Cooking up a better kitchen

  • Article by: BY LAURA REILEY , Tampa Bay Times
  • Updated: December 15, 2012 - 2:55 PM

"Iron Chef" shares his strategies for smart design - and avoiding common mistakes.

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Celebrity chef Geoffrey Zakarian, right, and developer James Ramos have teamed up to design functional, usable kitchen spaces.

Photo: Carolina Hidalgo, Tampa Bay Times

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Celebrity chef Geoffrey Zakarian and developer James Ramos were trying to find a place upstairs for an espresso machine. As far as Zakarian was concerned, you roll out of bed, take a spin through the bathroom, and then are ready for the morning's first cup of joe. No need to traipse all the way down to the kitchen.

Scrutinizing the specs for a home on Davis Islands, Fla., the two colleagues pored over the drawings: no formal living room, lots of outdoor living space and a drop-dead-gorgeous kitchen.

But its allures aren't only skin-deep. We caught up with Zakarian, a restaurateur, victor on Food Network's "Iron Chef" and a judge on the network's "Chopped" since 2006, to discuss the dos and don'ts of kitchen design.

"The party starts in the kitchen, family life starts in the kitchen," said Zakarian. Here's what he says are the worst kitchen mistakes:

Too much space. "Seventy-five percent of your needs should be within your wingspan," said Zakarian. You need to be able to grab a pan, turn to get ingredients from the fridge, chop something on a cutting board and get something cranking on the stove -- all with a minimum of walking, just like in a professional kitchen. Zakarian suggests minimizing the distance between elements of the "kitchen work triangle": the stove, refrigerator and sink.

Appliances. "Buy the best equipment you can afford. I recommend getting the biggest refrigerator and freezer possible," Zakarian said. Major brands tend to maintain their value for resale.

Pots. Keep pots and pans in deep drawers, not overhead on hanging pot racks. Keep pans separated by function (saute pans here, saucepans there), with a separate area for lids.

Pantry. When stocking a pantry, "don't always cart your spices with you," Zakarian said. "You should replace spices every six months. So buy them in smaller quantities. And no bulk olive oil. I buy a small bottle and keep it in the fridge. People think they are saving money by buying in bulk, but they're really throwing money in the garbage."

Pet peeves. Glass-fronted refrigerators (who wants to keep it tidy in there all the time?); warming drawers ("what are you warming?"); built-in espresso makers; built-in ovens on walls far away from the work triangle; garbage that's nowhere near where you're chopping. Also, cautions Zakarian: "The bigger the kitchen, the more superfluous stuff you'll find in it."

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