How a Pro Chef Built Her Dream Outdoor Kitchen in the Middle of a Big City
Growing up in Cameroon, chef Carine Ottou and her family did most of their cooking outside. Though she's adapted to a European lifestyle over years of moving around the continent, she still prefers to make her food while immersed in greenery—even in her London home.
When Ottou's culinary businesses (including a global cuisine supper club, pickling workshops, and a line of sauces called Marie's Little Jar) outgrew the cramped kitchen in her Victorian terrace house, she knew its renovation would have to include an open-air cook space seamlessly connected to the interior. "I wanted people to be able to see me cook. I wanted to be able to talk to them about what I'm doing and really make that essential to the experience," she says.
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Ottou's vision featured an earthy color palette and natural materials to match her organic culinary ethos, which made for a successful collaboration with Japanese designer and historic architecture specialist Yoko Kloeden. The duo connected over a shared love of nature and created an indoor-outdoor chef's oasis that maximizes the compact footprint and functions flawlessly for Ottou's businesses.
The magic starts on the Siberian larch deck, where a vertical garden grows wild greenery for a lush backdrop. Just below the wall, custom mudcloth cushions adorn a bench that spans the width of the yard. The Malian fabric seats not only offer the ideal spot for guests to sip on cocktails and watch Ottou in action, but they also provide a subtle nod to her West African heritage.
A modular, charcoal-hued concrete counter sourced from the Netherlands cleverly holds a built-in Big Green Egg, which lets Ottou smoke up to three whole chickens at once. The stainless steel sink beside it is an invaluable convenience that enables her to be entirely present while hosting on the patio.
When Ottou moves inside, her antique-inspired, patinated zinc-topped island follows. It's equipped with wheels for smooth transitions to the center of the newly expanded kitchen, which is lined with handleless oak veneer cupboards on both sides. Between cookware and jars of fermented vegetables, Ottou needed as much storage as she could get.
With strategic placement, Kloeden managed to squeeze in all of Ottou's desired appliances as well. She requested a spacious refrigerator, high-tech oven, plate warmer, and wine cooler to help her achieve restaurant-quality service. "I wanted a large stove, too, where I could grill whether it was winter or summer," she adds.
But when the season permits, Ottou can be found in her outdoor kitchen. She feels most at ease among her plants, cooking the way she did as a child—and she's thankful her updated home allows her to do so. "There are far more beautiful houses, and bigger ones," she admits. "But this house, for some reason, has everything."