Kevin Henry's The Essential Kitchen

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Natural Kitchen


I remember growing up as child in post-war America that food seemed to be the center of life in the Henry household.  Sunday was a family chicken dinner, Thursday spaghetti and meatballs, Friday was fresh bread and pizza from Bruno’s and the other nights we had TV dinners on the sofa watching our favorite shows, or more like my father’s favorite shows.  Although I can’t recall my mother cooking, other than our weekly chicken dinner, I do have vivid memories of Saturday morning shopping missions to the local Safeway supermarket in the San Fernando Valley.



Living in the shadow of nuclear war with the Russians, those “Godless commies” as my father would call them, we shopped as if we were shopping for the end of western-civilization.  Eggs, bacon, breakfast cereal, milk, coffee, assorted fruits and a few vegetables and cans upon cans of Jolly Green Giant corn and peas, mother would rotate them from time to time…I remember years later, helping my parents to pack up the house for a move to New Hampshire and finding cans of corn and peas in the pantry dating back to the Kennedy administration.  And meat, my God we purchased and froze more meat than we could ever possible eat…again, I have no memory of ever actual defrosting anything, other than my dad drive down to the butcher for fresh steaks because the ones he had were still frozen and far from ready to barbecue.

The point of this jog down memory-lane is to point out that much of America’s shopping and eating habits have changed very little since the 1950’s and I would go so far as to say that they have gotten far worse.  Today we need to worry about everything from an increase in food-allergies to diabetes.  As well as added growth hormones, anti-biotic to genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) and that directly effects our overall health.   I believe that it’s time to rethink how we eat, what we eat and most importantly how we shop and prepare our meals.

For years I have been traveling back and forth to Europe for my work as a kitchen designer, and the opportunity presents its self to stay with friends instead of a hotel.  It has always amazed me that the kitchen, like in the US,  is the hub of daily life…it seems as if the same care and thought went into each meal, but something was very different, every meal was a symphony of color, taste and texture.  From the morning meal of eggs, cheese and assorted meats, as well as juice and coffee to the evenings meal of fish or chicken, vegetables, bread and wine.  For years I thought it was just the fact I was in a different environment than I was use to and that somehow this made the experience different.  And then it came to me.

In the middle of a lively debate, over an after-dinner glass of wine and a plate of assorted cheese, at my friends kitchen table in the Italian countryside, we were discussing the merits of American verses European kitchen design when we happen upon the topic of refrigeration, when the fundamental differences between European and American life hit me…the average American family was still living and buying food on a 50 year old model based upon an Industrial Food Complex of corporate farming, industrial processing and packaging and national retail food distribution, all which encourages mass consummation and storage of food stuffs that have been pumped  full with additives for longer shelf life. And as when I was a child, we still go out once a week and buy as if the world is about to end…hence the need for a huge, monolithic, stainless steel box we call a refrigerator. 

On the other hand, our European cousins are living an almost Utopian lifestyle when compared to ours.  Thinking that the smaller, 60cm (24”) refrigerator was due to the smaller nature of European kitchens, it was quickly brought to my attention how wrong I was and the smaller fridge was reflective of lifestyle and the daily nature of meal preparation.  Almost everything is purchased for that day’s preparation and consumption.  Fresh bread from the corner bakery, fresh fish or poultry for the evening meal, eggs, milk from a local farm and fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables from the weekly farmers market or freshly picked from their own home garden.

The question is whether or not we can change our eating and buying habits for better health and nutrition.  Dr Mark Hyman believes that modern health care is flawed because it is based upon the premise of treatment and not prevention.  Dr Hyman believes that the future of health care will take place in the family kitchen and not the doctor’s office.  

He went on to say “We ate ourselves into this problem, we can eat our way out”.

I have to agree with the good doctor, I to believe we can eat our way back to a healthy lifestyle and I also believe it starts in the kitchen. I have given much thought to this and feel that we all can make a few minor changes in the way we approach the way we purchase, store ad prepare food.

The Natural Kitchen is a healthier as well as a sustainable environment. Here a few simple ways you can change your life as well improve the world around you.
The Natural Kitchen:
1.    Buy local. Buy fresh, Buy daily.      
2.    Plant a garden…Grow your own 
3.    Use your leftovers
4.    Store your food correctly for longer life
5.    Use a larder for vegetables and certain dairy products
6.    Replace your appliances to reduce energy consumption
7.    Compost your organic kitchen waste
8.    Reduce, reuse and recycle!
9.    Support the Non-GMO Project
10.  Use natural lighting when possible, LED’s when necessary.
11.  Live mindfully. Eat consciously. Choose as if it makes a difference.




