What constitutes a "cook's kitchen" ? (and a slight introduction)

rosyladyDecember 3, 2012

Today, for some reason completely unknown to me, I have decided to de-lurk after five years of reading this forum! I've been meaning to post about my kitchen remodel for some time now, but I never seem to get up the steam to do it. It will require pictures and descriptions and floor plans and probably, some explanations!

My husband and I are renovating a 1910's farmhouse (it used to be a strawberry farm and a christmas tree farm). We have been renovating the kitchen and dining room (and the plumbing, and the electrical, and the roof, and the foundation, etc, etc) for over three years now. Garden web has, hands down, been the smartest, fastest, most concise source of info I have found. I had a kitchen designer in the beginning. You guys are better. Hands down.

Anyway, I was recently in the home of a lady who is a local farmer and caterer. Her kitchen was absolutely enchanting. It was, to me, a real cook's kitchen. I could have spent all day there just looking at everything. It was almost as sensory an experience as actually eating one of her meals.

Some of the highlights were: a huge Wolf range, and it was used looking and not shiny. A magical pantry where the shelves groaned with home canned pickles, jams, vegetables, fruit. The colorful jars looked more appealing to me than jewels... A little nook under the stairs where she had a small built in desk. There were stacks of cookbooks, and recipes tacked to the walls. There was a coffee maker that always had fresh coffee, it just seemed to magically appear. Her husband built this kitchen for her and he built the cabinets, but hadn't gotten around to putting the doors on yet. It was fascinating to see the contents exposed. It was like perusing the books in someone's library: you could tell as much about her from her cupboards as you could from her books. Spices, vinegars, oils, flours, sugars, teas coffees - everything told a story about the way she spent her days.

She would be shocked if she knew I was writing about her kitchen. To her it is rather small and somewhat humble. To me it epitomizes how cooking and food are at the heart of life for many of us.

I am a rabid home cook. I have been cooking since I was two and helped my dad make scrambled eggs in my footie pajamas on a chair pulled up to the stove. I am creating a kitchen that hopefully pays homage to the history of this house, and hopefully represents me, is an expression of me, the way hers is for her. I am hoping my kitchen will turn out to be a "cook's kitchen".

What is your idea of a cook's kitchen? Have you been in any that were memorable? How would you describe them? How would you describe their owners?

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Oh, I love this post. I have no comment, other than it is such a treat to have you out of "lurkerdom" and post this. There will be lots of responses.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2012 at 7:27PM
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I loved your post. I felt like I could hear her kettle bubbling.
I love to cook, people tell me I am a great cook, to me it is second nature.
I recently had to cook in someone else's kitchen when I was a guest at another home for Thanksgiving. Oh, the misery. The knives were dull, the cutting boards were miniscule, they didn't own a whisk. My kitchen is chockablock with an assortment of wooden spoons, whisks, knives. I don't have a lot of fancy small appliances, the ones I have are well used and functional, but I have 3 glass measuring cups: 1 cup, 2 cup, 4 cup, 2 sets of dry measuring cups, and plenty of sturdy mixing bowls, wooden spoons, paring knives and whisks.
A cook's kitchen is about function, not form.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2012 at 7:30PM
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localeater........I don't understand.....my mom was at my house for Thanksgiving.....but it sounds like you were at her house LOL

I think to expand on localeater's info....I also agree it is all about function.

I have stayed in vacation cabins and moved things around in the kitchen so I could cook. Literally unplugged the microwave and moved it to another counter.

Good cooking requires timing. So you need enough space for the tools you will need to execute this. And you need the tools too.

When we were planning our remodel about 10 years ago there was a great website called kitchen design with cooking in mind. This was as influential as Garden Web on getting the essentials done correctly.
(I just took a look and it looks like the site author has a book out now covering the topics. I have not seen the book, but you may want to check it out.)

The premise of this is that how a kitchen LOOKS is just decorating. How a kitchen works is a different thing, requires some analysis to get right.

From figuring out Every item you will store in your kitchen and creating a space for it, to figuring out how large your kitchen needs to be functionally. All this is a part of it.

Anyway...best of luck and we will be here to help you out.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2012 at 7:57PM
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Welcome out of the closet.

There are two old threads you might get a kick out of reading. I'll try to dig them up later if I get some time, or maybe someone else has their corners turned down already.

One was a long thread about "modest, quirky kitchens." The conversation ranged far and wide, but it also brought up the notion that some kitchens are clearly and unapologetically made for cooking. It reminded me of Julie Powell's tagline on her blog, riffing on Julia Child: "No one here but us servantless American cooks."

The other was a thread started by johnliu, who don't come 'round here no more (for various reasons, including lack of work access for a while, but anyway). He posted photos of a kitchen owned by a good friend and good cook, a crazy, cacophonous space with all glass doors, an encyclopedic collection of 20th century kitsch, two ranges (an old '50s stove plus a stainless Viking or whatever it was), no island, lots of random tables, and a love for food and friends.

You should look those threads up. I think you'd like them.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2012 at 8:08PM
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To me a cook's kitchen is a room manifestly dedicated and planned around making food.

Not a room that's "the heart of the home". Though it may become that in a family where food-making is important.

Not a room planned around entertaining in it. Though visitors may gravitate to it as well-used work rooms are always magnets.

Definitely not a room planned around the Great Room /Family Room/Open Plan construct where food-making is an ancillary activity in a larger scheme for daily household use of the space.

Not a room decorated to impress with furniture styling and palpable anxiety about how the counters will hold up to food preparation activities.

A cook's kitchen is where cooking happens. If cooking isn't your thing then a non-cook's kitchen is probably what you want. (And, to be sure, there absolutely no shame in that; it's just not for me.)

It doesn't have to do with what kind (or quality or cost) of appliances, or sinks, or counter surfaces, or vent hood or kitchen tackle you have.

The OTK is probably not a cook's kitchen; it is a movie stage set copied and morphed through the shelter industry.

Cook's kitchens do not have to be ugly or messy or industrial. They don't have to have all the pots hanging on the walls or racks like Julia. They don't have to be big.

But when you walk into one, you know immediately it's all about the cooking (not the food, mind you, you could have ordered that in), the cooking of the food.

So, often there's evidence around of food in various stages of completion: bread rising, veggies from the garden draining, canning jars stuffed in every nook, etc. The big set pieces (range, sink, work surfaces) clearly have some miles on them, though they aren't usually battered, just well-kept, well-used tools for a craftsperson. And the little conveniences are arranged for ease of action. The knives are racked in just the right place. Nobody cares if things are arranged perfectly with the bowls on the shelf in perfect order by size - the bowls instead are exactly where your hand would reach for one.

