Making the Most of Your Small Space
Size shouldn’t matter: tiny kitchens
It was the kettle that prompted the gasp of horror; isn’t a kitchen without the visible promise of tea against some sort of law in Britain? But after a year of cooking in a kitchen so small that I smashed a piece of crockery every time I cooked, I needed to make changes.
I turned to Shaun Hill, chef at the Michelin-starred restaurant the Walnut Tree. Before moving to his current roomy premises, Hill ran Merchant House in Ludlow from a 3m by 2m domestic-sized kitchen. In this space he singlehandedly whipped up Michelin-starred meals for up to 24 diners (with four choices). When he decided to move on, no other chef was brave enough to take on the tiny kitchen and he had to turn Merchant House back into, well, a house.
So what did he learn? “When I started there, I had been cooking for a thousand years and you have in mind ideas for what you would like to make, but it doesn’t necessarily work in the space. Quite a few things didn’t work – anything that required too many pans.” But, he promises, there are definite advantages. “It concentrates the mind. There are fewer things to turn into a disaster zone, and it doesn’t take hours to clean – you have to tidy as you go, so you can use the same space for whatever’s next.”
Mark Bittman is equally sure that size should not be an issue. When the food writer was pictured in his former kitchen in the New York Times, readers demanded to know how he created anything in such an inadequate space – which he finds hilarious. “People all over the world make do with a hotplate and nothing else, and they do fine. I’ve never felt oppressed by my small kitchen.” Instead, he points out, cooking is less tiring when everything is within reaching distance.
For both men, the layout of a kitchen is more important than the square footage. But if a redesign isn’t realistic, they advise creating space by deciding what you really need. “Choose your equipment carefully,” says Hill. “So many people buy things that gather dust, such as juicers – I’ve made that mistake.” There are no rules to what you should keep – he made do without a grill, deep fat fryer or microwave, but could not live without his ice-cream maker. Bittman, meanwhile, rid his counters of his food processor, coffee maker and – yes – even his kettle, shoving them all into cupboards.
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by Homa Khaleeli, The Guardian