‘The Essential Kitchen’ with Kevin Henry: For the Love of Cooking

I love to cook and enjoy the process of preparation, selecting the ingredients, laying out my tools, cooking my meal and then to finally serve it to my family and guests. As with most chefs, professional or amateur, I nibble my way throughout the undertaking and have little room to actually sit and eat with my guests, but to sit and talk, to eat and drink and just commune with one another is its own reward

I am glad to say that there has been a renascence in kitchen design over the last few years, maybe it’s because of the current economic times we live in and people are staying home more and eating meals around the family table has once more taken center stage. What has changed, or maybe a better word would be, evolved, is the democratization of the family kitchen. This once private domain of the feminine world has now given way to a new social order that reflects the world that we live in. Everyone is welcomed, if not expected to participate in the ritual of preparation.

And with this increased activity and additional bodies in a high-traffic ballet of fire, boiling water and sharp pointy things…we find that the assembly-line kitchen of the past, with its uniform horizon of sink, dishwasher, cook-top, oven and refrigerator, forever locked in its limited one-person “work-triangle”, must now give way to a new way of thinking.

Appliances once dictated the form and flow of the kitchen. Today, they have all been replaced by the individual/s and the task and then the appliances and the space needed to fulfill the task. With a variety of people and activities in this enclosed environment, we must create a fluid, interactive, multifunctional arena, where tools and materials are close at hand and within a given task boundary.

Much like selling toilet paper, the primary use of the product is seldom addressed. The same has gone for modern kitchen design. Over the past several years, the collective thought of modern kitchen design was to create the “illusion of order.” This was accomplished by hiding the true function of the kitchen. By hiding the food, the waste and the appliances, we create the illusion of productivity and efficiency by hiding the process.

With cooking returned to the primary function, the kitchen must be efficient to be productive, an environment that is conducive to the task at hand. To this end we have reached out to the commercial kitchen to better understand the true meaning of efficiency, a world that clearly defines the boundaries of form and function and where the poetry of chaos is the rule of order. The commercial kitchen is designed around a menagerie of players, each with a tack or goal to fulfill, all working independently, all working to the same conclusion and all working in perfect harmony.

(Kevin Henry is a designer, writer and speaker with over 25 years of experience in the kitchen industry. Henry has been behind the success of such brands as Snaidero, Poliform/Varenna, Küppersbusch, ALNO in North America and Bazzeo Earth Friendly Kitchens. Currently, he is the president and creative director at Group42, a design + marketing collective dedicated to redefining the boundaries of the modern kitchen. He can be reached at kmhenry@group42.net)