Using Space Wisely: Secrets From Professional Chefs

Learn tips about kitchen design from people who make their living cooking (a lot) for others.

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With its functional layout and use of stainless steel, a material that's easy to clean and sanitize, this modern space is reminiscent of a chef's kitchen. (Design by Rouzita Vahhabaghai. Photo by Maxwell Mackenzie.)

Function, Function, Function

Award-winning chef Bruce Bogartz, proprietor of RouxBarb restaurant in Knoxville, Tenn., has managed his share of kitchens. His overriding philosophy toward design is simple. "No space in a kitchen should be wasted or be purely aesthetic," he says.

Function should be the number-one goal when designing a new space or remodeling an old one. That doesn't mean you have to sacrifice beautiful design for function. Just consider function and determine layout first. Being successful in the restaurant business requires a well-laid-out and well-appointed kitchen. Professional chefs have to make the best use of space to ensure that tasks can be performed efficiently and that food is served to the customer hot and tasty despite the hustle and bustle. What advice would busy chefs offer the home cook? We asked them.

Tip #1
Don't forget about the small stuff that could cause large headaches later, Chef Bogartz says. "There are so many tasks performed in a kitchen, a number of which you would not even predict. Be as proactive as possible with nooks and shelves, hooks, garbage receptacles, sinks, faucets, power outlets, etc."

Decide What Is Necessary

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The oversized refrigerator in this Old World-designed kitchen is camouflaged with wood panels that coordinate with the cabinetry. A rustic pot rack stores cookware within reach. (Design by Suzanne Furst.)

Tip #2
Deron Little, chef and managing partner of Season's Cafe and Webster's Deli in Farragut, Tenn., says to carefully consider refrigeration while designing your kitchen. Think about the amount of space needed to keep your household's cold things cold and frozen things frosty.

Tip #3
Consider your cooking styles and plan for necessary equipment, he suggests. Do you make big breakfasts? You may want a large built-in griddle and a professional-grade cappuccino maker. If you entertain often, consider double ovens and an oversized cooktop. If you're a wine connoisseur, think about building in a wine refrigerator. Think about how many small appliances do you use daily. Decide whether you want to allocate counter space for a juicer, blender, toaster, coffeemaker or other equipment.

Tip #4
When it comes to storing cookware, Chef Little is a fan of pot racks. "I would recommend hanging the sauté pans," he says. "This frees up shelving and helps decorate the kitchen."

Have Room to Work But Keep It Close

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This kitchen was once closed off from the rest of house. Removing a wall created an open floor plan and the opportunity for family and guests to spend time with the cook. (Design by Lori Gilder.)

Tip #5
"I think it's important to have enough room at the work stations but keep the stations close so that the chef does not have to go far to get anything," says Chef Little. Getting exercise is great but not necessarily while you're trying to prepare a meal, wash the dishes and set the table.

Tip #6
If there are certain ingredients you use regularly, keep them close at hand. "I try to keep my flour, sugar and corn starch out in glass jars to make them accessible," says Chef Little. Choose pretty containers and you'll be adding a decorative element as well as a functional one.

Carefully Consider the Floor

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This pre-Civil War stone barn was built in Valley Forge and then moved, stone by stone, to a new location. Though modern conveniences were added to the kitchen, it still has plenty of antique charm. (Design by Dave Stimmel.)

Tip #7
Finally, think about the floor. Chef Bogartz speaks from experience: "If you plan on spending a lot of time in the kitchen, be certain that your legs and feet do not pay the price of inexpensive flooring materials," he says. "The floor should be an easy-to-clean surface." Comfortable and eco-friendly options include cork and recycled rubber. Or soften your step by placing a thick, washable rug at work areas.

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