 




 






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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

THE NEW LOOK OF FIRE

Ever since our ancestors first climbed down out of the trees, they promptly turned around and set them ablaze to cook the evenings catch, man has had a unique and symbiotic relationship with fire ever since. 


A love/hate relationship that spans the vastness of human evolution, mans  relationship with fire generates a variety of emotions that range from fear to comfort.  From the time we first sat around the evening’s fire, cooking a chunk of freshly killed Caribou, I am sure that our cave dwelling cousins must have had the Neolithic equivalent of “no baby…hot!” 

As man has evolved over the ages, so has the kitchen. Although the basic kitchen has changed very little from those early days, the kitchen is still the gathering place, if not so much for the tribe, but now for the modern family.  A place where we meet and start our day over a cup of coffee, prepare lunches for the kids and gather at the end of the day to discuss events over a hot meal.

Tom Hanks in castaway
What has changed is how we cook.  We have moved from firepit and spit to the hearth. From the hearth to the cast-iron stove to the modern age with electric coils to glass top radiant and induction cooktops.  I give no argument that these modern cooking devises are easy to clean and efficient to use, but they are lacking something, something human.  There is something about the “click, click, whoosh” as that little blue flame flickers to life that touches the primal man that still lives deep inside each of us.

Dacor, the iconic Southern California based manufacturer of luxury kitchen appliances, has announced the creation and introduction of the Discovery 36” GasTouchTop™, the first touch-control Gas cooktop in North America.  If fire is the cornerstone of human evolution, then the new GTT by Dacor will be the cornerstone of kitchen evolution.
Dacor GasTouchTop

The 36” Black Glass cooktop, replaces bulky knobs with touch controls, allowing the home-chef precision cooking, time controlled burners as well as a unique child-safety lock.  

The GasTouchTop combines the cooking efficiencies of gas with the convenience, precision and cleaning benefits of a glass cooktop.  The integrated touch-controls allow the home-chef to pre-set individual cooking times for maximum energy use and to prevent overcooking.

The GTT’s proprietary PreciseCook, gives the home-chef precise and incremental burner control over each burner and the ease to reset the flame to the exact previous setting without the guesswork.  In addition, the new cooktop includes Dacor’s PermaFlame™, which reignites the flame to its previous setting if the flame should be blown out for any reason.

For 50 years, Dacor has been the leader in innovative cooking technology and advanced culinary design.  With the introduction of the Discovery GasTouchTop cooktop they have once again broken now ground as well as a few old rules.

For more information regarding the Discovery GasTouchTop or other Dacor products, please visit www.dacor.com

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Friday, June 20, 2014

COLOR IS THE NEW STAINLESS STEEL

Among the great chefs of the world, it is widely believed that the success of a meal is directly related on the color and texture of the ingredients. I have always believed that color is the essential ingredient to create the ideal kitchen, a playground to experiment with your taste, senses and your personal style without restriction.

 
Color provides sensation, mood and personality. The colors we choose for our kitchen reflects the way we look at life.  Color defines who we are as individuals. As the kitchen becomes more neutral, we find that pockets of color will define the character of the space. 

Color was once the exclusive domain of the affluent home owner who never worried about the effect of color on the resale value of the home.  But today, the American palette is developing a more sophisticated eye for complex color along with the freedom of expression.

Approaching the kitchen as a fashion statement, I am always on the watch for color trends and influences. From the runways of Paris to the auto salons of Milan…Color is everywhere and that includes the kitchen. A stainless steel appliance, that cornerstone of modern kitchen design, is now giving way to bright, bold and edgy color combinations. 

Not since the 70’s, with a limited pallet of Harvest Gold and Avocado Green, has there been such an opportunity to add color to the kitchen.  Today, many manufacturers offer anywhere from basic primary colors like Red, Blue, Yellow and Green to the entire color spectrum of the human eye. 

From the passionate feelings created by a Sangria-Red  or Maze-Yellow to the timeless qualities of Cobalt-Blue or Forrest Green, to the crispness of a Sunset Orange to the sophistication of rich violet. Color gives life to space and allows form and function to take shape. With its expressive quality and its striking appeal, I feel that space is inseparable from color.

Dacor, the California based manufacturer of ultra-premium kitchen appliances, announced that color personalization would be an added option with their new DacorMatch Color System. Dacor customers can easily personalize their cooking appliance with the new color option. 


