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Our Kitchen Makeover

The F&W test kitchen finally gets a long-needed renovation. Here are the best ideas, plus smart tips for making any kitchen a better place to cook.

After 20 years of heavy use, the Food & Wine test kitchen was looking a little tired. Exhausted, really. Some of the cabinet doors were falling off their hinges. The refrigerators demanded repairs every six months. At one point, only one of the four ovens worked. And that's not even taking into account the kitchen's somewhat outdated style. It needed a makeover.

Marcia Kiesel and Grace Parisi, who managed to create miraculous food every day in that imperfect kitchen, were happy with the basic layout. "Ergonomically, the kitchen worked well for them—it was like an extension of their bodies," says Tina Ujlaki, F&W's executive food editor, who helped oversee the renovation (a big thank you to Liz, Jerry, Maria, and DHI Associates' Lance and JR for making it happen). Standing at their stoves, Marcia and Grace had to take only a single step to reach their refrigerators, sinks and islands. But they needed reliable appliances—badly. Marcia and Grace use the refrigerator far more than the freezer, so they chose the 30-inch Sub-Zero fridge, which has a freezer drawer on the bottom (Series 611, $5,400; 800-222-7820). The 30-inch Viking gas stove they selected has a cast-iron grate in the area between the four burners that serves as a built-in trivet, so they can easily slide heavy pots off the heat (Model VGSC 306-4BSS, $3,575; 888-VIKING-1). Marcia and Grace each have a gas oven, and they share a wall-mounted Viking electric oven, which is better for baking because it maintains a constant temperature (Model VES0 176-SS, $2,200), and a Jenn-Air microwave (Model JMC 9158A, $500; 800-JENN-AIR). The new Asko 24-inch dishwashers heat their own water and are nearly silent—ideal, since Marcia and Grace need to be able to concentrate while the machines run, and they run at least five loads a day (Model 1996, $1,375; 800-898-1879). A Sub-Zero undercounter ice maker stands next to each dishwasher; having plenty of cubes on hand is useful for shocking vegetables after blanching or making ice baths (Model 315, $1,900).

Marcia and Grace do all their chopping directly on two 43-inch-square islands, which are made of 1 1/2-inch-thick rock maple by AWP Butcher Block ($22 a sq. ft.; 800-764-7840). Half the space under the counter is for storage; the other half is cut away, so cooks and tasters can pull up stools. An electrical outlet underneath allows Marcia and Grace to plug in a laptop and type up recipes, though they also have desks just outside the kitchen.

The dishes get constant use, so we installed open shelving above the counter, in maple veneer, to make them readily accessible (Wood-Mode; 212-877-1919). The old china was mismatched and chipped, though beloved; we replaced it with white Pillivuyt porcelain. The durable dishes are a restaurant favorite, and the uniform color makes the shelves look less cluttered (from $8 for a six-inch plate at 125West.com; 888-921-9378).

Lighting
We chose fluorescent lights for our kitchen because they're bright, energy efficient and don't burn out frequently. Happily, unlike the old fixtures, the new ones cast a warm glow and don't make the staff look green!

Pot Rack
The Enclume stainless steel oval pot rack above each island provides three linear feet of hanging storage space that keeps often-used pans in easy reach. The overhead rack is also useful for large and unwieldy pots and pans that are otherwise difficult to stash (Model PR12, $630; 877-362-5863).

Cabinets and Floors

Wood-Mode custom-made the undercabinets with drawers to improve access to pots and utensils that might get hidden in back. In the corner cabinets, Wood-Mode also built the half-moon lazy Susans that swivel out, using previously dead space for storage. The 8 1/4-inch satin nickel drawer pulls are unfussy and comfortable in the hand, and no parts protrude to snag an apron (Style N22, $18 from Wood-Mode).

Marcia and Grace liked the old padded-linoleum floor, which was comfortable to stand on for hours. The new slip-resistant Loneco floor from Lonseal, made from recycled vinyl and wood powder, feels just as good underfoot. For a decorative touch, we chose two shades of gray, the darker "Sea Coast" for the center, bordered by the lighter "Ice Cap." There are no longer seams at the wall, which means crumbs won't get stuck in the crack ($4 a sq. ft.; 800-832-7111).

Sinks and Counters

Our sinks get quite a workout: Marcia might be rinsing lettuce at the same time Jim Standard, the kitchen assistant, is scrubbing pots. So, rather than a double sink, each side of the kitchen has two Franke 10-inch-deep undermounted sinks (Model PSX 110-16-10, $1,160; 800-626-5771) with their own gooseneck faucets tall enough to accommodate deep pots (Model ATO 400; $780). The Franke Little Butler next to the lefthand faucet provides instant boiling water at the touch of a handle (Model LB100; $480). A wide tilt-out drawer under each sink keeps sponges and brushes out of sight.

After opting for durable Corian for the countertops and backsplash, we discovered that it comes in almost too many colors, including 13 shades of white. We compared creamy samples to grayish or speckled ones and finally settled on "Venaro White," which has small chips embedded in it that give the kitchen a bright, clean look ($60 a sq. ft.; 800-4-CORIAN).

The Kitchen Annex

In addition to the main double kitchen, we have another kitchen that we use for just about everything: testing cookbooks for our annual Best of the Best book, tasting wine and new food products and having staff parties. The bright red wall adds warmth to a space that's also very functional (Benjamin Moore "Neon Red" pearl finish, $33 a gallon; 800-344-0400). The 50-inch-square maple island from AWP Butcher Block can change size, depending on our needs; the two hinged leaves allow it to expand to 104 inches long ($22 a sq. ft.; 800-764-7840). The garbage bin is hidden in a drawer under the island.

Here we chose a 48-inch Wolf stove with a built-in grill (Model R484-CG, $6,900; 800-222-7820). The 48-inch Sub-Zero side-by-side refrigerator is big, with 28 cubic feet of space; Marcia and Grace use it for extra storage (Model 690, $7,300; 800-222-7820). The Sub-Zero undercounter wine refrigerator stores up to 46 bottles and has two temperature zones (Model 424, $2,500).

Published September 2003
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