One man's cutting edge in the kitchen
By Denise Scammon
Special Sections Editor
Some chefs try incorporating features found in their professional kitchens at work, into their kitchens at home. The Falls Head Chef Michael Gosselin confides that his kitchen at home is very different from his kitchen at work. The kitchen at home is smaller and quieter. Gosselin shares his thoughts on items every good kitchen should have in it.
Gosselin cooks on professional gas ranges at work and recommends that anyone contemplating kitchen improvements should consider installing a semi-professional gas range. "Gas offers instant heat because the flame is available as soon as you need it."
Another item to add to your kitchen home improvement list, according to Gosselin, is a large, stainless steel, three-bay sink. "Not everyone will have space in their home kitchen for such a large sink, and stainless steel will not match every kitchen's décor." He adds, "I recommend investing in as large a sink as fits your space and budget. Try a deep country sink." The deeper the sink, the bigger the pots and pans that will fit in it.
Like quick heat from gas, a large sink equals convenience in the kitchen, and convenience is a very important goal in kitchen remodels. Quality is also a reachable goal for both the professional kitchen and the home kitchen. One of Gosselin's most used pieces of equipment is his professional quality chef's knife. "Knives are very important to a chef. I use a professional quality knife that I purchased while in college, six or seven years ago." Purchase the best quality cutlery and knives you can afford, and during your kitchen remodel, include a quality cutlery block or storage draw insert for your knives to protect your investment.
When it comes to storage space, whether you have a lot of space or space is tight, Gosselin has a suggestion. "Put what you use most often where it is accessible and within reach. You don't want to have to move items out of the way to get to something you use all the time." You can get additional storage ideas from professional kitchen planners.
The next piece of kitchen remodel advice from Gosselin has to do with work surfaces. There are many choices available; install the surface in your kitchen remodel that matches the type of work you will do on that surface. At the restaurant, counter surfaces are stainless steel. But, as Gosselin has already noted, stainless steel doesn't fit in with all decors. For the baking area, he recommends marble. "It has form and function. Bakers like a marble surface because it stays cool and doesn't warm up the dough as they work it on the marble surface. Marble slabs can be purchased and placed on top of a counter."
Although a restaurant kitchen isn't always open to the view of diners, Gosselin notes that at home, the kitchen is the heart of a home. "Through the centuries, the kitchen hearth has been the heart of a home, where people can gather." For that reason, Gosselin recommends a working island in your kitchen remodel plans. It's a great place for friends and family to gather and chat while food is being prepared.
Spice 'o life in the kitchen
It was a real treat to stop in at Agren Appliance to interview Paul Baribault, marketing manager, and find store owner Douglas Agren available to discuss kitchen improvement ideas. About kitchen cabinets, Agren said, "When designing a kitchen, consider these three types of cabinets: tall wall cabinets to take advantage of unused soffit space, base tray cabinets to take advantage of narrow space to store cookie sheets and trays, and large base drawers for pots and pans. And," Agren added, "every kitchen should have a minimum of nine drawers, and at least one drawer should be 36 inches wide for storing long utensils."
As for countertop material, Agren stated that some home builders and homeowners are beginning to question the use of granite as a countertop surface. "To keep up with the demand for granite, quarries are being mined deeper and deeper. Granite countertops with high radon levels are now showing up in homes." (Read the EPA's article "Radon in granite countertops" in this supplement.)
When it comes to deciding where to locate your appliances, a kitchen designer can explain optimal configurations for your range, refrigerator and sink. The most popular, and practical, configuration is the working triangle, which Agren notes works well at 18 feet. Additionally, he said, the location of the dishwasher should be on the left side of a sink. "If you're standing at a double sink and rinsing dishes in the left sink bay, you merely have to reach an arm's length to place the dishes in a dishwasher located on the left side of the sink. If the dishwasher was located on the right side of the sink, you would find you need to twist around, take a step, and pass the dish to the other hand before placing the dish in the dishwasher," Agren explained.
Cabinets, countertops and appliance location are design decisions that affect the functionality of a kitchen. But, sometimes little things help the work flow, too. Baribault recently purchased a curved cutting board that has quickly become one of his favorite items in his home kitchen. "The cutting board has a lip on it that makes sliding chopped items into a pot, without spilling anything, very easy." His second favorite item at home is a Brazilian-made skillet. "It has a thick bottom so food doesn't stick to it. It's great for a stir fry meal." Baribault added that his home kitchen wouldn't be complete without garlic and basil. Small things in the kitchen can make a big difference.
Ideas for your own kitchen: Quality and efficiency
Roland Nadeau, owner of Rolandeau's restaurant in Auburn for over 38 years, has an eye for quality, and efficiency, in the kitchen. "Every kitchen should have two sinks, one for washing vegetables and foods and another one for dirty pots and pans." He added, "One of those sinks can be a two-bay, but the ideal situation is to locate the two sinks apart from each other; this is especially useful for times when there is more than one cook in the kitchen."
When it comes to efficiency, Nadeau explained the importance of the location of appliances in the kitchen and work space. The refrigerator in the kitchen should be large enough for cold air to circulate evenly around the food. If you have the space for a second refrigerator, use the second one for foods that have been prepared and will be served within two or three hours. Locate the refrigerator near the range, but separated by a work area. "At home, I have a decent size island in the center of the kitchen; it's about six by ten feet with a butcher block surface." Nadeau thinks the island is a great work area because of its large expanse of uninterrupted countertop. The base of the island has drawers and cupboards. There are no stools at the island, but it's a great place for family and friends to congregate and socialize during food preparation, and the island also serves as a buffet at times. The kitchen's second sink is located in the island.
In addition to two sinks, Nadeau envisions a great kitchen with two ovens. "I prefer a commercial, propane range with a solid surface grill. Twelve burners make it easy to heat various pots and pans so you can get your vegetables cooked at the same time you are making gravy." Nadeau said the grill is great for eggs, French toast and pancakes. "There's space for 15 to 20 pancakes on the grill at one time." Beneath the grill is a rack to broil steak. Above the stove top is a hood that directly vents to outside, which is important, according to Nadeau.
Other items that Nadeau wouldn't want to be without include a grinder, mixer and a good food processor. "I can do without a microwave," he added. Spices should be in one cabinet. "Don't put your spices in a cabinet so that one is in front of the other and you can't read the labels of the ones in the back. Spices should be accessible." Tiered spice racks that fit inside a wall cabinet can be purchased and will keep your spice labels visible.