I think the key to achieving a "Cook's Kitchen" (assuming that's what you're aiming for) is to begin the design with only the business of cooking in mind. Work out those work flows (my endlessly, boringly, repeated "how does the food flow through your kitchen" question is the kernel of this idea). If you like to cook, need to cook to feel content, or even just have to cook and want to get it done in an efficient and workmanlike manner, then a cook's kitchen is likely what you're after. Work out the cooking pattern, choose what you need to have in it to make the cooking work, then deploy as many details as you can fit in without messing with the layout.

Don't start with a cab style, or decorative picture in your mind, or a list of gotta-have individual ammenities; you can do a mood board later. Just start thinking about the dances you and the food are going to do.

Recently there was a question here about whether or not to have "a prep sink". Several posters stated they had had one and never used one, so maye it could be dispensed with. A few people pointed out that the never-used prep sinks were probably just plunked in to have as an amentity (Pro-range? Check! Granite? Check! Prep sink? Check!!) I'd almost guarantee that if you have a prep sink in the right place there's no way you'd consider doing without it - if got vaporized you'd still be standing in the space rubbing your hands under the imaginary tap and reaching for a towel. Heck, you'd probaly be dumping the pasta water on the counter. That's the difference between a prep sink in a CK and a prep sink tossed into a kitchen design just to have one. (Please note: many CKs don't need or have a prep sink. It's just that if one will make the cooking work more perfectly, then not having one would be a marked loss.)

This is great question! I look forward to reading what others write/think about it.


    Bookmark   December 3, 2012 at 8:54PM
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I'm thinking of both my grandmothers' kitchens and my dad's kitchen - they were SMALL by some current "standards" but all of them used space efficiently, did the cooking alone, had basics within reach and knew where everything was. They accepted quirks in their appliances since they knew what their quirks WERE, like "I have to cook this longer than the recipe says." They all churned out amazing meals on a regular basis and seemed to have an instinctual knowledge of cooking that I'm sure was largely long experience and maybe a "knack," if there is a such a thing as knack. I agree with liriodendron that we just want to cook in our kitchen, not have it be the "heart of the home," whatever that might mean. So far (not even three months yet!), so good - thanks to GW!

    Bookmark   December 3, 2012 at 9:11PM
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When I first started planning our kitchen in anchorage I started looking at cabinets. I looked at tile and I looked at granite....then I hired a designer and she put the range in the doorway. THe next one put the range next to the sink....like you could use the sink as a pot filler. The next one had all upper cabinets as shelves which were carved with gold lettering and cute sayings about food....

I then realized that many kitchen "designers" don't cook, never entertain, and probably think Red Robin is gourmet. My favorite thing is the ubiquitous wine rack...you know, right by the range or over the fridge...where you don't want to put wine silly.

A cooks kitchen can have aesthetic consideration, but I think that that flows after you figure out where you keep your stuff :) And where that is for me, a baker, is not where that is for DH, a mostly stove top kind of guy. :) So for us a cooks kitchen will be a multi purpose set up. He cooks most of the time so the stove area is going to be designed with that in mind. We also entertain A LOT and he likes to be part of the party, so entertainment while working actually is part of our plan in any kitchen we do. He needs to be able to work while chattering...while I just bake in advance, so that falls into consideration as well.

That was more challenging to do in anchorage than it will be here. We had a small space with several windows and doors so making him a protected work space was a challenge :) Here we will block him in with a small island...he refers to it as the stage (I hope he does not invision pole dancers there....). Behind his stage will be fridge drawers, a prep sink, a disposal sink, a big range in a nook stocked with anything he'd need that can be warm, pantries, warming ovens, etc. I expect I could put up two baby gates and he could live back there if I threw in wine on occasion :p

Bowls handy, serving pieces at arms reach....gad it all needs an efficient space and likely not a hidden space. (I envision much of that to the sides of the range).

Easy clean up is a must....we are discussing the floors as tile is appropriate and easy, but not fun to walk on all day. Wood is more likely because it can be abused and it's still easy on the knees.

We won't have cans of food from the garden (I refuse to be a slave to produce) but we do have fresh herbs outside the kitchen door. Twigs of this and that are normally in the kitchen window and I don't expect that to change when the kitchen is finished.

I expect our kitchen to be beautiful, a wonderful place to entertain...and a kitchen that a home chef or a professional chef can step into and enjoy making a wonderful meal in.

Gad I hope I achieve that LOL

    Bookmark   December 3, 2012 at 9:17PM
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A cook's kitchen is what I long for but fear may not materialize when we remodel. I think that a real cook's kitchen has less to do with size of space and top of the line appliances. It has more to do with function. I don't need a top of the line 'frig, range, or copper sink. I'd love to have each one, but they are not necessary to have a wonderfully functioning kitchen.

To me, a cook's kitchen has adequate and conveniently placed storage (a place for everything), at least adequate prep/ mixing space and landing space by appliances, no doorway or drawer impedes appliances or other drawers to function properly. It's easy to function in the room--No more having to take out ingredients in a "black hole" storage place to get to what you need at the moment. No more sitting on the floor to dig through the bottom cupboard to get to the right pot. No more going to another room to get your refrigerator dishes for leftovers. Etc., etc., etc. A cook's kitchen makes cooking and clean up less cumbersome rather than a trial of endurance.

It may be a dream for me but I know that a cook's kitchen can exist. I've been in my sister's kitchen which flows well for working whether baking, canning, prepping, or cleaning up. That is satisfaction!

    Bookmark   December 3, 2012 at 10:10PM
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"I expect our kitchen to be beautiful, a wonderful place to entertain...and a kitchen that a home chef or a professional chef can step into and enjoy making a wonderful meal in."

Igloo said it for me. DS1 and DIL come here and cook, they are both professional chefs...DS1 voted top small town chef in the US this year ( we are still walking on air about that :) ) They have no problem preparing anything they choose in the space. I designed it to meet our needs but also so they would enjoy cooking for us and with us. It has been over 6 yrs and the space still makes me smile when I am baking successive batches of bagels, boules and ciabatta.

Racks cooling on the island and adjacent work table ,the all fridge shelves holding my sheet pans with ease as the baskets of breads rise and the trays of bagels retard. The soapstone counter is perfect for the 500 degree cast iron as I remove it from the ovens ...batch after batch. The wide/shallow soapstone sink hold all of my largest baking sheets. The hood "sucks" so DH is more than happy as he stir fries,his serving bowls and plates all at his fingertips on open shelves. Tools on the wall right there behind the cooktop.

All this is exactly what we need...what we use and the way we use it. That is a cook's kitchen. Your kitchen will meet your needs. Mine meets ours. There will be paths that will cross and compliment. Then there will be specifics, as igloo said, that meet the needs of the intent baker or the Chinese stir fry expert.

Make sure that it works for how you use the kitchen and how you and your family expect to use it. Don't make a kitchen for how you think it should look or how someone else wants it to work. Just as you want your home to reflect "you" your kitchen should also. c

    Bookmark   December 3, 2012 at 10:31PM
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This is such an interesting topic. But first I have to digress and say Igloochic - OMG - where have you been!!!! And welcome back!