In addition, the DacorDesignTeam has hand-selected 10 vibrant color choices for its wall ovens and ranges including Cordon Bleu, Sangria, Tangerine, Crimson, Smoke, Black Tie, Arctic, Citron, Envy and Radiant Orchid, the personal favorite of movie star and TV host, Oprah Winfrey and the 2014 Pantone Color of the Year.
Available nationwide this fall, the color personalization option is designed to empower the Dacor customer.  “Dacor believes in encouraging customers’ self-expression not only through cooking, but also through kitchen design,” says Dacor President, Steve Joseph.  “By offering ovens and ranges for customers in any color they choose, we are empowering them to truly make the kitchen their own.”

It appears that we are on the leading edge of a color renaissance. Returning to the center-stage after along hiatus, color is back with a vengeance. Evoking multi-sensory impressions, color is reaching, once again, to new heights of popularity. If the new definition of luxury is personalization, then it may be safe to say that “Color is the new stainless steel”.
 
 
 

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Saturday, May 31, 2014

THE NEW PRINCIPLES OF KITCHEN DESIGN, a re-post

I have been designing kitchens for over 30 years and like most of my peers, associates and contemporaries, I have followed religiously the holy tenets of our faith…the un-questioned “work-triangle”, that was until I met a holy-man from a far away land called Michigan, on a pilgrimage to share his vision of how things should work and a set of principles to live by.

It is truly hard to believe that we are still design kitchens based on an idea born out of the “rational” movement of the 1900’s. The work-tri-angle was created to maximize the efficiency and eliminate unneeded steps and movements in the preparation and cooking of the daily meals, thus allowing the woman of the house to free up her valuable time for more important tasks like cleaning, laundry and childcare.

This once private domain of the feminine world has now given way to a new social order and reflects the world that we live in. Today we find a more “democratized” environment, where everyone is welcomed in the kitchen, a place where family, friends, and guests are invited, if not encouraged, to participate in the ritual of preparation.

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

The pilgrim I speak of is industry thought-leader, designer and manufacturer, Pete Walker. His evolutionary or maybe more correct, revolutionary concept is called the “Proximity Principles©”. According to Pete’s first principle, “A kitchen should be arranged around a series of task based work centers in relative proximity to each other and in proper sequence relative to tasks as they actually occur in the art of cookery”.

According to Pete, the Principles dictate the adaptation of the site conditions to various task-appropriate layouts and the results of their use are uniformly functional. As is true of any situation, site and structural issues and the constraints of budget,  will impact the final result. In other words, no matter the size, shape or budget of the kitchen, the Principles always improve the use of whatever space is available.

To further his beliefs, Pete has created a line of eco-centric kitchens that embody his philosophy; the Proximity Kitchen System™ eliminates the vast number of unnecessary options, elements and configurations currently found in both domestic and imported mass-manufactured kitchen product lines. His streamlined collection leaves the designer with an elegant intersection of minimalist product and maximizes achievable function.

A kitchen based on the “Principles” is therefore no longer skewed by geometric happenstance; the obsolete “work triangle”, but, based on a set of irreducible “first principles”. These principles organize a clear set of design techniques and protocols which create space that allow an individual to move gracefully through a kitchen where everything comes easily to hand as it is needed or as Pete would say, “Life within reach”.

Like any movement or belief out of the norm, Pete and his “Principles” have its share of nah-sayers and distracters, but there seems to be an ever growing legion of architects, interior designers and kitchen specialist, who call themselves “Proxies”, that have embraced this new thought in both mind and heart as well as action in the practice of their trade.

If you would like to know more about Pete and the Principles or would like additional information regarding the Proximity Kitchen System, I would encourage you to visit www.proximitykitchen.com

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Sunday, January 5, 2014

WHERE DO YOU COOK? REDEFINING THE CULINARY EXPERIENCE

Just imagine for a moment in the not so distant future that you have been delayed at work with and unscheduled meeting and find yourself running 45 minutes late for dinner…no worries...you just pullout your mobile device and access your oven and with a couple of well placed taps upon the screen, you simply re-calibrate the cooking time on your roast to finish at 7:30 when you arrive home…Science-fiction?  No…not anymore.

The Connected Kitchen will be the next big thing to hit your home…with smart phone  technology slowly creeping into all of your home electronics…it will be just a matter of time before the kitchen, once again becomes the central core of family life.  

Easy, convenient and connected, that’s what the modern homeowner wants in their next appliance. With both partners working, time has become a luxury, so appliances need to step-up and participate in the process and take some of the burden in meal preparation.

