Why did you do this kitchen renovation?
When I first came to look at the house, it was full of character, color and clutter, and that instantly appealed to me. It’s in East London on a really brutal street of Victorian terrace houses with a railway bridge straddling it, taking people into Liverpool Street station. A lot of artists, writers and gallerists who had moved in in the ’80s still live here. In fact, I bought this from one of them.
I bought this house about four years ago and renovated everything, all the floors, walls and ceilings, the garden and bathroom, but I saved the kitchen till I’d lived here for a few years. I had grand plans for knocking out one of the kitchen walls and having major structural works done, and then I realised I actually didn't need to. I simply made the windows much larger, put in a partially glazed door to the garden and the whole space became more light and airy. I worked with Roundhouse Design and Fisher & Paykel to upgrade it, making it more functional.
How do you use your kitchen when you come home from work? Being a chef, do you cook at home?
I cook at home a lot, testing recipes and shooting images for newsletters for the restaurants, a site called Cookbooth, or simply testing new ingredients I find in my local foodie mecca, Broadway Market in London Fields on Saturdays. The most ‘meal focussed’ cooking I do is when people come around for a rare dinner mid-week, but mostly on the weekend, or for brunch.
How has your approach to cooking affected your appliance choices?
I wanted an oven with a rotisserie. I love this method of cooking, and often have up to 10 people round for a meal, so I wanted a large oven that would handle that easily. I also wanted to be able to cook a big turkey, or large joints of meat along with vegetables and pudding. But I also wanted a smaller oven for when I’m by myself, to save energy and be less wasteful. I tend to microwave my muesli with soy milk for a quick breakfast cheats-porridge in cooler months, or reheat left-overs during the week and didn’t want a benchtop microwave as it takes up precious space, so I chose a combination oven which sits under my bench.
Is it difficult to switch between commercial cooking and cooking at home?
Last night I cooked for 10 of us, and initially it was going to be a stew; but then I went through the refrigerator and found I needed to clear out lots of ingredients. Plus, I’d bought some beautiful lamb from a butchers on Broadway Market, and ended up cooking that on a portable barbecue. I guess that shows that cooking at home is different in that you can be much more spontaneous. In most restaurants you need to stick with your menu, as that’s what customers are coming to experience.
Although this is the third kitchen I’ve built with Roundhouse, and using Fisher & Paykel appliances, it’s also the first kitchen I’ve built where I’ve used some stainless steel benching, although the bulk of my benchtops are iroko wood. I’ve avoided stainless steel in the past because I work all day in commercial kitchen environments, so it made no sense to leave work and then go home to something similar. I like it though, and interestingly it helps brighten up the kitchen.
Yet, in spite of the stainless steel, this kitchen feels very cosy. It’s a modern take on a traditional English kitchen.
Did you take that idea to Roundhouse? What was your brief?
I wanted an island for the hob because I knew I would do filming in here and you can’t easily do that if your hob is against a wall. I wanted two ovens - a really big one and a microwave. Wood everywhere, but they suggested the stainless steel, which I’m really happy with. I needed to be able to sit 4 people at a table for casual meals, and I have a larger dining table in another room. I needed to build in a twin drawer dishwasher (I love them) as well as a washing machine and dryer. I chose the colors, as I have with anything I have had built.
As a chef, what's important for the layout of a kitchen?
My kitchens are always designed like a living room with appliances. I like them to be liveable and comfortable, but also very practical. The amount of space you have to play with will obviously dictate what you can do with your kitchen but the days of the ‘magic triangle’ seem past. My refrigerator and oven are on the other side of my island bench to the sink, but it really isn’t a problem at all. The kitchen is functional and spacious and that’s all that really matters.