For me, I would differ from the other posts on this thread so far. The kitchen you described in your OP would not be "my" cook's kitchen. I have a need for order. Things in their place. I don't want a jumble of books, or shelves full of jarred things. I am not dis-respecting your friend's kitchen. I am just saying that for me, I need to have places in my kitchen where my eye can rest and not be stimulated. I like an open expanse of counter - the better to prep on without having to push stuff aside. If I saw recipes tacked to a wall, I'd have an uncontrollable compulsion to take them down, scan them and upload them on my computer for future reference! (smile) you'd have to tie my hands behind my back, cause they'd be so itching to get those loose papers over to the scanner.

I remember John Liu's thread that Marcolo mentioned, about a home that was filled every inch with things collected over many years. He provided photos of the kitchen, every surface covered in things. It represented a family's history, every item I am sure told a story. It was fascinating, but I know that it would not be a kitchen where I'd feel comfortable cooking. You asked "what is your idea of a cook's kitchen?" Mine is one where the appliances are top-notch, the fridge is big enough to hold tons of food (a sore spot with me), and everything is neatly in its place, no duplication of things, no nooks and crannies, and the only things on the counter are things I use constantly like coffee maker and salt and pepper mills, and the like.

I also loved what Tea4all wrote in her second paragraph. So well put, I wish I could write like that.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2012 at 10:45PM
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Akchicago you are so kind. I only wrote what I long for and what I live with (opposites). You probably can tell that my kitchen lacks storage (yes, I do have my 'frig dishes in the next room), there is a "black hole" cupboard pantry (deep/no pull-outs), our 'frig cannot open all the way because of a doorway frame, and there are only enough drawers to hold silverware and potholders/dish towels. The older I get, the more of an endurance marathon meals become.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2012 at 12:00AM
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To me, a cook's kitchen is first and foremost a work place. If you'll indulge me a comparison: I'm a toolmaker by trade. I work in a shop, surrounded by equipment designed to do the job efficiently. In addition to the major 'appliances' (machine tools), there are countless hand tools, far more than in a kitchen. All of that equipment needs to be well organized, readily at hand, yet not in the way. Different equipment is set up at different stations, where different operations are done. The equipment needs to be good enough to do the work required. If you are trying to do delicate, super-accurate work, a machine made in the 1930's and poorly maintained is not going to do the job, and you will end up frustrated. The other thing that directly translates to a kitchen is good lighting.

You may find it hard to believe, but I love my job, and enjoy the time spent in the shop. The same goes for the kitchen! The one thing a shop lacks is aesthetics. If I were single, I could picture a kitchen with big tool chests everywhere to store utensils! I could easily convert a shop to a kitchen, and be perfectly happy. But a residential kitchen is a living space as well, so design, color, texture, a decorative touches come into play. There is no such requirement in a machine shop (the girlie calendars don't count as 'decor'). As I continue to compare work places, I realize that machine shops almost never have overhead cabinets, or cabinets, period. Almost everything for daily use is in drawers.

As luck would have it, I am married, to wonderful woman and great cook. The tool chests will never make it into our new kitchen, and there won't be a girlie calendar, either. What we will have is lots of tool storage, in the form of drawers, separate work areas, so both cooks can function with tools specific to the task at hand, lots of good light so our aging eyes can tell the difference between a carrot and a finger, durable, practical, easy-to-clean work surfaces, and a place to work sitting down. Toolmakers know to sit when doing fine hand work rather than standing up all day. I can remember my grandmother sitting down to chop vegetables, hull strawberries, and peel apples. Surprisingly, many kitchens lack a good place to work sitting down!

We're going to start out with NO upper cabinets. Both my mother's kitchen, and my grandmother's kitchen lacked upper cabinets. What they had was windows, and wall space to hang paintings or collections of vintage kitchen tools.

I guess this a decidedly male viewpoint as to what constitutes a cook's kitchen. I think I can make it into an aesthetically pleasant place as well. Be patient; it will a long time before I get that far in the building of our house, but I will post pics when it's all done!

    Bookmark   December 4, 2012 at 7:09AM
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I have no uppers over spacious open counters and love it. Reading all these descriptions from cooks of cooks' kitchens has been great fun but definitely highlights the subjective factors.

It'll be designed by the cook for the cook, of course. Rosylady, the only thing I didn't notice someone saying is that, since cooking is so important to the cook, the kitchen will probably have be assigned of the most desirable locations in the house. South-facing windows to bring in sunshine all day long, for instance. One of the better views out the windows, good access to a favorite porch or garden. It should ideally be a space that draws you to it before you add a thing.

I remember that kitchen of johnliu's friend very well. It was a visual delight to me but had just sort of developed out of what was there over years. People here came up with no end of ways to "improve" it, and I'm guessing at least 98% of them were ignored entirely. And rightly. :)

    Bookmark   December 4, 2012 at 11:15AM
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I think the efficiency kitchen in the 1949 video from the Dept of Agriculture epitomizes the "cook's kitchen." That kitchen was designed for comfort, accessibility and maximum utility for the person working in it.

Even though a modern kitchen would be different in some ways (like being set up for more than one cook if needed), the same principles should apply. Appliance selection etc should be whatever works best for the cook(s); sometimes this might mean something more expensive than the average, but not always.

That's all I have time for at the moment but I have been enjoying reading the responses. :)

Here is a link that might be useful: 1949 video: Step-Saving Kitchen

    Bookmark   December 4, 2012 at 11:58AM
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Trailrunner, is your DS1 in our area? I might know him or even have worked with him over the years! If anything, wud visit where he cooks. yeah!

I enjoyed the description of the Cook's Kitchen, and it even brought tears to my eyes.
However, having lived with no storage, no closets, and actually no kitchen for the last 7 years, I, too, require visual peace. Nothing on the counters I now have, doors covering the stuff inside (neat or not), and everything in its place.

Since things are still works in progress, I go through stages of no place to put anything down. Then I lose my mind and clean it up.

A Cook's Kitchen to me is one where the cook can function to his/her delight and ease, producing with minimal effort the dish or meal of choice. If you happen to have a breakfast bar or island with seating, it's always wonderful, but that's not what will make or break a kitchen.

But then we get into the isolation thing, don't we?!?

Just shows to go ya that it's different for everyone.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2012 at 12:01PM
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Christine..they are in Lexington VA ..The Red Hen . He was just featured in Cooking LIght November issue as their Trailblazer Small Town Chef of the Year. His biggest interest is charcuterie..he makes a wonderful stuffed and rolled pig face :) You can read the article on line at Cooking Light.

You hit the nail on the head with the part of working with ease.Shouldn't take a lot of effort to find things or produce a wonderful meal. DS has always had very very compact ( small ) spaces to cook in. It actually is ideal as it promotes concise planning and small movements and neatness and efficiency . Few tools except the most necessary and get rid of all extraneous items. "clear the decks" is his rule and he learned it from us.