The American consumer wants a true smart appliance and not just another mindless drone, They want appliances that can be accessed remotely via a smart-phone or tablet, so they can be free themselves from the confines of the kitchen and to monitor their meals or appliances from where ever they are.  Pre-heat the oven from the office, or start the casserole from the soccer field or maybe the range will speak directly with the factory regarding the results of a remote diagnostic system check. 

Dacor, the Southern California based luxury appliance manufacturer, is no longer imagining the future as much as defining the future with the launch of the Discovery iQ Wall-Oven and Discovery 48” iQ Dual-Fuel Range at the 2014 International Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, January 7 – 10, 2014.

"It’s not about technology for technology sake…it’s about simplifying the process, to make the culinary experience accessible to everyone and to empower the individual" said Steve Joseph at a CES press event.  He went on to say, “Our new products are breaking new ground in the kitchen appliance industry with smart technology that makes cooking an extension of the connected lifestyle." Said Steve Joseph, President of Dacor.

The proprietary iQ Cooking App, accessed through an integrated Android interface,   eliminates the guesswork associated with preparing popular dishes and family recipes by way of a pre-programmed guide.  It enables users to prepare a wide range of dishes to perfection with the touch of a finger. Simply select the desired recipe from the display menu, insert the dish, initiate the program and relax as the oven takes care of the rest. Additionally, when the desired cooking time has been reached, the oven will place the dish on warming mode and send you a text that your meal is ready to serve.  

“The Discovery iQ Wall Oven and 48” iQ Range are truly revolutionary and have raised the bar for cooking convenience and performance by combining advanced cooking technology with the insight of the iQ Cooking application. Dacor has empowered the novice chef to perform at expert levels with a simple swipe of a finger. With control features such as Guided Cooking, Quick Start Guide, Slow Cook Mode and Personal Recipe Storage, the home chef is almost guaranteed to cook all their favorite dishes to perfection.

As Arthur C Clark once wrote, "Something is about to happen...something wonderful.". Dacor has truly taken the next step in the advancement of cooking technology and yes Mr Clark...Something "wonderful" is about to happen.

Follow this link to a great YouTUBE video on the iQ Wall Oven : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z-e1o93JFiM&feature=c4-overview-vl&list=PLGKHQD1-BqQkhz2IWjOEkXh6NM0wEhSs4


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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

THE MALE CENTRIC KITCHEN…the new paradigm

A few years back, while preparing a marketing study for an Italian kitchen manufacturer looking to expand their presence in North America…I made a startling discovery…kitchens were not just for women.  The industry demographics were all wrong and misleading.  The popular myth that women were the driving point of all kitchen sales was an assumption.  It was believed that the prototypical kitchen consumer was female, married, 35 – 45 with one or more child.  And this was true on the whole…but what we discovered was that economics and age changed everything. 

Middle-class kitchens with children still at home were female driven and functional by nature.  Breakfast and dinner were prepared by Mom and homework was done at the kitchen table…all very “June Cleaver”, all very American.  But when it came to up-market, affluent kitchens…the tables were turned and the kitchen went from one of traditional design and functionality to one of clean and simple lines and cooking as entertainment.  And at the helm we discovered a 55 – 65 year old male, directing the design and purchase of this new playground.  Where the female, middle-class purchaser was focused on function, convenience and budget, the affluent male buyer is focused on aesthetics, technology and value. 

Once considered off limits to the American male, today’s modern kitchen has become the new workshop, a place of refuge that our fathers once spent hours locked away on weekends, tinkering, building, repairing and mostly escaping the pressures of everyday life, as well as the wife and kids. Clean modern lines, sleek glass and chrome surfaces and enough technology to launch a mission to mars…Today’s male has found a new venue for relaxation and self-expression.

In a recent UK study regarding the cooking habits of the British Male, some very startling statics have emerged to further challenge our perceptions and assumptions.   As women move in greater numbers into the workforce and in some cases taking the role of “bread-winner”, it appears that men have taken to their new domestic position with relish.
  
