In Lifestyle

Small Kitchen, Big Taste

The challenge of making a small kitchen work is nothing new.  Professional chefs all over the world have learned to make a tiny space work for them for years.  Some of the most sought after restaurants rely on a small kitchen.  The LA Times recently profiled Charles Olalia, chef and owner of Rice Bar in downtown LA.  He creates the traditional meals of his Filipino childhood in a restaurant measuring at 275 square feet and is doing well with customers.  If the professionals can make it work, so can residents with small home kitchens.

Many chefs from New York City to Portland, Oregon (DOC restaurant pictured above) have revealed their tiny kitchen secrets over the years.  For example, this tip comes from Colin and Renee Alevras, former owners of the now closed, Tasting Room in New York.   “Instead of hard cutting boards, the cooks use thin plastic ones, which can be rolled up and tucked away. When the food is served, one of the two sinks is covered with a fitted cutting board: it becomes the bread station.” (Amanda Hesser, The New York Times). This is how smart chefs make the most of a small kitchen space, and so can you.


The more organized your small kitchen is the more efficiently you will be able to use it.  This means knowing exactly where everything is: dishes, tools, pantry items.  Labeling your shelves and or drawers is a great way to make sure everything is always where it should be.  Clear jars with labels are also helpful for storing dry goods such as flour, rice and pasta.

Keep it Tidy

Keeping your kitchen in order is the best way to keep it functioning.  Clutter is 10 times more intrusive in a small kitchen than a large one.  Make the most of your counter space, even if it’s limited.  Avoid having lots of clunky machines such as coffee makers, microwaves, food processors, mixers and toasters.  “Learn to use a whisk well, mixers monopolize space and cannot be moved very easily.”(Amanda Hesser, The New York Times).  If you truly can’t live without these things, opt for mini versions. Also, be sure to clean as you go while you’re cooking and use cookware as serveware to cut down on dishes piling up.

Install Shelves

If you don’t have a lot of cabinet space, make the most of your wall space by installing floating shelves for extra storage.  “Switching to open shelving can make a huge impact in your small kitchen because it eliminates visual heft, creating an airier environment that doesn’t feel cramped.” (Jula Millay Walsh, My Domain)

Within Reach

Make sure that all of your essential cooking tools and ingredients are easily reachable while you’re cooking.  The less you have to move around to grab things the quicker you can prepare your meals.

“One of the things I did in Restaurants is when I had new cooks working at a particular station, I would draw an ‘X’ on the floor in tape and while you were manning the station, your left foot, say, could not leave that tile. So if your station was set up so that you had to move that foot, your station isn’t set up properly.  Work flow is as much abut your physical presence as it is how you set stuff up.  So don’t set up your kitchen and then figure out the work flow.  Set yourself and then put everything you need where you can reach it. ” – Chef and writer Barton Seaver

Decorate Wisely

White walls will create the illusion of more space.  Dark colored walls will only make your small kitchen feel even smaller.  If you’re worried about your kitchen lacking in character, you can always paint your cabinets in a colorful shade.  Also, if you have windows in your kitchen make sure to keep them open to let the natural light in during the day.  For evenings, make sure you have overhead lighting on your prep and cooking areas.

More Tips From The New York Times Article “So You Think Your Kitchen is Small” By Amanda Hesser…

  • Do any long roasting, stocks and desserts first.  then work on vegetables and garnishes.  This will free the oven and cool the kitchen before guests arrive.
  • If ventilation is poor, avoid sauteing and long cooking on the stove, which heats up a small space.  Braise and pan roast.
  • Rather than making a meat, garnish and sauce separately, prepare them consecutively in a single pan.

Small kitchen people, we hope this was informative, do you have any tricks for cooking in a small space?  Tell us!





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