We have so few things in drawers etc and almost no tools or pots and pans. Little is required and the more the messier is the rule. More space and more mess to spread around. I have everything I need in one small area when at the cooktop and can take no more than 2 steps and be at the cooktop/sink/island-work table. We clean as we go and the result is a smooth production.

It is wonderful fun to read each person's take on this. It is for sure an individual preference which is exactly what I pointed out before. You have to make it work for you and yours.

I believe it has been said many times on the deco forum...decorate for the life you lead , same for the kitchen ...design for the way YOU cook. c

    Bookmark   December 4, 2012 at 12:43PM
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What a great thread..

rosylady --> welcome out of the lurkerdom.. I can't believe you resisted for 5 years!

Old threads that marcolo mentioned:
Quirky Modest Kitchens

More on quirky modest kitchens

I hope someone will post the John Liu's thread as well.

Like many people have mentioned, a great kitchen is a workspace that is organized for how YOU cook and live. What works for one person may not work for another. Concepts like "mise en place" really help define what your most important reach zone is and what goes there. For some people it is their everyday le creuset or nonstick pans, or saucepan. For me, I need 2 of my most used mortar and pestles there as I use it all the time. What gardenweb really changed for me was to encourage me to make the kitchen fit me and not "resale value". So if you are tall or short or have back issues or hate people in your kitchen if they are not actually cooking, you really can create a custom fit space and "defend your maginot line". Kitchen design is in all honesty an ergonomics analysis and a time and work study. Besides function, I think cooks treasure the "feel" of the space.. Aesthetics are driven by what feelings it evokes in us. Cooks are sensory beings and beautiful views, softly shining honed marble countertops, silky soapstones all please our senses and make us better cooks. But function (great quality appliances, tools that are conveniently placed) trumps form.

I have the book that juliekcmo mentioned "kitchen design with cooking in mind" and I must say it helped gel a lot of ideas for my kitchen as it really focusses on flow and traffic patterns and really making you understand the sequence of activities. This book also defined why the function and location of prep sink is crucial. Water is afterall the most commonly used item in the kitchen - for prep, cooking and cleanup.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2012 at 1:12PM
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Love this discussion! Here's the famous Johnliu kitchen thread referenced by Marcolo.

Here is a link that might be useful: The Everything Kitchen

    Bookmark   December 4, 2012 at 1:33PM
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A cook's kitchen has large professional grade appliances, proper ventilation and lighting, and open expanses of counter space. I'm not the type of cook that is constantly going to the refrigerator and sink, so I don't care about the efficient work triangle or flow. Just give me space and high quality equipment. Everything else is an aesthetic choice. For example, I love abundant natural light and want that in my kitchen, but natural light does not make a kitchen a cook's kitchen.
That being said, the kitchen we're building will not be a prototypical cook's kitchen due to budget and space constraints, but we'll still cook the stew out of it.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2012 at 1:38PM
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My grandmother always said a cook's kitchen is a kitchen where everything is easily accessible and within a few steps of the prep area. Of course, there had to be a table, for friends/family to sit and drink coffee. She spent a lot of time in the kitchen and didn't want to be in there alone.

She was wonderful when it came to letting anyone 'help' whether it was me (at three years old) or a grad student, who had no idea how to cook. Her one rule was that things were meant to be used! Function ruled at all times...but her kitchen had a charm that I hope to replicate :)

    Bookmark   December 4, 2012 at 2:15PM
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Ok, we could write a book based on the responses to this question! What is so fascinating to me is how each cook's needs and desires are different, and those differences create the unique feel and expression that makes their kitchen a "cook's kitchen".

Let me describe another "cook's kitchen" I know. This kitchen is tiny, only one wall 12 feet long that houses a double sink, a dishwasher, a five foot run of decrepit tile countertop, and one bank of drawers.

Sitting on this counter is a coffeemaker (hey, it takes some strong coffee to face cooking in this kitchen at 7am!), a toaster, a toaster oven, and a hotplate. This is the extent of her appliances, other than a 1980's almond fridge . One the wall opposite the "kitchen wall" is an open wire shelving unit loaded with the essentials for cooking in that tiny space for four people on a daily basis: a few pots and pans, a big old Le Creuset, a selection of pie pan and baking pans that will fit in a toaster oven, her cuisinart, her blender, a rag tag assortment of plastic storage containers, a bin of dishtowels, cutting boards.

The top two shelves house all the food storage she has. Virtually no canned or boxed foods live there, she doesn't have the room! It's all the basic building blocks for scratch cooking: flours, sugars, spices, tea, coffee, vinegars, oils.

In the center of this tiny room is her grandmother's antique dining table, which she and her family eat at for every meal. Pie dough is rolled there (of course you can make a pie in a toaster oven!), candies made, vegetables prepped, mis en place staged, children entertained with Legos while mommy makes dinner.

So, this entire "kitchen" resides in a room that is 12 x 16. That's not a bad sized kitchen really, but here's the catch: this kitchen is in her living room! It's her temporary kitchen she made out of an old 1980's wet bar, and she's using it while she's remodeling her old farmhouse. She's doing all this crazy cooking next to a grand piano! She just loves to get something simmering and than sit down and play a few songs while she keeps one eye on the pot.

She has taken a very unlikely space and turned it into a cook's kitchen because she can't help it! Cooking is what feeds her soul, and she's gonna do it no matter what! Someday her new kitchen will be ready, but I think she will have fond memories of cooking a birthday dinner for 12 on her hotplate and toaster oven, then all squeezing onto the wacky grandma's table in the middle of the chaos, followed by a little piano music for after dinner entertainment. People don't even have to get up from the table!

This is one of my favorite cook's kitchen...because it's mine.

This is the "cooking life" I have been living for the last three and a half years. Now the end is coming as my new space gets closer to completion and I'm wondering, now that I have a chance to plan instead of letting necessity be the mother of invention, what do I want? What is my ideal instead of my "only option".

Your inspired posts are helping me answer these questions. Keep them coming!

    Bookmark   December 4, 2012 at 2:39PM
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I didn't mention the 'kitchen' I'm using while building our new place. It's in my barn, on a workbench that spends most of its time being a workbench. I have a two burner hot plate, a tiny microwave, a tiny refrigerator, and a rather nice toaster oven. There's an interesting catch- I only have ONE 120V circuit. As a result, I can only run one major appliance at once. If I want to use the microwave, I have to turn off everything else. When I want hot water, everything else has to be off for the hour it takes to heat up the water. Believe it or not, I have entertained; having guests over and serving a passable dinner.

In no way is it a cook's kitchen; it's really just a step up from camping. I do manage to cook every day, though. I startled the neighbors one day with a warm loaf of bread out of the toaster oven.

Rosylady- A Cook's Kitchen would be a great book, filled with stories of what makes each person's kitchen meaningful to them. In between the stories could be tips for what works and what doesn't in a good working kitchen. Maybe you need to get working on that book......

