Celebrity chef Geoffrey Zakarian and local interior designer James Ramos were trying to find a place upstairs for an espresso machine. As far as Zakarian was concerned, you roll out of bed, take a spin through the bathroom, and then are ready for the morning's first cup of joe. No need to traipse all the way down to the kitchen. • Scrutinizing the specs for a 12,000-square-foot home on Davis Islands, the two colleagues pored over the drawings: no formal living room, lots of outdoor living space and a drop-dead gorgeous kitchen. • But its allures aren't only skin deep. Restaurateur, victor on Iron Chef and a judge on Chopped since 2006, Zakarian has been engaged to design the kitchens in five Tampa Bay houses, four on Davis Islands and one in South Tampa. Zakarian, who maintains an office in Tampa and is considering opening a restaurant in the area, is a stickler for functionality, drawing on his own professional experience for how a home kitchen should work. We caught up with Zakarian and his longtime friend Ramos recently at Ramos Design Build in South Tampa to discuss the dos and don'ts of kitchen design. • "The party starts in the kitchen, family life starts in the kitchen. People pay all this money for a kitchen," says Zakarian, "but they may only listen to an architect and not to someone who knows about kitchens."
Biggest kitchen mistake
Too much space. "Seventy-five percent of your needs should be within your wingspan," says Zakarian. You grab a pan, turn to get ingredients from the fridge, chop something on a cutting board and get something cranking on the stove — all with a minimum of walking, just like in a professional kitchen. Zakarian complains that "competing on Iron Chef, they put the f------ fridge down the hall so you have to run." At home, he suggests giving serious thought to minimizing the distance between elements of the "kitchen work triangle": the stove, refrigerator and sink.
Worth the splurge
Good appliances. "Buy the best equipment you can afford. I recommend getting the biggest refrigerator and freezer possible." Subzero, Viking — Zakarian ticks off all the major brands, which tend to maintain their value for resale. Unlike even a high-end GE, says Zakarian, "You never have to update a Viking."
Keep pots and pans in deep drawers, not overhead on hanging pot racks. Keep pans separated by function (saute pans here, saucepans there), with a separate area for lids.
One size doesn't fit all with equipment
"You have to consider the size and scope of how a homeowner wants to use a kitchen. If you're Italian, buy Dutch ovens and casseroles; if you're a Californian and do a lot of sauteing, consider buying All-Clad."
More clients are requesting outdoor pizza ovens, notes Ramos. Says Zakarian, "It's a nice way to cook in the colder months. Man-and-fire never gets tired."
Stocking the pantry
"Build a pantry from scratch; don't always cart your spices with you. You should replace spices every six months. So buy them in smaller quantities. And no bulk olive oil," says Zakarian. "I buy a small bottle and keep it in the fridge. People think they are saving money by buying in bulk, but they're really throwing money in the garbage."
Glass-fronted refrigerators (who wants to keep it tidy in there all the time?); warming drawers ("what are you warming?"); built-in espressomakers; built-in ovens on walls far away from the work triangle; garbage that's nowhere near where you're chopping. Also, cautions Zakarian: "The bigger the kitchen, the more superfluous stuff you'll find in it."
Laura Reiley can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 892-2293. Follow her on Twitter, @lreiley.