Gourmet-Style Design

While today’s kitchens are used in myriad ways, for most consumers, cooking is the most important function of the space. And the gourmet cooking enthusiast can be a dream client for many designers, who get excited by the idea of designing a space that will be loved, appreciated and used to the fullest. Yet these projects can also be among the most demanding.

“Avid chefs have strong opinions about how they want their kitchens to function,” says Leslie Lee of the Hinsdale, IL-based Normandy Remodeling. Yet, she sees these jobs as a unique opportunity, too, explaining, “It is our role to help guide them to maximize the space in a way that best suits their unique cooking style.”

Designing for the home chef is also challenging in that, as kitchens become increasingly personalized, so, too, does our definition of “gourmet” (see related Editorial, Page 5). Today’s culinary enthusiast may be all about classical cooking or king of the grill; passionate about pastry, or simply into preparing clean, healthful organic dishes that are free of chemicals, sugars and GMOs.

Yet, while cooking styles vary widely, there are some basic commonalities to kitchens designed for the gourmet chef: They require superior lighting, adequate prep space (and often multiple countertop surfaces to meet different cooking needs), a high-powered commercial gas cooktop (though induction is gaining ground even with some of the gourmet set), good ventilation, plentiful storage for a variety of fresh ingredients and an easy-to-navigate layout that allows for juggling multiple dishes – while entertaining guests with all of that great food. The right appliances are essential, but everything from prep space and storage to clean up must be considered if the kitchen is to work seamlessly for the serious chef.

This month, KBDN asked five designers to talk about a kitchen project they designed specifically for a cooking enthusiast.


Zoning Efficiency

Designing a highly efficient kitchen for the Colorado State Fair “Queen of the Kitchen” presented a unique challenge to Rylie Larimer of the Colorado Springs-based RJL Designs LLC. The kitchen was in a 1940s-era home and was very small. However, the owner loves to cook and competes in many cooking competitions, so an efficient design was critical.

For the Colorado State Fair competition, over 150 food products were being judged, and Larimer states, “The kitchen got almost a 24-7 workout to get everything cooked, baked, canned and dehydrated.” She continues, “She needed a range that could handle the work load. We chose a 36" AGA Dual-Fuel range with a 42" Vent-A-Hood range hood to take care of ventilating the space. The commercial-style range works well for the large canning pots. The French-door refrigerator was also a necessary selection for the cold storage and holding fresh fruits and vegetables.”

With only a 9'x11' space, placement of the appliances was critical. A U-shaped design offers work counter space between the range, sink and refrigerator, and the small space ensures that the client can turn and have easy access to everything with minimal steps in between.

Larimer states, “To add to the prep space, I designed in a base pull-out table by Hafele that extends from the custom bookcase for her many cookbooks. It also doubles as a breakfast counter.” Larimer adds, “The client likes the efficiency of the new kitchen, better utilizing the small space and maximizing every inch of storage by designing a specific space for her spices, the base lazy susan, and a pantry with multiple full-extension roll-out shelves.”

Larimer believes that “a kitchen that is suited for a gourmet chef is not so different from the typical custom kitchen. The key elements are how the design creates specific work zones for food prep, cooking and clean-up.”


Best of the Best

Just as designers get better with each kitchen they create, homeowners, too, become more sophisticated in their tastes as they experience different kitchens. For this project, designed by Leslie Lee of the Hinsdale, IL-based Normandy Remodeling, the clients “were trying to combine everything they loved about the various details in their prior kitchens to make a ‘best of the best’ layout,” Lee explains.

The clients wanted a commercial-style Thermador cooktop with built-in wok feature that was no longer available, so they searched far and wide until they located the model they were seeking across the country and then had it refurbished.

To handle the extremely high BTUs created by the built-in wok feature, this appliance requires a powerful venting system that was concealed behind a custom stucco style hood and designed to fit perfectly between two existing windows. Lee notes, “The cooktop and hood visually anchor a highly functional cooking zone where ovens, cooktop and wok were all grouped together.”

To provide storage of spices and cooking oils, the design features customized open cabinets and spice drawers. Since the husband loves to cook while his wife loves to bake, the space features “two separate but complementary” work zones. She notes, “Dual ovens that flank either side of the cooktop create a baking zone anchored by the refrigerator and a cooking zone tying into the sink.”

Lee continues, “As is common with most chefs, the microwave was a very low priority appliance and was placed on the outskirts of the kitchen out of the main prep area. Being a former caterer with a passion for baking meant having a well-organized and self-contained baking area. This baking center includes a pop-up mixer stand in the island. Directly across from the mixer, a large pantry-type cabinet was maximized with tall dividers and square compartments for cookie sheets, cutting boards, baking utensils and canisters.”

The butler’s pantry also offers serving spaces for entertaining, allowing guests to be near the kitchen without being in the way of the chef. Lee explains, “This particular butler’s pantry also has an ice maker and doubles as a beverage center as well as a serving locale,” which highlights the homeowners’ love of fine wines.