    Bookmark   December 4, 2012 at 5:06PM
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Rosylady's post reminded me of something I wanted to say. I don't think it's possible to design a cook's kitchen. They just grow that way organically.

I grew up working in my aunt's restaurant. (Italian families and child labor laws don't see eye to eye.) We put things where they worked for us. We made up our own procedures. One spindle-hole in a guest ticket meant it was waiting to be fired; two, that it was waiting to be run out; three, it was all paid for. Things evolved over time, through practical experience and the need to constantly, you know, cook.

That's why I think it's very hard to design a cook's kitchen in a new space. I'm trying it right now, with a renovation that will include a big enough bumpout to reshape the kitchen although not expand it very much. You really have to rely on your imagination instead of your experience; you don't know where your spoons will land or where it will be most comfortable to toss pans when you're done with them. That's the kind of detail even the best layout gurus here rarely touch on, because it's just too hard to speculate when you can't touch and move and work in a space. It must be even harder to create a cook's kitchen with a new build or real addition.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2012 at 5:36PM
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well, i certainly agree it is best to evolve the kitchen. to me, that means making the changes over time. and that is also why it is best to not build everything in, but rather, have some spaces that can be furnished and easily changed at will...

    Bookmark   December 4, 2012 at 5:57PM
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I love reading this thread, and it brings to mind the kitchen of the woman who taught me to cook. Ditha was Lithuanian, and a professional chef who taught cooking. When I was a young teen, she hired me and two neighborhood girls from our small village to come to her home, and cook dinner for her and her husband each afternoon while they were at work. For two weeks, she trained us, and after that, we'd come in alone or in twos, usually barefoot, and let ourselves in through the back door. The recipes and ingredients would be laid out, and we'd cook the dinner, wash the dishes, set the table in the little breakfast room, and leave dinner warm in the oven or on the stove.

Her kitchen was small by today's standards, but very functional, with "real" cooking tools everywhere. There were wire baskets of eggs, fruits and vegetables hanging from the ceiling, and the butter was always left out of the fridge. The breakfast room had a special baking station, with a wooden top, Kitchenaid stand mixer, and sections of the countertop that lifted up to reveal flour and sugar bins beneath. I met my first boneless chicken breast at Ditha's house (and learned how to debone them myself), and used lovely ingredients like vanilla sugar from Germany. I sampled generously and know that she must have adjusted her quantities to account for that.

I credit my love of cooking to Ditha, and when I stand in my own small kitchen and chop, or bake bread with my mixer, I'm so thankful for the gift she passed on to me. She had a stroke when I was a young mother, and I was able to see her one last time, show her my young children, and thank her. She couldn't speak, but a tear rolled down her cheek. As I think about her and her small kitchen, and what she taught me, I realize how much of it is incorporated into the way we live and cook here. My two youngest - 9 and 12-year-old sons - are my most avid cooks, and I love to watch them stir, chop and taste as they cook alongside me or alone. I like to think a little of Ditha and her kitchen lives on here.

I've really digressed here on what makes a cook's kitchen, but you've given me the chance to relive some lovely memories, so thank you. It is easy to feel a little insecure about a small kitchen when looking at some of the incredibly beautiful, large kitchens that are posted, but this thread is reminding me of what matters most; the tools, the food, and the people who make and share it.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2012 at 7:58AM
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Great thread.

We are planning for the upcoming kitchen remodeling that would keep existing foot print and floor. It has been very challenging for me. At first, I thought because I don't have right brain. Then I thought the amount ($50-60K) we want to spend has put constraints on the project. Then I thought may be because it is the small size of the kitchen (11 x15 feet).

Now I am at the stage realizing what constantly bothers me, and it is hard to reconcile, is a fundamental question - are all of the expensive equipments, cabinets, cookware, and square footage of a gourmet kitchen necessary?

I recall the servant we had in my childhood home only used one kitchen knife, one rolling pin, one cookware and one simple stove yet he cooked fabulous dishes. We have 15 kitchen knives and are thinking about installing a knife drawer, but we don't cook 1/4 as delicious as he did.

The book I am reading "Design Ideas from American's Top chefs Great Kitchens" emphasizes efficiency and functionalities. Most of the kitchens these chefs have at home are not big at all. Yes, I will get the book "A Complete Guide to Kitchen Design with Cooking in Mind"....

    Bookmark   December 5, 2012 at 11:28AM
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Oh dear...Johnliu's kitchen is magazine worthy...but e gads I'd go freaking nuts in it. My eyes got tired from the pictures. I need doors without glass and clear counters LOL My mother on the other hand, would leave it as is and make great food in it :p To each his own huh?

::waving:: Hey akchicago. I am finding internet service to be a challenge in the victorian...thick walls, tin ceilings and country internet idiots who can't get service through the house leave me on the ipad, which drives me nuts on GW! Hence my absence :( I wish both were more compatible to each other.

We had a lovely kitchen space in the garage while we remodeled...would I call that a cooks kitchen? Umm no, because I'd rather die than replicate it LOL While Rosy may have lovely memories of her temporary kitchen, I must say that none of the cooks in my house looks back fondly at the garage kitchen LOL I will never say I miss changing the nylon sock we had tied to the drain in the temporary sink to filter before it went to the floor into the floor drain of the garage LOL Nor the hose I had to glue to the floor to contain the water if we did a big load of dishes!!!! Though I did kind of like the IKEA space ship chandelier we had installed over the table....heh heh

    Bookmark   December 5, 2012 at 11:45AM
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That's right, Aimskitchen, first, a cook's kitchen has to have a cook. Beautiful story!

When my barn builders were here, they could not understand WHY I did not just open a jar of Ragu for them. OK, it would have been the institutional sized jar from Sam's, but still. My DH told them.......it's what I DO, that's why.

My son appreciates, at 26, that stuff did not normally come out of a box when he was young. It makes me a little sick when my neighbor talks about how she fed her kids so cheaply when they were younger, but her DH does not understand that food for teenagers costs more, because you can't just fed them cereal anymore


    Bookmark   December 5, 2012 at 11:54AM
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OMG. That woman's children should be with Social Services. Honestly.

When I was tiny, I could not stomach processed food because my mother made everything from scratch. (I used to cry when forced to go to McDonald's by friends' parents.) Once, unexpected guests showed up right before dinner, and she extended her homemade chicken soup with a can of broth. Now, today I think canned chicken broth is a pretty unobjectionable and even useful ingredient. But back then, I could not tolerate processed foods at all and lost it right there at the dinner table. Sorry, Ma. Your fault, though.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2012 at 12:36PM
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A 'cook's kitchen' is one in which:

- Real cooking takes place regularly and often, and is a pleasure to the cook(s). [There are a few real cooks whose lives are such that they only cook on weekends, but in most 'cook's kitchens' cooking is daily, and almost non-stop.]

