think it is only good manners to pitch in without being asked to, or without even asking if it's needed. Or to ignore you when you say "Please sit down, I'll do it later." BUT when I implore the second time, "No really, I mean it," they finally obey. :-D

I think if I experienced what runninginplace did, I would just cede the kitchen, and say, "Okay, have at it. You win. I'm outta here."

Anyway, you just have to ask questions and figure out which type your host is ... and I mean real, to the point questions, not polite questions that get polite answers. "Can I help you, or are you one of those people who prefer undergoing root canals to sharing your kitchen?" ;-)

    Bookmark   July 10, 2010 at 11:10AM
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A long, long time ago when minimum wage was $1.07 an hour I worked at my first real job in a restaurant kitchen. Back then I wasn't doing any real cooking, just working as a glorified gopher. The first thing I was taught the first day on the job was NEVER enter a working space of any other worker without a verbal warning such as "behind you" or "HOT BEHIND YOU." People were fired for violating this rule.

Fast forward to present day and after 30 plus years of training DH still endangers himself and me by standing or walking behind me when I'm cooking at full speed. Maybe because I never made the threat to fire him truly credible. With our new kitchen I thought I had the ultimate Maginot line with two islands blocking my workspace off and containing nothing that anyone else could want. But he still insists on using the prep sink to get a glass of water although the glasses are by the cleanup sink and he has to bypass the refreshingly cold in-door refrigerator water to get the warm Florida water from the prep tap. Go figure.

I wish you luck and better success than I have had, johnliu. But, with some people, nothing works.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2010 at 11:35AM
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Circus Peanut

John, as always a treat.

One very warm recommendation for your design: seriously consider putting upswing cabinet doors on your uppers. This gives your spouse the smooth dust-inhibiting coverage she wants in the off-hours, but allows you the functionality of open shelving while you're actually at work. (Plus, it's a great visual signal to onlookers that the torpedo tubes have been opened.)

The pictures of upswings in catalogues are often glass-fronted or metal cabs, but there's no reason not to use them for white painted wood as well; it's done in Europe all the time. There are a variety of different upswing hinges, enough to accommodate your spatial needs, from good makers:

Häfele Swing Up fittings

Blum Aventos hinges

PS: think outside of the rectilinear, and you might get some new inspiration for your command module:

    Bookmark   July 10, 2010 at 12:01PM
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I wonder if you were an Italian grandma in a previous life?

Many Italians in the North End of Boston where my DH
grew up had second kitchens in their homes. They
had tiny little sweet Nonnies (grandma) that wore aprons
and pinched your cheeks. The 2nd kitchen was so the
rest of the home would not overheat with all the cooking.
But I believe it was for another reason, let me explain.

My husband's Nonnie had a kitchen in the basement. And
boy oh boy if you went down their uninvited you would get
your ear pulled. It was her private space to roll out
pasta, stir heated sauces, canned tomatoes, store her
back patio garden grown tomatoes, onions and basil,
and that basement was her retreat from the family drama.

If someone showed up to dinner unannounced, no worries
Nonnie had pasta in the freezer, Risotto ready to go, or
a cheese that was for company. She would magically appear
laided with food to make them feel welcome.

Sometimes Nonnie would spend time with a sister or daughter.
They would cook, laugh, cry, delight in each other's
company but mostly it was for his Nonnie only.
Her 2nd kitchen was her escape from the familial drama
and place to enjoy her passion for cooking. Not really
the heat. It was more than keeping the heat out of the
city brownstone.

Sometime if you were lucky Nonnie would invite you to
help her but this was rare.

My husband only in his 40s still remembers his nonnie
rolling out Gnocchis in different containers so each one
of his aunts, uncles and adult cousins could take them
home. She made special meatballs for this uncle who wanted
only pork and this one who wanted raisins in his and
this Aunt who wanted small ones. Everyone was spoiled
with food. It was her way to express her love to her

I wish you could build a 2nd kitchen for yourself. One
with giant locks, bolts and secret codes that only
those truly worthy could enter. They would bring you
joy while you cook and not interupt or destroy the magic
you need to create amazing dishes.

When we do entertain, ( i am not the chef you are) I am one
of those people who pre-cooks. I know this is terrible.
I make the lasagna hours before so only have to bake it,
or have DH grill while my accompanyments are simple.
Otherwise the interuptions and chatty kattys drive me batty.

Wishing you a good solution to your layout and passion
for cooking.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2010 at 1:42PM
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Fleasdog, does he use the prep sink tap when you're not in the kitchen? Because it sounds like he's looking for a little togetherness :)

    Bookmark   July 10, 2010 at 2:03PM
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Circus Peanut

Now that I think about it, John, a curvy command station like the one shown above would fit very nicely into your Steampunk dreams, no ...?

mmmmm, Boxer, gnocchi. mmmmmmmmm.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2010 at 12:09PM
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