Chefs’ kitchens at home
You love eating at their restaurants, but have you ever wondered how chefs cook at home? What’s in their personal kitchens, and how does their restaurant work influence how they equip and organize them? Here’s your chance to peek into the residences of four celebrated San Diego chefs and get tips that might help you in yours.
Fishmonger’s Market, Middletown/Mission Hills, San Diego
Frankie “The Bull” Terzoli may be familiar to you from his stint on “Top Chef,” or as the managing partner at this popular local seafood eatery. Terzoli says he prizes the extraordinary heat possible on a commercial kitchen gas burner. “I found the highest BTUs I could when putting my home kitchen together.” He also invested in a griddle, deep fryer, gas and electric ovens, and a warming drawer.
Like Fishmonger’s kitchen, Terzoli’s home kitchen is zoned. “I wanted to make sure there was separation of work spaces in the final design and that every station — just like a commercial kitchen — was its own station. So in my kitchen at home I have a pantry and prep area. I have a service and dish area and I have a cooking area.” This makes kitchen work more efficient, both for pro and home chefs.
Organizing his gear is a big part of that: “I needed everything to have a place where it could be put away,” he declares. His essentials are food processor, stick blender, mandolin and su vide circulator, all stored in a kitchen “garage.”
His essentials are put to work at home regularly. He says he loves having people over to share a good meal: “The kitchen is the heart of any home, especially if you are Italian. On Christmas when there are 50 people for a seven-fish dinner, everyone gathers all night in the kitchen.”
Chef Frankie’s pro tip: “More is not better; quality is what counts. My blender at home is a perfect example of that. I have the same one you would find in a Jamba Juice.”
Cafe 21, Gaslamp and University Heights
The food that chef Leyla Javadov cooks, inspired by her native Azerbaijan, is a cross between Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and European with a focus on fresh, local flavors. When designing Cafe 21’s kitchens, she notes, a separate area to prepare the bread made from scratch was essential. “We also designed a live herb wall behind the bar,” she adds.
Opening two restaurants has definitely informed her home kitchen, Javadov says. “I knew I wanted an open concept, so while I’m cooking, I’m able to see and talk to everyone. One of my more unusual ‘must haves’ was a built-in daybed in the kitchen, as it serves as a reminder to take a short break from my busy life. I also had to have a small herb garden, and a patio to enjoy San Diego’s beautiful weather.”
Javadov’s home kitchen is organized similarly to the cafes’. For example: “I opted for large shelves to mimic the huge ones in the restaurant.” Organization is crucial, she says, especially when entertaining every week: “Making sure everything has its own home was very important.”
One of the crucial things she craved was an imported baking tool. “The restaurant uses a ‘magic stick’ called an Ohlov, which is used to open phyllo dough by hand.” She ordered them for her home and restaurant kitchens from Azerbaijan. Other essentials for Javadov include a spice grinder, mixer, blender and meat grinder.
Chef Leyla’s pro tip: “If you want to make organic dishes, it’s best to grow some of the ingredients in your garden. I like to have a variety of herbs, lemons, limes, etc. on hand at all times.”
Urban Kitchen Group, Del Mar, Bankers Hill and Kensington
The executive chef’s name may be unfamiliar, but it’s a good bet that you’ve eaten at or heard of his Cucina Urbana, Cucina Enoteca or Cucina Sorella restaurants around town. They’re on many reviewers’ must-dine lists.
“I had a small hand in helping with the design,” he notes about their kitchens. “The restaurants’ pizza stations have marble surfaces that we feel are best for preparing dough.” They also look great in a setting that restaurant patrons see. (Most back-of-house spaces, including the Urban Kitchen Group’s, use stainless steel for sanitation, durability and low maintenance.)
“My home kitchen came as-is, with the exception of the wine refrigerator, which we added,” Magnanelli recalls. The one thing it lacks is a deep fryer, he says. “You can fry on the stove, but it’s just not the same!”
One of his essential kitchen tools is his Kitchen Aid stand mixer. “It is used a lot, and I don’t mind storing it on the counter top.” Two other tools he enjoys having are a bit more exotic: “Recently my boss gave me an ice cream maker and a sous vide. My daughter loves making ice cream, and it was really fun for us to do at home.”
He also takes advantage of San Diego’s year-round sun to cook outdoors as often as possible. “There’s something about cooking outdoors that always makes food taste better, particularly vegetables.”
Chef Joe’s pro tip: “Equip your kitchen with things you will use. Getting trendy tools just to sit in a drawer is a waste of money and space.”
Extraordinary Desserts, Balboa Park and Little Italy
Extraordinary Desserts is a favorite San Diego destination for serious sweets enthusiasts, or for romantic dates with your sweetheart. “I have been very involved in the design to make sure that how the kitchen is laid out is conducive to high-level production,” says executive chef Karen Krasne.
Her home kitchen had a different set of requirements, for a different entertaining style: “My must-haves were simplicity and having the ability to store my collection of entertaining plates, platters, bowls, serving utensils, stemware, and way too many cookbooks,” she says. “I wanted the space to be functional, yet have a ‘zen,’ uncluttered aesthetic.” Part of the simplicity, she says, is having surfaces that are “timeless and easy to maintain.”
Unlike at the restaurants, Krasne uses her own space for relaxed gatherings. “I designed our home kitchen to be a place to gather, entertain friends and family, and cook for fun. I usually go ‘all out’ entertaining once or twice a year at our home. It’s not formal and we typically go up to 20 people.”
One entertaining essential for Krasne is a “hand-held, battery operated, milk frother that makes coffee or tea into a great latte. It’s so compact that it can be stored in a drawer.” She also muses that “our home would not function without my beloved Vitamix blender or a panini machine.”
Chef Karen’s pro tip: “Having a wide variety of sugars, salts, chocolates, fresh herbs, condiments and spices creates an opportunity to make excellent recipes even more vibrant.”
Maybe you’ll never be on “Top Chef,” attend Le Cordon Bleu, run a celebrated restaurant group or import international cooking tools, but that doesn’t mean your home kitchen can’t be at its best for your everyday meals and special occasions.
Gold is a San Diego-based independent kitchen and bath designer and the author of “New Kitchen Ideas That Work” and the “New Bathroom Idea Book.” Her website is jgkitchens.com.
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