Step aside, Emeril. Now the rest of us want a professional kitchen decked out with all that cool stuff, too.
Several years ago, David and Judy Harris of Lake Forest, Ill., decided to create the professional-style kitchen they'd always wanted. "We love to cook, we love entertaining guests in our home and the kitchen is where everyone converges. So creating this kitchen was a dream we both had," says Judy Harris.
The Harrises, now retired, represent a rising trend among consumers, says their designer David McNulty of Kitchen and Bath Creations in Park Ridge, Ill.: "People are hungry for gourmet food in their homes." Their hunger stems from a bombardment of new appliances, gourmet tools, cooking and shelter magazines, cookbooks by famous chefs such as Sara Moulton or Mario Batali and cooking shows, all of which suggest that professional cooking is as accessible as your pocketbook.
One prize that professional wannabes are after is a responsive chef-style oven. The Harrises opted for a 48-inch Dacor stove with two self-cleaning ovens, both 21 inches deep, perfect for Judy's oversized turkey pan. (She was so determined to find a fit that she took her pan to the showroom before clinching the deal.) The stove also has an infrared gas broiler and six gas burners with continuous grates over the top.
David agrees that a Dacor oven is a cook's best friend. "It has true convection ovens, meaning the heated air is sucked (not blown as in most convection ovens) over the food into a fan where it burns off." That means no flavor passes from one food to another: Bake cookies and shrimp scampi at the same time and your confections won't taste like garlic bread. And five trays of cookies can brown evenly without having to scoot trays up and down. Move over, Mrs. Fields.
Warming drawers — with heat ranges of 90 to 220 degrees — are on consumers' wish lists as well. In fact, 50 percent of David McNulty's kitchen clients sign up for them. Says Judy Harris, "They're important for serious cooks. You can pull a roast off and let it set, warm dishes with dry heat or rolls with moist heat."
Another craze: Emeril's island setup where foodies can sit around and watch the chef. The Harrises created their professionally inspired kitchen by knocking down walls between three rooms, and then asked David to create a large center island with a sink for washing vegetables. (They have two other sinks in the kitchen — one of them is big enough to fit roasting pans or chill wine in the butler's pantry.) The semicircular island has two levels, one counter height and one 6 inches higher, with stools around the outside for guests.
"We just did a kitchen with an island based on TV cooking demonstrations the client had seen," says Judy Adams Hunt, an interior designer at Eurotech Cabinetry, who won the National Kitchen and Bath Association's 2005 prizes for the Best Kitchen and Best Overall Kitchen. To suit a client who wanted to cook while entertaining friends, she created a deep U-shape so guests are safe from splatters as they munch hors d'oeuvres on the other side.
People also are lining up for built-in coffee systems, David says: "Miele has one of the first. Fill it with water and coffee beans, push a coffee setting like 'espresso,' and the wizard grinds the beans and makes the coffee." Dacor offers one with its own water line (like an ice machine), a frothing unit and a separate drawer for waste. Double espresso, anyone?
Another professional-style luxury buyers are flocking to: under-the-counter wine coolers. "My favorite is a Sub-Zero that has two compartments," David says. "One can hold 20 bottles, the other 45. Put white in one, red in the other and keep each at the wine's perfect temperature. Some even have cigar humidors."
For cooks looking to go "pro" without stepping outside their homes, pro-style magic's the way to go. "We had three top chefs cater our daughter's wedding, and they loved working in our kitchen," says Judy Harris. "It took a year to build, and it was worth every moment."
Dorothy Foltz-Gray is a food and design writer who has kitchen-island envy.
Kitchen & Bath Creations