Recently, I had the pleasure of attending an event at the test kitchen and entertaining space that is home base to TastingTable.com, a Web presence for those of us who love kitchens, food and the adventures that go with those passions. The evening was hosted by Tasting Table to honor Jenn-Air for their sponsorship and support, and the space is a wonderful loft in the SoHo section of Manhattan. While this kitchen definitely has demands not placed on the typical residential kitchen, its design offers some great inspiration for all, so on a quieter day, I headed back there to learn more about the details and process that lead to this incredibly charming high function space.
The entire Tasting Table team, headed up by Geoff Bartakovics, CEO, was involved in the process that led to the finished space, and in Geoff’s words, it would not have happened without the design team. Designers Eric Cheong and Loren Daye worked with Geoff to create the space and select the products and finishes, and a real star in the process, according to Geoff, was Lee Alefantis from Tribeca Builders. A look at the before and after of this space certainly sings their praises.
Just as with any design, this process began with a list of the functions for the space and the wish list generated by the team. This kitchen and surrounding space would serve as a test kitchen where the master chef and the sous chef would convert restaurant recipes for home use. In addition, the foods would be photographed here.
Another typical activity would be small cooking classes and demonstrations run by guests from the restaurant world. The social space would be used by many in the business network of the team, and it would need to seat 30 for sit-down dinners and up to 75 for cocktails, with all food prepared in the kitchen. Although the vibe would need to be sophisticated, the space would also need to look and feel like home, and it does.
The space is an 1850s loft in SoHo, last renovated in 1972, and it needed considerable reworking to come up to the performance standards desired by the team while still maintaining its character. The original wood floors were sanded, stained and minwaxed and the brick walls were cleaned and sealed. Less than lovely conduit boxes that lined the loft were removed and cables carrying power were designed in. In the kitchen, three layers of floor had to be removed, and reinforcement added to level the subfloor onto which a herringbone pattern in tile was installed. Although not officially required, ventilation for the gas range was added as were extra heads in the sprinkler system. The wiring was replaced and of course redesigned, including a dedicated line throughout the space for camera work. As a result, the finished space more than complied with code and tremendous flexibility has been designed into the plan to suit the varied purposes.
THE FINISHED SPACE
Not only is this space one that I immediately warmed to, it’s also full of design ideas to appreciate and to adopt for residential work, and I have included a few of those ideas here.
First, the lighting was ingenious, with hanging pendants over the dining table and interspersed throughout the space. These pendants were connected to ceiling outlets and suspended by hooks, making them movable or removable depending on the function – think of those dining spaces that could benefit from this idea.
The cabinetry, made from reclaimed oak, included a number of cubbies with drop down doors and fewer drawers than you might expect. These cubbies were intended to house small appliances and did, but Geoff offered that more drawers would have been useful, given the number of tools and small gadgets needing a storage spot. One great detail was the base cabinet housing trays and baking pans, right at the point of use. Without a door, it served the chefs well and had a great “serious cooking” look to it. Storage for tools included color coded tape so that things could easily be returned to their appropriate storage spot. Oil paint was used on the baseboards to hold up to the abuse they would take.
Given the heavy use it gets, this kitchen is not far from the typical number of appliances and work zones that a home kitchen would have. The island offers a generous work surface when needed and the back of the island stores service for 30 of the many types of dishes that might be needed. With two cooks, careful preparation and a number of supplemental appliances and techniques, it is working beautifully, according to the chefs.
A pantry set off the kitchen houses crystal and flatware, as well as a back-up refrigerator and “kits.” Equipment specific to a cooking activity is stored in a plastic bin or kit that is stored in the storeroom, so, for example, when it’s a baking day, the baking kit is brought out – a great example of prioritizing which items need to be kept within reach and which can be stored steps away.
Forgive the pun, but this column is truly just a taste of the space at Tasting Table. For a closer look, you can go to tastingtable.com and view the video tour and more.
As we were winding up, Geoff offered these words to the design profession. “This has been so much fun that I was tempted to try my hand at designing, but on reflection, I knew there was so much to the process that I could not have done without my team, and my hat is off to you in the design field.”