Cook Like A Pro
When talking about the size and efficiency of chef’s kitchens in the home, misconceptions are common. Adrian Lee, head designer of AKL Designer Kitchens, speaks with Bhria Vellnagel about how you can design and construct an authentic chef’s kitchen in your own household.
The most admired thing about a chef’s kitchen is the potential for cooking up amazing food. Installing a fully fitted chef’s kitchen in your home may sound a bit extravagant, but the name can be misleading. Often people believe that a chef’s kitchen must be large, expensive and extravagant, but that’s not entirely accurate. In fact, chef’s kitchens can be built on a smaller scale, without sacrificing the functionality of a large kitchen. If your household loves to cook and entertain, investing in a chef’s kitchen will be one of the best decisions you’ll ever make. Adrian Lee explains the essentials of a great chef’s kitchen, with the knowledge that comes with years of installing them in the homes of his clients.
Lee says the essence of a chef’s kitchen lies in its superior functionality. The ability to streamline the cooking process will make a world of difference when you have hungry mouths to feed or when you’re cooking complicated recipes that take time.
According to Lee, ease of access is one of the most important elements in streamlined cooking. “Open shelving is a popular request,” he says. “This enables the chef to see and reach for things when required, without needing to open cabinet doors.” An ample amount of carefully positioned storage is another main element in a chef’s kitchen. Spacious cupboards, a butler’s pantry and open, eye-level shelving are considered essential. These storage solutions will ensure you have enough bench space for food preparation, and will save you from juggling around items you don’t need. Lee suggests placing the fridge/freezer, pantry and ovens on the wall behind the island bench. This will make it easier to fetch things in quick succession. Cookware, utensils, herbs and spices, and other important, heavily used items should be placed at arm’s length from the island.
Certain appliances are more important in a chef’s kitchen than a regular kitchen.
For many, a quick cooking process means a microwave, but according to Lee, these are becoming less popular in chef’s kitchens. In departure from the fast and simple cooking methods that became popular in the 50s, cooking has become more about enjoying the complexity of the process than speeding it up and losing flavour. One thing that doesn’t go out of style is the gas cooktop, which is bigger in a chef’s kitchen than in a regular kitchen. According to Lee, this is because they need to be “big enough to have a few pots and pans going at once without overcrowding”. Gas cooktops are preferred by most chefs over their electric counterparts as they have the unique ability to work well with varied cookware, while also heating up faster. Gas cooktops are also easier to clean and have cheaper maintenance costs. Other popular appliances include generously sized sinks with pull-out spout taps and double ovens, which are big enough to cater for a large dinner party.
A butler’s pantry is vital for any entertainer that wants a presentable kitchen without needing to stress about cleaning before the guests have left. It’s designed as a second kitchen, with ample storage space and an extra sink and bench. Hidden within the main kitchen, the butler’s pantry is usually used for food preparation, clean-up and extra storage.
Lee says that dividing your kitchen into separate zones will always make your cooking more efficient. Sorting the kitchen into cooking, cleaning and food-storage and –preparation areas will enhance the overall functionality of any kitchen. Each zone should comprise of appliances and utensils that are relevant to its purpose. In the cooking section, for example, you’ll have ovens, cooktops and cookware. By storing cookware close to the relevant appliances, you’ll spend less time searching and walking to other sections of the kitchen, which will cut down on stress.
The ideal layout of a chef’s kitchen includes a large island bench that’s used as a workbench. Lee usually allows a distance of 1.2m–1.3m between the island bench and the cabinets on the rear wall, which he says is the perfect amount of space for up to two people to work harmoniously.
“A chef’s kitchen doesn’t need to be overly spacious, but it should be highly organised,” he says. While the positioning of zones is crucial, it is equally as important to organise your storage space. A chef’s kitchen requires all essential items to be at your fingertips, with everything in storage areas being strategically organised. Removing non-essential items from your immediate space will de-clutter often used drawers and cabinets, which is vital in creating an unhindered cooking process. Chef’s kitchens also require a powerful rangehood to suck steam, smoke and overwhelming aromas out of the kitchen before they spread through the rest of the house.
Lee has noticed that many homeowners make the mistake of opting for the cheapest rangehood available, but he says that good extraction is vital. The last thing you want is to turn on your new rangehood and have your dinner party disrupted by a loud sucking noise. Or worse still, the piercing sound of a fire alarm. Luckily, this can be avoided with a good quality rangehood that’s not only powerful but also quiet.
Seek a rangehood that has a quick extraction rate – preferably a ducted rangehood that will expel air directly outside. Any rangehood that won’t drown out nearby conversations is what you’re searching for. The brands Sirius and Schweigen have the best reviews when it comes to meeting both of these criteria, however the best model will depend on what size and performance your kitchen needs. For further clarification, consult your builder or designer.
Clean With Ease
Chefs observe sanitation standards with the utmost diligence, and their kitchens need to withstand wear and tear over continuous use. Therefore, hard-wearing surfaces that are easy to clean are essential. Lee’s favourite cooking surface is stainless steel, because it’s easy to clean and disinfect, in addition to being highly durable. Keep in mind, however, a stainless steel benchtop may be difficult to integrate with the aesthetic of your home. Other popular hardwearing surfaces include granite, quartz and porcelain, which may better suit your style.
When it comes to splashbacks, Lee says that they must be easy to wipe down. Oils and fats are especially prone to getting stuck on splashbacks, and the last thing you’ll want to do after cooking is worry about scrubbing every surface in your kitchen! Splashbacks are required to protect your walls from the mess of cooking, but they are also fantastic statement pieces. It’s best to steer away from installing tiles, stone or anything porous, as food matter will cling to these materials. Glass and stainless steel are popular options because they are stylish and easy to clean.
Glass can be customised with colours and patterns to create the perfect backdrop for your chef’s kitchen. A personalised and streamlined cooking experience is an enjoyable one. By incorporating the design ideas and appliances recommended by Lee, you can join the league of happy home chefs that have their own professional kitchen. You’ll be able to entertain with ease, while creating the ambitious recipes you’ve always dreamed of perfecting.
Top Image Credit: Artemis Kitchen Designs
Middle Left Image Credit: Let’s Talk Kitchens & Interiors
Middle Centre Image Credit: AKL Designer Kitchens
Middle Right Image Credit: Individual Design and Construction
Bottom Image Credit: Perfetto Kitchens and Interiors