If you watch TV at the moment, you will have seen one of the many cooking programmes, which make cooking careers look amazingly glamourous. There is a vast array of up-and-coming cooks and passionate gastro geniuses on our screens. The amateurs entering contests all loved cooking so much at home; and having impressed all of their family and friends with what they can produce, they are now looking for how to advance in the dreamy world of foodiedom.
Heads up to the dreamers: cooking in a commercial environment is far from glamourous. Having recently completed my chef’s apprenticeship, I can tell you it’s repetitive, sweaty work; intense and high-pressure. There’s limited time for exploring food trends and making truly beautiful and innovate dishes in the commercial cooking environment. Speed, seasonality, profit margins – they all make demands on time and make the chef their slave, limiting the wonders produced from their stainless steel bench tops. Well maybe this isn’t the case for Heston Blumenthal – but for the majority of those cooking professionally, I think I can safely say their passion for cooking is more likely to have been played out in that homely kitchen scene before dreams of stardom came into the equation!
Even for the commercial chef, the home kitchen offers a solace. It presents an opportunity to put passion back into food – to work with simplicity and without time pressure. In this environment, you’ve got options: a speedy but hearty meal to fill up hungry tummies before a sports game, a new recipe just beckoning to you to take the time to explore and create, or a leisurely dinner with family and friends that takes you well into the evening. Current research suggests that the most desirable kitchens meet a variety of needs – “the kitchen is not a static space. During the week, the kitchen is a hive of activity. It’s about convenience, getting meals out quickly and easy cleaning, whereas on the weekend a busy household has more time to slow down and make a great meal.”
Assuming my exposure to certain technology in cooking will be useful for individuals at home, sometimes people have asked me to comment on what they should buy in terms of gadgets, cookware and appliances for their kitchen. There truly is no way to answer this across the board – the way I cook will differ to the way you cook. Do you really want my most useful appliances taking up your precious bench space, looking for an opportunity to have the dust wiped off their tops? The exciting thing is, as Mark Elmore, head of industrial design at Fisher & Paykel Appliances states; food culture shapes the kitchen appliances that become available on the market. So the best of what you love to use keeps getting better, and the options for new equipment that can change the way you function in your kitchen become almost endless. My advice is not so much about what specifically you should buy. I would encourage you to think long and hard about what will be useful to you and provide you with longevity and cooking pleasure. It doesn’t all have to be practical – what makes you feel creative? Which potential appliance provides you options to experiment with?
One great thing about being in a commercial kitchen is that you are often working with appliances that are of sound quality, and these generally work to save you time and energy. More and more of these types of appliances seem to be coming available for use in the home too. Having quality kitchen appliances that you enjoy using and that are truly useful to you is one key way you can make your kitchen a more fun and functional place to be. Choosing first-rate appliances also means that your children will be able to be guided to use the same product over and over, so you can learn to trust them with it and involve them more in your food preparation. After all, one of the most wonderful parts of family life is learning to balance the joys of being together along with the challenges – and even the most relaxed cook probably finds some challenges in being ‘assisted’ with food preparation!
The pleasures of a home kitchen can be vast if you embrace them. Making your kitchen the family hub that people want to be around just requires a bit of thought (Look here for inspiration). Clutter is considered chaos on the commercial kitchen environment – surfaces serve a purpose and that purpose has to always be kept in mind (or someone will let you know about it!) This is a useful practice in the home kitchen too. Give your spaces a purpose. Do you want your kids to sit with you and help while you get a meal ready? Do you want them to brainstorm what’s for dinner tonight? Do you want to engage in meaningful conversation during all the day-to-day tasks that take place in the kitchen? Then think about the space you’re providing, what the purpose of your bench(es) is, what you want to have on display and what could be housed elsewhere. A bit of thought and planning can make your time and kitchen space far more productive. Grow and learn together about how to best utilise what you have, and when you want to add to it – involve others in the family too.
Food and family life enjoy the kind of intertwined relationship that fosters memories and forges relationships through generations. Even in the fast-paced family life of today, the kitchen often remains the heart of the home. There’s a charm in that – and I think it’s a great thing to work towards. Next time you can glance into a commercial kitchen while you dine out, take it all in. See the chefs wipe sweat off their brows, work at a pace, and tick off their lists. And when you walk back into your kitchen at home, take a deep breath… and enjoy!
This post was sponsored by Fisher and Paykel Ltd.