Piper Davis, a celebrated baker, business owner and cookbook author, recently had the opportunity to build the open, rustic kitchen she always dreamed of. In it she cooks everyday meals of local greens, grains and sustainably-raised meats as well as the most astounding biscuits, "jammers." I was lucky enough to spend time with Piper in this unique kitchen and sample those unbelievable biscuits.
Piper comes from a long line of home bakers and cooks, where fresh, wholesome food was always a top family priority. Piper has carried this whole food ethos into her family business, Grand Central Bakery. With nine brick and mortar locations in Portland and Seattle as well as a presence at an array of farmer's markets in the Pacific Northwest, Grand Central pastries, desserts and savory foods are some of the best in the area.
It's no surprise that Piper's home kitchen has a large, marble-surfaced area dedicated to baking, recipe testing and churning out new ideas. It's a luxury for some, but Piper bakes and cooks almost everyday for work and pleasure. Watching her whip up a batch of biscuits was surreal — I certainly bore witness to a professional who makes pillowy, tender treats look effortless.
Piper and her partner David (a contractor), set out to merge their lives into an open, rustic home in Portland and they couldn't have done a better job. They entertain frequently and love cooking for friends. The kitchen, dining room and living room are all in one large first floor, with very tall ceilings and large windows, so guests and hosts can mingle as the meal comes together.
One last wonderful design decision for this cookbook author, business owner, and baker was to move her office to one end of the kitchen (instead of upstairs or to a separate room), so she can develop recipes and take notes on them without leaving the best part of the house. I can't think of a smarter solution to Piper's live/work life and having an office in the kitchen; it seems fantastic! Definitely a food writer's dream.
10 Questions for Piper Davis (and Her Kitchen)
1. What inspires your kitchen and your cooking?
Well, the food and the people I'm cooking for. I'm so lucky to have access to most amazing ingredients. I have a freezer full of lovely meat and a year-round CSA share which means I only go to the store for alcohol and toilet paper. I look at the ingredients their essential worthiness and I really can't wait to eat them. I also grew up in a big family and live with just one person and a dog. I love to bring people together to eat.
2. What is your favorite kitchen tool or element?
My favorite element in my kitchen is that it is the center of our house. Somebody once described our house as a "kitchen with bedrooms."
3. What's the most memorable meal you've ever cooked in this kitchen?
Impossible to name just one. An Indian feast with grilled leg of lamb, garlic ginger cauliflower, fragrant buttered greens, rice, flatbreads and a selection of chutneys and pickles. Last Christmas I cooked an entire Carmen Ranch grass fed rib section and served it with Yorkshire pudding, Brussels sprouts and twice baked potatoes.
4. The biggest challenge in your kitchen?
It's too big and guests feel welcome there. I'm always shooing people to the other side of the peninsula.
5. Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
Made it smaller. Keep classic work triangles in mind. Excess counter top just attracts a mess.
6. Biggest indulgence or splurge in the kitchen:
Whole area just for baking.
7. Is there anything you hope to add or improve in your kitchen?
The cleanliness of the drawers!
8. How would you describe your cooking style?
Seasonal, eclectic, Northwest. I cook what's in season and what's in the larder.
9. Best cooking advice or tip you ever received:
Don't constantly stir your sauté. Let ingredients brown, caramelizing the sugars in all food create depth and complexity in flavor.
10. What are you cooking this week?
Greens! Tons of green from the CSA, purple sprouting broccoli, collards, chard. Last night I made up my own ma po tofu with boar sausage (with a little help from YouTube) and served it with collard rabe sautéed with chilies and garlic. I pulled a rib steak from the freezer last night and tonight will pair that with some sautéed kale and potatoes in some form. Right now I'm obsessed with making salad out of winter veggies so I'm sure there will be a kale salad and cauliflower slaw in the mix sometime during the week, maybe with salmon.
• Oven/range: Viking
• Dishwasher: Miele
• Contractor: DHR Renovation
Thank you so much, Piper, for letting us peek into your kitchen!
• Visit Piper's business, Grand Central Bakery: Grand Central Bakery
Related: Kitchen Gallery: Bright White + Warm Wood
(Images: Leela Cyd Ross)