- The way things work is more important than the way they look. This does not mean a cook's kitchen can't be beautiful, or has to have a particular style. It means that cooking function drives the layout, equipment, and finishes, and that conflicts between looks and function are resolved in favor of function.

- The layout of appliances, storage and workspace works for the cook(s) who use it, for the kinds of cooking that they do. That usually means a minimum of movement needed to assemble, prep, process, and cook the ingredients.

Cleanup is less streamlined in most of the real cook's kitchens I've known, but that's not inherent. (Most of them evolved in old houses where re-plumbing and re-wiring are even more difficult and expensive than the norm, and there is less willingness to make structural changes).

There are elements to many "cook's kitchens" that are sometimes mistaken for the essence -- hanging pots are a good example. In a whole lot of cases, maybe the majority, they strike me as being more for show than for cooking. In an actual "cook's kitchen", if pans hang they are within easy reach of the stove and/or oven, are limited to the pans most frequently used, show their long use, don't match, and are usually not a focal point.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2012 at 12:57PM
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LOVE THIS. TY sooo much for coming back rosylady !! I felt like I was reading a great novel. Please continue to write and inspire !!

I wish I had more to offer.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2012 at 4:24PM
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liriodendron said: To me a cook's kitchen is a room manifestly dedicated and planned around making food.

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I had been feeling paranoid about creating a kitchen that is unashamedly its own separate space in its own separate room - not because that's not what we want, but because it seemed to not be what anyone else on the planet would want.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2012 at 6:54PM
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As much as I like to wax eloquent about my current "rough luxe" temporary kitchen, I am definitely ready to move on from this phase of my cooking life!

Today I was at my neighbor's house (I spoke about her Lacanche in the CornuFe thread) helping her polish the brass on her stove. Her kitchen was designed by the previous owner, a chef. I was looking at this kitchen with new eyes today as I was thinking about this thread and all the great kitchens that have been described.

This kitchen had a huge, restaurant style stainless sink, a black Lacanche range with matching hood, light natural maple cabinets, open shelving instead of uppers, a magnetic knife bar on the wall, and some very, very cool green countertops made from a product called Avonite (sp?). It was kind of a small kitchen, and there really was not a ton of storage. I think most seasoned cooks have honed their tools down to a few beloved items that work well for them.

This thread has got me thinking about what is most important to me as a cook. These things are:

Access to the garden for picking herbs

Great light, especially in the morning. In the afternoon I prefer a shaded kitchen as my house faces west and has no air conditioning. Every August for my husband's birthday I cook his favorite meal: 5 cheese macaroni and cheese and chocolate cake. I used to get so hot and sweaty making that meal as the sun blasted in my kitchen windows! Every year I tried to convince him that a Caprese salad was just as good...

A great view from my kitchen window. I like to see what's going on in the neighborhood and spy on my neighbors. Nothing takes away the doldrums of washing dishes like watching your neighbor mow her lawn in her red bikini.

A great big pantry. I've never had one, but I have always dreamed of it. I think it would be a great place to hide just before a big dinner party when I want to take a few sips of something potent so I can become charming and witty instead of stressed and sweaty. Plus, I can store food in there.

An island or some sort of work table. Here's the catch though: I don't want anyone to be able to sit up to it. I want the kitchen to be a working space, that way people will lounge in the other rooms of my house.

Marble. There, I said it. I want marble...I need marble, I lust after marble. Since I was a child at the age of 7 and rolled out my first pie crust, I've dreamed of having a marble surface for pastry. When I was 10 I used some of my babysitting money to buy a marble "cutting board" at the neighbor's garage sale. It wasn't big enough for much and I soon went back to the formica countertop, but I just knew my pies would be better if I had a marble countertop. When I got to cooking school and saw the pastry kitchen for the first time I ran over to my little two foot section of marble and ran my hands all over it and savored the cold hardness. We didn't have air conditioning in that kitchen (and it was the hottest summer on record that year in London), but on the marble we could still manage to roll out puff pasty, tart dough, chocolate, whatever! Marble is magic.

Light. It is very hard to pick the worms off Lacinato Kale in the dim light of a lone 60 watt bulb. Ask me how I know this...

Air. I need air flow while I'm cooking. I get hot and like a cross breeze in the room while I'm cooking. I like lots of windows and doors to fling open. This reminds me of what I desire most in my new kitchen...

VENTILATION!!! I have never had a kitchen with proper ventilation. I make chicken stock so much that it has become my signature scent. If I pick up a shirt I wore a few days ago while making stock it always has an aroma of onion and chicken. It's not so bad for me, but I don't think smelling like onions when your husband walks in the door at the end of the day is good for long term marriage success. And don't even get me started about grease and smoke. Setting off the smoke alarm when I sear steaks is my version of the dinner bell. I have set off smoke alarms so many times at dinner parties that it's a running joke. And we're not talking about alarms in the kitchen, I disabled those years ago!

Doors. Open concept cooking and eating is not my thing. I don't want people seeing what I'm doing to their food before they eat it. Ok, good food takes SALT people. SALT!! When some people see me seasoning while I cook, they get the big goo goo eyes and mortified faces. Pasta water should taste like ocean water, and that takes salt. America's health problems are not because of too much salt in homecooked pasta water...but I digress. Also, I once I was serving stuffed chicken breasts and I dropped one on the floor. Everyone sat at the table watching, horrorstruck. It did not whet the appetite, especially when I ate it, because I hadn't prepared extra in case of droppage. I didn't care if I got a few germs! Most of the time I cook with people gathered around and it's no big deal, but for some occasions, I want doors.

It's true that a cook's kitchen is based on personal cooking style, personal experience, personal preferences. It's just plain...personal. I don't think a cook's kitchen would be the ideal kitchen for resale value. Fortunately, I don't plan on selling this house, so I can design it the way I like. But I don't want it to be wacky either. It makes me feel better that so many kitchen you describe don't have many uppers. Everyone who has seen my floor plan thinks I'm crazy for having two sets of french doors leading to the garden instead of a long counter run. I would rather prep on a small counter but be able to feel the breeze and see my garden from the open doors. The range will be positioned between these doors, so while something is simmering I can sit outside the door in the sun and sip a drink for a few minutes.

I am getting really excited about this new space!

    Bookmark   December 6, 2012 at 1:00AM
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We must be twins:

(you wrote) "An island or some sort of work table. Here's the catch though: I don't want anyone to be able to sit up to it. I want the kitchen to be a working space, that way people will lounge in the other rooms of my house."

I have often expressed that exact thought here, I don't recall anyone else who ever agreed!


    Bookmark   December 6, 2012 at 1:20AM
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I hear ya on ventilation! I am stil a bit nervous whether the inspector is going to talk about makeup air for my 1600cfm fan. I decided to keep both the double French doors and the dutch door on the kitchen wall so that I can have circulation.. I suspect that people thought I was referring to traffic flowing to the courtyard from the kitchen .. I was thinking air and access for me to the long herb planters outside.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2012 at 9:44AM
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Rosy: I like you! Welcome, dear friend!