In the UK study:
  • 86% of males polled cook meals regularly
  • The average male surveyed spends up to 11 ½ hours weekly preparing and cooking meals.
  • Those interviewed said they can prepare 4 meals a week from a repertoire of 11 recipes from scratch
  • 2/3rds of those polled say they cook far more than their father’s simple weekend efforts on the barbeque.
  • 63% prepare weekday meals
  • 37% prepare kids meals and packed lunches.
  • The average male surveyed has spent up to $700 a year on kitchen gadgets and equipment.
  • 44% would rather spend money on kitchen tools than the new tech gadget
  • 28% would give up their season tickets for a new kitchen appliance.
  • The top three kitchen wish-list items:
    • New Cookware (38%)
    • A new Oven or Range (36%)
    • Quality Knife Set (35%)
 With the proliferation of cooking shows, mostly with male chefs in the leading role, 7 out of 10 males polled felt more confident in the their role as home-chef and that most felt that they were far better cooks than their female domestic partners.

To the modern male, today’s kitchen is about lifestyle and it’s about living.  If stress and anxiety are the bi-products of the modern world, then nothing is more coveted by today’s male than relaxation and contentment. 

His kitchen can be defined by the details.  When designing for the male, it’s important to speak about the intangible aspects of the kitchen we must address happiness and comfort, taste and design, exclusivity and uniqueness.  The kitchen must be viewed as a reward for his hard work, a symbol of his accomplishments.

When it comes to the kitchen, he wants the best the industry has to offer.  To him, spending more for quality is worth it and it is expected.  He believes that value is more important than price and that “brand” means security and quality. 
The products he chooses for his kitchen must be manufactured by a well-known and trusted name and is prestigious as well as exclusive.

Socially driven and status aware, exclusivity and appearance is the key to his personality.  He looks for products that are unique and will enhance the way he is perceived by others.  Branding is at the heart of his decision making, as he believes; they are the traditional indicators of quality.   It’s about the pleasure of owning an original.  It’s about exclusivity.  And ultimately, it’s about self-expression. 

Up until recently, the kitchen was designed as a functional laboratory for a single participant, the “woman of the house”, the ‘little lady’, “mom”.  It was laid out with assembly line efficiency with a window centered on the sink so mom, in her frilly apron and pearls, could watch the little ones in the back yard at play.

The evolution of the Male Centric Kitchen has grown far from its primary function of food preparation, and nurturing to that of “social arena”, serving as living room, dinning room, home-office, entertainment and media center.   More democratic than “Moms” kitchen, everyone is welcomed, if not encouraged, to participate in the Male Centric Kitchen. 

Simple and clean, open and inviting, the exclusion of all things extraneous best describes the Male Centric Kitchen.  A kitchen without boundaries or barriers, a kitchen free from conventional thought and restrictions, a kitchen created to reflect the individual.


The Male Centric Kitchen, in its new domestic role, finds itself reflecting a family style based on the sharing of traditional roles and function.  The living area embraces the kitchen as a multifunctional arena, were food is prepared, people talk, guests are entertained and the last email of the day is read and responded too…a space where the day begins and the party always ends.

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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

COOKING AT TWICE THE SPEED OF GAS

With today's modern kitchen consuming as much as 40% of all household energy, energy conscious homeowners will truly appreciate the earth-friendly Renaissance 36" and 30" Induction Cooktops by DACORUsing 90% of the energy they generate for cooking, induction outperforms both standard electric and gas cooktops in both speed and energy conservation, thus making induction the fastest and most energy efficient form of cooking on the planet today.

The Renaissance Induction Cooktop is the perfect blend of sophisticated styling, advanced engineering and quality craftsmanship. The Renaissance Induction Cooktop uses electromagnetic energy to stimulate iron molecules in the cookware to heat the cooking vessel. Each induction element, hidden below the ceramic-glass surface, heats pots and pans quickly and consistently with precise control.


The SenseTech™ Induction Technology automatically detects the presence and size of your cookware and matches energy transference with no residual heat loss, keeping cookware handles and the kitchen cooler. Unlike traditional cooking surfaces that heat up and stay hot long after the meal has been prepared, the glass-ceramic surface quickly cools down once the pot or pan has been removed or turned off.



The Renaissance Induction Cooktop by DACOR is the perfect choice for the modern, energy efficient kitchen.  Designed and manufactured in California, the 36” Induction cooktop with 5 cooking zones and the 4 zone 30” model areavailable in black ceramic glass (as shown with optional Raised Ventilation).  The Renaissance Induction Cooktops are available through authorized Dacor retailers nationwide.

Founded in 1965, the California based DACOR, is a family owned and operated US manufacturer of luxury kitchen appliances.  Dedicated to quality, craftsmanship and innovation, DACOR has integrated fashion, function and technology to create unique kitchen products that are built to reflect the lifestyle and needs of the homeowner.  Never one to follow, Dacor continues to push the boundaries of cooking technology, challenging old norms, blazing new trails and setting new benchmarks.

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