Derek lives in a spacious brownstone with his wife and two children. The kitchen screams out 'activity center' and beckons one forth! A gathering place, a showcase, a place to experiment, a place to cook, and a place to eat, it is the hub of the home.
Derek, a green building developer, is not one to shy away from challenging tasks. With the help of an architect, he created a modern and industrial supply laden kitchen in a century old brownstone. The result is a bright, rugged, inviting place to create. His girls like to invent things and do homework sitting at the counter. The space behind the bar is great for displaying important notices and storing alcohol, and the space in front of the breakfast bar is an instructional chef's dream arrangement.
By sourcing from lab supply companies instead of kitchen cabinet companies, longevity and resilience are the themes of this kitchen. Which is great from a sustainability perspective, and because it encourages plenty of use!
Derek's Response to the Kitchn Survey
What's your cooking style? I guess we cook mostly what you might call New American Cuisine, inflected with Italian and French. We try to eat as seasonally and as locally as possible. We eat a lot of veggies. When we eat meat, we eat local first and then organic. I make exceptions for awesome ethnic meats, like Kielbasa from Jubilat or meatballs from Caputo’s. I rarely cook with recipes and I always cook from inspiration and a desire for variety. If I bake or make a “name” dish, then my main reference for the last few year has been Mark Bittman’s How To Cook Everything. I also read cookbooks for ideas and techniques about once a month or so. My latest love in that regard is the Momufuku cookbook.
What inspires your kitchen? I try to keep an eye on variety and interest with a seasonal and local focus. We are members of a Community Sponsored Agriculture, so we cook what is available from our share from June through December. We shop our local Farmer’s Markets in Carroll Gardens almost every Sunday, using what is available for inspiration. I also try to cook what my kids, ages 9 and 11, will eat but we try to push the kids to expand their palettes rather than cater to “kid’s foods.”
What is your favorite kitchen tool or element? I have a Rostle Spatula that has changed my formerly bitter relationship with crepes, overeasy eggs and omelettes. Good tools do matter. I also love my Le Creuset crepe pan and Deep Braising Pot.
Best cooking advice or tip you ever received: Smell everything. Don’t use a knife that is the wrong size for the task.
Biggest challenge in your kitchen: Trying to share space. We created the kitchen so that it would be easy for one person to have everything within reach. The kitchen succeeds on that goal. However, if someone else is putting away dishes or cooking another dish, the kitchen gets crowded.
Biggest indulgence: The stainless steel island. I designed this island working closely with my architect and I love how easy it is to clean and serve people eating at the bar.
Dream tool or splurge: I think I would like one of those sous vide cookers or a pressure cooker. However, I am opposed to specialized, one use gadgets from an environmental point of view. I think one should have the bare minimum of the best and most elementary tools. The rest is vanity and trendiness.
What are you cooking this week? We have an annual St. Patrick’s Day meal inviting a bunch of friends and family over. I am pickle-brining a brisket that I got from the Meat Hook in Williamsburg. Amazing butcher and excellent Hudson Valley grass fed beef. I will serve that with Champ (mashed potatoes with scallions), Carrot-Parsnip Mash, Steamed Cabbage, and Pint Glass Bread. For years, I have used some great recipes from this special issue of Saveur dedicated foods and cooking of Ireland which was super inspiring. I draw my inspiration for this event partly from just being in NY which has a pretty robust Irish cultural community and partly from my weird and twisted roots. My paternal grandmother was descended a long line of Irish immigrants and my maternal great grandfather was the rare Jew that emigrated from Ireland in the late 1800s.
What cookbook has inspired you the most? I am embarrassed to admit that the Silver Palate was the first cookbook that I cooked almost cover to cover until it disintegrated. I relied on that book, cooking my way through my courtship with my wife. It was less inspiration than a summation of the food culture of the moment in which I was steeped. James Beard’s basic cookbook introduced me to a hearty ecleticism and “use what you have” approach that I still rely upon today. I have had a few breakaway moments of joy from Julia Child. And Bittman has given me a lot of confidence to cook traditional dishes that I normally would ignore, like muffins.
What's the most memorable meal you've ever cooked in this kitchen? I am less focused on the acute moment than the long haul fulfillment. My best moment is breakfast, cranking out a hot and healthy first meal for my kids for the last 9 years. That’s memorable every time it works well, which is most of the time, thankfully. If I had to choose a proud moment, I think it was mastering the Julia Child Bouillabaise that I made for my wife’s birthday this year. So many steps and I even got to eat with the guests.
Range is DCS. Good. Serviceable. Easy to Clean. Heavy duty parts. Oven is a little small.
Dishwasher is Bosch. Breaks all the time. Miele would have been better. Why don’t Europeans put food grinders in their Dishwashers? Such a problem solver.
Refrigerator is Amana during period when they made the inner workings for Viking, so it looks like a mini Viking inside. The plastic drawer covers have gotten messed up and the icemaker has broken twice. It’s OK but not as good as it could be.
Cabinets are what I am most happy about. I sourced them for my architect from a lab supply company that distributes out of NJ called BMC. They wear like steel should, look snappy and never break. Only drawback is that they are rigid, so modifications for future changes are not so easily accomplished.
Stay tuned for a full tour of Derek's brownstone on Apartmenttherapy.com.
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(Images: Jill Slater)