Lee continues, “When actively engaged in the art of cooking or baking, the homeowners like to spread out and take over the entire kitchen as their workspace. They value countertop/prep space highly, which eliminated the possibility of a second sink in the island, and placed a premium on eliminating countertop clutter. The large walk-in pantry includes hidden outlets and houses common small appliances, such as toasters and toaster ovens, to minimize countertop clutter. Highly customized cabinet interiors further provide a place for everything, also helping to eliminate potential countertop clutter and maximizing workspaces.”

The details can make all the difference: In this kitchen, even the outlets were recessed into the upper cabinets to avoid visual clutter.

Finally, Lee focused on making the kitchen storage as functional as possible, concluding that, “Nearly all of the cabinet interiors included organizational features like utensil dividers, tray dividers, customized compartments and roll-out trays.”

The end result is a kitchen that highlights cooking- and entertainment-friendly features, superior storage, and plenty of little extras that really do make the clients feel like they have “the best of the best.”


Room to Work

At Crystal Kitchen Center, Inc. in Crystal, MN, President Jolynn Johnson cites a working kitchen designed in her showroom as a favorite chef-inspired kitchen. She says, “I have had many chefs cook in this kitchen, and they all love the design.” In fact, at the showroom’s grand opening, she had three different chefs working in the space, and “they all had enough room to work, without being in each other’s way.” The kitchen features a U-shaped design, 54" of aisle space and three large food prep areas, all with easy access to all appliances.

She notes that each client will have their own way of cooking, and will likely have strong ideas about where they want their work surfaces and what appliance locations work best for them. In the showroom kitchen, “A 36"- to 48"-wide food prep area with easy access to the knives, waste basket, spices and refrigerator is perfect.” The design inspires clients because it makes sense to those who love to cook. As she explains it, “What clients like is enough work space with easy access to appliances and storage. It works so well because everything is within reach or one or two steps away.”

While every home chef is different, she maintains that her cooking-focused clients want “good lighting, enough counter space in the right location, storage of equipment and appliances that meet their needs.” To the latter end, she explains that most serious home chefs like the control of gas cooktops, although she adds that “induction is coming on strong.” In fact, she says the biggest objection to induction is not about the cooking aspect, but about having to get new pans.

She notes, “Some may want a griddle, but most will have the grill outside. They usually want a cooktop that has at least one high BTU burner. A steam oven is going in 50 percent of our remodeled kitchens. Microwaves are going by the wayside as the health conscious consumer realizes the loss of nutrition to their food that the microwave zaps out.” She concludes, “Placement of appliances is very important to the cooking enthusiast,” explaining that the cookie cutter layout doesn’t appeal to home chefs. Rather, they want a flexible design that works for the way they cook.


Entertainment Friendly

Cooking and entertaining go hand in hand, so when Nancy Forman was called on to design this space, she wanted to make sure it would work for busy social gatherings. The creative director for the Philadelphia-based Performance Kitchens began with an open layout that would be well suited for entertaining large groups.

A spacious pantry was added to “house all of the ingredients that can make it easy to cook up a storm.” The next priorities were “proper counter space beside the cooking and sink areas and good ventilation for grilling.”

It was also critical to provide easy access for more than one person to cook, as well as plenty of counter space on the island. She notes, “Island counters are a great space for setting up plates.” Since half the fun of cooking is being able to do it for an audience, the design needed to accommodate this. She concludes, “The size and shape of the island and seating at the island made it a great space for guests to hang out and watch the chef in action.”


Keeping the Cook Involved

An open layout was also essential in this kitchen designed by Dawn Zuber, AIA, of the Canton, MI-based Studio Z Architecture. Her client wasn’t a gourmet chef, per se, but he did enjoy cooking and entertaining for friends and family. However, he didn’t want to be stuck in the kitchen while everyone else was having fun. Rather, “he asked for an open kitchen where he could prepare and cook food while still being a part of the party. He also wanted to be able to see the TV from the kitchen,” she comments.

An open floor plan made the kitchen space seem larger and more party-friendly, and Zuber notes that the client loves the way it’s open to the family room and dining area.

She continues, “I always like to place the sink and stove along the same run of cabinetry so that the chef doesn’t have to walk across the kitchen with heavy pots full of boiling water, for example.”

The client fell in love with the 48" Wolf range “because of the clean design and double ovens,” and she notes that the placement further contributes to the kitchen’s cook-friendliness.

Cooks do the majority of their food prep in the space between the sink and the stove, she explains, “so that area should be spacious but not too large so that the sink and stove are a comfortable distance apart.” In this kitchen, she notes, “there is about 42 linear inches of counter space between the sink and the stove, which is just right.”

She adds, “The island is also conveniently positioned so that the chef can work there, too, or can have an assistant working on the island.” The end result is a kitchen with a very entertainment-friendly layout that allows the chef to cook and still be a part of the fun.

To see more views and photos of these gourmet-style kitchens, visit our Web site at www.ForResidentialPros.com.