Kitchen Design Lessons from Masterchef
To be genuinely well-designed a kitchen must balance beauty and usability to create a unique space. Your kitchen should inspire the creation of dishes that bring joy and delight to you, your family and guests. Kitchens are the beating heart of our homes. It's no mistake that the fridge door is the place we hang the most-treasured artistic produce of the school day. With so much footfall, kitchens must be practical in their layout and robust enough to withstand the bumps and knocks of heavy use.
"Time and efficiency have developed restaurant kitchen design so that productivity is prioritised above all, it is high time the home learned lessons from the industry."
The time of the keenly-skilled amateur cook has well and truly arrived. The digital age has provided unfettered access to the once closely-guarded secrets of traditional gastronomy. Kitchen skills classes have taken off, and youtube is chocked full of cooking vlogs pushing the boundaries of the amateur-professional cooking divide. Seasonal, fresh and local produce have become the watchwords of every self-respecting foodie, and supermarkets are continually responding with an ever-burgeoning list of ingredients to be found on their shelves. Once British food was a byword for boring and bland, but now exploring adventurous recipes and finding innovative ways to broaden skills has become an enjoyable pastime rather than just a practical necessity.
The dual-drivers of time and efficiency have developed restaurant kitchen design so that productivity is prioritised above all, it is high time the home learned lessons from the industry. Stainless steel worktops are a great example of this. They're virtually indestructible for a start, much more durable than laminate and less hassle than pretty but easily-marked wood. You can plonk a pan straight from the oven onto a stainless steel counter without worrying. A stainless steel counter is cool and smooth, perfect for rolling pastry or prepping fresh pasta, it won't be marked by spills or chip like marble, and when you're done, it wipes down to a clean, hygienic finish.
In the restaurant trade stainless steel doesn't stop at the counter-top either. Splashbacks protect walls from drips of water and food, and steel upstands prevent fluids from pooling at the back of the worktop where it would encourage mould and compromise the watertight seal. The last job after service in any restaurant is the clean-down, and any restaurant worth their salt is scrupulous about cleanliness. Almost all appliances are freestanding on short legs; there are no valance boards to hide dark corners away and floor surfaces span wall-to-wall. All this reduces the number of little nooks where food could gather and fester.
In busy restaurant kitchens, a premium is placed on ease of access for ingredients and utensils. Exact timings in the pan are crucial so tools must be close at hand. There are few closed cupboards; sticky hands would make a mess of the doors and provide a haven for bacteria. Chefs rely on utensil hooks and rails for pans and implements. Magnetic strips take care of the knives keeping them within easy reach. Chefs maintain their blades with an intense level of detail, care and precision. Magnetic strips protect the keen edges which would be dulled by a domestic knife block and also allow the blades to dry quickly. Chopping boards are essential as cutting straight onto a steel counter will dull your knives. Restaurants run a colour-coded chopping board system to prevent cross-contamination between different food groups.]
'Le Mise en Place' is the cook's term for preparing and measuring ingredients, literally 'everything in its place'. In French gastronomy, this is considered one of the cornerstones of creating great food, allowing ingredients to be added at the precise and perfect moment. The design of the restaurant kitchen reflects this; there is always ample counter space. A long row of food prep workstations, known as 'the line', is present in almost all commercial kitchens. In domestic kitchen-design counter space is often neglected, forced into challenging to use corners or passed over to squeeze in larger appliances. Making space to create is possibly the simplest secret of beautiful kitchen design.
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