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Top Chef: Tips for Creating a Commercial Kitchen at Home

When designing a new kitchen, or remodeling an existing one, why not look to commercial or restaurant kitchens for inspiration? Restaurant kitchens are specifically designed to operate efficiently and safely—and with many modern restaurants now showcasing “open kitchens” they can even provide some style direction. Take a few notes from these spaces and your home kitchen will be poised for the big time…”Top Chef” will have nothing on you!

Create as open a kitchen floor plan as your space will allow. If you plan to entertain in your kitchen and share cooking activities, this is especially critical. Commercial kitchens are designed for ease of movement among multiple cooks. Try to keep a minimum kitchen aisle width of 3 ft, and up to 5 ft. if possible. A good floor plan eliminates unnecessary steps—meaning how many steps it takes to get from point A to point B—allowing you to cook and clean efficiently. And allowing anyone in that space to be part of the experience without being in the way.

Consider open shelving in place of traditional cabinets. This allows the cook to see and grab necessary pans, ingredients and utensils quickly and avoids sticky hands on cabinet doors. Shelving is also much easier to clean than inside deep cabinets. Instead of equipping lower cabinets with all sorts of drawers and pullouts, get rid of the cabinet doors and just go with drawers that can be sized to fit their intended contents. This is a more practical use of space and will still provide adequate storage for those items.

In a commercial kitchen, the sink(s) need to be versatile and hard working. For at-home cooks, the same is true, so opt for a large, deep sink. While there are many trendy and attractive sink surface options, stainless steel is a good choice since it is easy to care for and has that professional look. A versatile, high quality faucet is also important. Be sure it’s tall enough to handle large pots and has high powered spray options to adequately rinse dirty cookware and plates, as well as a gentle stream for fruits and vegetables. If your sink is far from your stove, add pot-filler faucet to that area.

The cook top and oven(s) are the central command of a commercial kitchen. Consider dual-fuel cooking appliances that give you more flexibility in cooking styles. It must have the responsiveness and control of a gas cooktop, while a convection oven will provide quicker cooking times. Continual cooktop grates are ideal as they can accommodate many different cooking accessories like griddles, woks and larger pots and pans. It’s also much easier to slide pans across it to keep something warm on a back burner while you continue cooking items in the front. Also be sure to plan for a proper ventilation system for your cook top. Try to find one with a high suction (and even carbon filters to decrease the smells) and low sound…your kitchen shouldn’t sound like a helicopter landing. And no one can enjoy that seared steak if they’re in plumes of smoke!

Large capacity refrigerators and dishwashers are another key component in commercial kitchens. For the at-home cook, there are many options. For refrigerators, consider how you cook. If you’re a fresh produce, stopping by the butcher and the baker, kind of cook, then have a larger fridge and a smaller freezer. If you like to buy meats and cheeses in bulk, than consider side-by-sides, so that you can really fill up that freezer. If you entertain a lot or have a large family, two dishwashers might be ideal. One of the few items that has not been commercially updates for the home kitchen is the dishwasher. Even the best ones on the market are still not half as speedy as commercial ones. So if you have the space, place one on either side of the sink. You won’t regret this!

Finally, when it comes to the pretty, most commercial kitchens are going to be covered in stainless steel or floor to ceiling subway tile, like an old scullery. I would not recommend cladding your entire space in stainless steel—it can be quite cold! However, these applications were effective because they were easy to clean, or literally, hose down in a restaurant space. For home, look at single slab surfaces that are non-porous, like quartz, but still give you range of stone options. This will keep the space looking clean and make it easy to clean…a win-win combination!

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