    Bookmark   December 6, 2012 at 11:19AM
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Angie: You all are like friends to me because I have been visiting this forum for years and know all of you! I have been following your stories and trials and tribulations, and learning from it all.

You know what I love about this thread? Every response has been happy. I know I will read this over and over again for a long time.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2012 at 12:20PM
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Omgoodness rosylady. You are my kinda gal !! I want to be your BFF.

You totally have me in hysterics. "Nothing takes away the doldrums of washing dishes like watching your neighbor mow her lawn in her red bikini" and "a great place to hide just before a big dinner party when I want to take a few sips of something potent so I can become charming and witty instead of stressed and sweaty".

You know me too well!


A great big pantry. I've never had one, but I have always dreamed of it. I think it would be Plus, I can store food in there.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2012 at 1:52PM
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our new house design.

I asked the architect for a "live-in pantry" :)

    Bookmark   December 6, 2012 at 8:46PM
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Rosylady, your writing is exquisite. Your warmth and down-to-earth sense of humor is a gift. So, glad you've de-lurked!

    Bookmark   December 6, 2012 at 9:13PM
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Also, I once I was serving stuffed chicken breasts and I dropped one on the floor. Everyone sat at the table watching, horrorstruck.

My go-to line, which I shamelessly lifted from a comedian so many years ago that I have forgotten who it was, in this situation is: "Well, you can EAT off of my floor." (Pause) "God knows there is enough food down there that you wouldn't go hungry."

    Bookmark   December 7, 2012 at 12:00AM
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rosy...you are so on point ! Love your sense of humor :) We definitely follow the 8 second rule in our home too. c

    Bookmark   December 7, 2012 at 2:44AM
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Rosy, this is a great thread, so thought-provoking. And I am totally with you on not having an open kitchen. I understand that it is very popular to have a kitchen open to the LR, and I understand why. It's just not for me, so MY cook's kitchen has to be in a separate room from the living room, though connected. The main reason is that I have had the most wonderful talks with my children after dinner. Each one takes turns helping me clean after dinner, while everyone else leaves. That means quiet one-on-one talking time, which have been so wonderful. We couldn't have that if we were cleaning while the TV was blaring from the living room, or while everyone could hear us. So even though my main reason for my cook's kitchen as a separate room has nothing to do with cooking, it's still what I want for MY cook's kitchen.

I have to digress from the main topic here to say I am with you on the salt too, though I want to mention that we use sea salt almost exclusively. Perhaps I am too hippy-dippy, but I truly believe that problems this society has with salt are from overuse in processed foods, and from processed salt itself. Processed table salt has been stripped of its minerals and trace elements which are so useful to the body. Processed table salt also contains additives such as aluminum silicate to keep it powdery. Why would I want to add aluminum to my diet. And once you taste the clean flavor of sea salt, you will notice the aluminum taste of table salt. OK, off my soap box now.

As to food dropping on the floor - I remember watching an early black-and-white Julia Child cooking show, where she dropped some food on the floor, and cheerfully put it back on the platter, patting it neatly, and saying none of her guests has to know. If Julia could do it, so can I!

    Bookmark   December 7, 2012 at 8:38AM
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I wish I had more time so I could respond to each post! You guys have the best stories and anecdotes! Plus, I love the emotion that is associated with these cooking and kitchen stories.

My mom called me last night after reading this thread and said, "I wonder if your neighbor will ever know she has been immortalized on your kitchen site?" The red bikini wearing neighbor also owns the Lacanche in the chef's kitchen I went to next door. I think she should be referred to in all future descriptions as "Mrs. Fabulous".

Ok, here's a very strange thing I was thinking about: both neighbors on either side of me are chefs, the neighbor one house down from Mrs. Fabulous is a chef/caterer, the neighbors across the street (husband and wife) are both chefs, and I am a cooking school graduate.
I find that amazing!!

You would think with all these great cooks we would be having fabulous dinner parties together, but we really don't. I wish we did. I think chefs just want to relax at home.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2012 at 3:01PM
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This thread made me think of something that has not occurred to me in years. Does anyone recall having seen the kitchen in France of one of the T.V. chefs, perhaps Ken Hom? If so, would you post an image link or information? I have a faint recollection of someone who cooked on a U.S. show, was from my old stomping grounds, but also had a home with a kitchen for every possible cooking purpose that I could imagine in France. Anyway, that was a cook's kitchen!

    Bookmark   December 21, 2012 at 4:35PM
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fabulous thread, Thanks for bumping it KD. No clue who that french chef was.

Rosylady, you are a hoot. Do continue to post.

Cook's Kitchen? I dunno. Mainly a place where it is all about the food I guess.

I will say a walk in pantry is invaluable , and turned out to be one of the best parts of moving here 15 years ago. I do go in there sometimes to breathe, sigh, curse, regroup...

Either no one notices or they think nothing of it.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2012 at 8:21PM
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I just found this thread (and the Johnliu one). Both wonderful. Boy I'll remember not to take pictures of my framed James Bond book covers. Yes I love 007 that much. Sure my minor was Women and Gender Studies, but I was also an English major. I just happen to love sexist authors.

I have to agree with one Marcolo's last posts about a cook's kitchen growing organically. I hope to get close to it in my future little kitchen.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2013 at 8:08PM
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For me, a cook's kitchen is unafraid to have things reside on the counter, in plain view. Stuff I use day in, day out: toaster, knives, dish of butter, salt & pepper, olive oil, etc. I do not understand the obsession with nothing on the counter. It feels like, don't climb onto mommy's lap, mommy's wearing a nice outfit.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 10:33AM
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Iowa: Framed James Bond? I want a picture! My husband loves 007 and when the Thanksgiving marathon the "man channel" he watches it for days. I can watch Sean Connery for days, so it's no problem for me...:)

linelle: Ok, your post got me thinking: what's a dead giveaway you are NOT in a cook's kitchen?

Some people try hard to build, decorate, and furnish a "real working kitchen", but there are telltale signs they are not a "serious" (and by that I mean obsessive!) cook.

The number one thing that gives it away is the lack of a really good pepper grinder. I was in a new kitchen recently cooking green beans with caramelized shallots and the pepper grinder there was abysmal. It only churned out one size grind, and it was so big and wide you couldn't get your hand around it very well. It was pretty though...

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 12:12PM
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Bad knives are another sign of a non-cook kitchen.

You need good knives. You need good tools and they need to be handy.

And the pots and pans will probably show some wear in a real cook's kitchen.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 12:23PM
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Hey rosylady, notice I didn't say that. :) I'm sure there are stellar cooks who don't permit anything to reside on their counters. It just seems so unnecessary and inconvenient to have to hide the working elements of a kitchen for the sake of showcasing itself.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 1:06PM
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donaleen: yes, knives matter a lot. And yes, cooking causes wear and tear and 99% of the people I know who cook a lot don't really care.

When I went to the woman's kitchen I talked about in the beginning of this thread, one thing I noticed was this big wolf range that was not shiny. It was clean, but you could tell she cooked on it every day and maybe once a week it got a scrubbing.

My mom kept her stove spotless when I was a kid. She did not cook very much. That's not to say there are not some neatnik cooks out there. I just don't know any!

lilnelle: you are nicer than me:)

I once was hired to cook a dinner for a couple in thier own home. When I got to her house her kitchen was absolutely sparkling. Even the inside of the cupboards were clean and organized with all the spices lined up neatly. When I commented on this, she laughed nervously and admitted she had spent two days cleaning her kitchen before I came. She didn't want a "chef" to see her kitchen in it's normal state.

I laughed and laughed! I told her that most serious cooks don't have ultra clean, organized kitchens. She seemed shocked. Oh, that poor woman...

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 1:32PM
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Tim Sutherland

Kitchens are very personal to those that use them. One cooks dream kitchen will be another cooks nightmare.

Fingers crossed in two years time I will be allowed to build MY dream kitchen in our current house. Any line cook/professional chef will feel at ease here, but most people on this forum would be shocked.

I am in a very unique situation where my wife has a very well paying job that means I do not have to work to put food on the table. This is not to say I could not find work, as 13 years in the Australian Army (retiring as a Major) and four years as a Finance Professional (two finance degrees, the highest a Masters) have left me with marketable skills. After moving to Dallas TX via five years in New York City, from Sydney Australia, I was looking at short courses to improve my home cooking. Not finding any courses that were of value I enrolled at Le Cordon Bleu and completed a 15 month Culinary Associates Degree in 13 months then worked in a five star restaurant for nine months. This was all to improve my home cooking.

Kitchens for me are a place of work. If you want to socialize there are other rooms in the house for that. If you need to do homework, there are other rooms in the house for that. If you are in my kitchen you are cooking and/or cleaning. By their nature kitchens are hot, noisy, dangerous places. Pets and very very young children do not belong in the kitchen as they pose a risk to themselves and others, both through injury and food contamination.

My kitchen will have a commercial range hood. I'm not talking 27" deep 48" wide 1,000 cfm, but a 48" deep 9' wide 2,500 cfm hood covering the entire hot cooking area. The hot cooking area will have one gas wok burner and outlets/space for two 3,500w (240v) portable induction burners, two 1,800w (110v) portable induction burners, one 240v counter top deep fryer, two immersion circulators (110v) in their water baths, and a commercial combi oven. Portable burners and the like allow flexibility in the kitchen and increase prep counter space.

Most of my kitchen will be stainless steel with open shelving. It might not grace the pages of Better Homes and Garden, but it will be a bullet proof kitchen that is easy to clean. As much as possible the kitchen will be a separate room, NOT open the the main living areas. For me kitchens are food preparation areas with other rooms for food eating and socializing. A separate kitchen allows the noise, heat and smells to be contained in one room, not spread throughout the house.

This kitchen will match my cooking style and methods. I hunt and have a chest freezer full of venison, rabbit and squirrel I harvested myself. The freezer also contains sub-primal cuts of animals that I buy in bulk. I much as I can I butcher and process my own meat and make sausage from scratch. I make all stocks, broths and sauces from scratch. I need large prep tables that are easy to clean to do this.

While I do not consider my cooking methods cutting edge, I do own and use equipment not often seen outside professional kitchens. I cook Sous Vide for almost every meal. I use immersion circulators to cook most of my proteins and I use a vacuum chamber sealer to seal product in plastic bags. For those that have seen the five volume cookbook Modernist Cuisine, I can prepare most of those recipes with the current kitchen tools I own. My dream kitchen will allow me to cook them all.

I rarely cook one pot wonders. A normal mid week meal, for just my wife and I, will be one course with a protein, sauce, two different vege and a starch. I require five separate burners to heat the food for plating - one for each item. I will/have happily spend/spent 6-8 hours a day in the kitchen for 3-4 days preparing a themed 9 course tasting meal (paired with wine) because one friend from out of town is/was coming over. I enjoy preparing, cooking, plating and serving food at home that is 5 star restaurant quality. When people ask me what do I do, I say I am a Personal Chef to my Wife. I can count on both hands the number of times per YEAR that we order take out and/or eat at a restaurant for dinner when in Dallas.

A kitchen is where cooking occurs. While many people forget it, cooking is a very serious business. When you make mistakes in a kitchen, at best people go yuk and a pizza is ordered; worse case people die. To reduce the possibility of food borne illnesses, the kitchen needs to be an area that is separate from the main area of the house. It should not be a thoroughfare for the family and pets traipsing from the carport/outside/garage/etc to get to another part of the house. The materials the kitchen is made of need to be easily cleaned and sanitized. If you are scared to use a pressure washer on them, it is not the right material.

My dream kitchen is most peoples nightmare. It is industrial, noisy and tight. Any aisle wider than 36" wide is too wide, any wider I would have to take a step to reach something - that is inefficient. The lighting will be bright and daylight balanced. I spend my pretty-mood-lighting-funds on the lights outside and in the great room, not the kitchen. The only view in my kitchen, other than the four walls, is the TV in one corner. The best views in the house are when you are sitting on the back deck with a cold beer in both hands, not standing at the sink washing a stack of dirty pans.

A "cook's kitchen" is one where any cooking occurs. I have friends with kitchens costing $200k+ that only get used to heat precooked purchased food on Thanksgiving - I do not call this a cook's kitchen although it could be. Another friend will prepare, from scratch a 3 course plated meal for 10 in their 800 sq ft NYC studio apartment. The "kitchen" is a bar sink, 2 feet of counter space, 1 hot plate, 1 toaster oven and a dorm fridge.

What constitutes a "cook's kitchen" for me is one that I am willing and happy to spend many hours a day, day after day in. For me this is commercial kitchen in a residential home.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 4:10PM
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timdeb: Wow. What a great description of your personal cooking style, habits, and tastes. I would love to see some kitchen in action shots from your kitchen! Squirrel? Homemade sausage? Primal cuts of meat?

Butchering takes a lot of space and a thorough knowledge of food safety practices. If I did a lot of butchering, I would want a stainless sink integrated with stainless counters and backsplash. Just cleaning and scaling a large salmon is a messy business.

I graduated from cooking school and am a stay at home mom to two kids 4 and 6. My husband does have a personal chef:) I joke that it's my career. Really, it kind of is. I grow some of my own food, spend time sourcing the rest of it from the best places I can, make all my own stocks, demi-glace, etc. Homemade pasta, bread, cakes , pies, candy, jams, liqueurs. I could go on and on!

Cooking feeds my soul...and everyone around me:)

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 8:23PM
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