Sara and Tom bought their Bed Stuy home a couple of years ago. Since then, they've put a super-human level of blood, sweat and tears into it, inch by carefully calcuated and curated inch. But the priority was a new kitchen.
Sara and Tom are both artists so for them, aesthetics and quality are tantamount. They are also avid chefs. Needless to say, then, the realization of a long fantasized kitchen loomed large.
About a year ago, what is now the kitchen and dining room was a bathroom and bedroom, respectively. Demo, adapting the bathroom plumbing to serve a kitchen use, constructing walls, and re-tiling the floor preceded any of the fun appliance and shelving installation. Sara is very pregnant but that didn't stop her from assisting Tom with the stripping, painting, and installation. In fact, the day before our photoshoot, Sara cut, installed and grouted the subway tile backsplash! While this Sara and Tom are DIY masters, to ensure the kitchen would be finished before the baby arrived they eventually enlisted the help of professionals. All the while, however, Sara and Tom continued to source and purchase the best compromise of local, sustainable, and beautiful products to achieve their cooking wonderland.
In addition to a fantasy kitchen, Sara and Tom created a complementary fantasy backyard farm. They have fruit trees and rows of veggies and herbs. Good food is a priority. Sara and I went out back and pulled up a dozen hearty leeks for her leek tart. These leeks survived the winter and continued growing with a vengeance. The tart came from a recipe from Sara's dad's cookbook. The bright orange-yolked eggs came from Sara's dad's Vermont farm as did the steaks accompanying the tart for dinner. Sara and Tom have proved that homesteading can happen as easily in Brooklyn as it can in Vermont.
10 Questions for Sara and Tom (and their Kitchen)
What inspires your kitchen and your cooking?
When I was growing up, the most relaxed and favorite room in the house was the kitchen. There were open shelves and practical, utilitarian surfaces and the space was open to a dining and seating area. I want our kitchen to be similarly inviting and comfortable. We like the open shelves so that we can see where things are and also see the pots and dishes that have been handed down from my family or collected over the years. I also thought open shelves would help keep the space feeling open and airy rather than closing it down with cabinets that don't quite fill the 10.5 foot high space. I'm not sure if this is the effect we achieved but I like it.
What is your favorite kitchen tool or element?
The 7 foot long walnut chopping block/countertop is by far the most exciting part of the kitchen. We look forward to building a history of knife marks and scratches and dings on it.
What's the most memorable meal you've ever cooked in this kitchen?
The meal we are cooking in these photos was only the 3rd or 4th cooked in the new kitchen and it's the first time we've fed guests. Harvesting the leeks and using them in a tart is a once or twice a year treat and this was the first time we've made one with leeks that grew through the winter. We had grilled steaks and asparagus as well. It was all super good.
Biggest challenge in your kitchen?
Keeping the eclectic mix of dishes and stuff on the open shelving at least a little bit organized visually.
Biggest indulgence or splurge in the kitchen?
Fancy gas range.
Is there anything you hope to add or improve in your kitchen?
We plan to build a low set of shelves at entrance to kitchen for cook books, bottles of wine and seltzer, paper recycling and other overflow we haven't found room for. We also still need to finish trim around entrance and modify the Ikea cabinet doors to fit under under the soapstone sink. Otherwise, after 16 years living with lame rental kitchens and a 2.5 year wait to build this kitchen, this feels like the height of luxury to us. We plan to enjoy it as it is for a long time.
How would you describe your cooking style?
Driven by a combination of what is ready in the garden and what's in the freezer and occasional ideas we encounter eating out in Brooklyn. Currently our freezer is full of beef & veal raised by my father. Learning how to use all the cuts is challenging but keeps our meals interesting.
Best cooking advice or tip you ever received?
I can't think of one tip in particular. But I get so many from all the cooks in my life, maybe too many.
What is your favorite cookbook?
Any of Ruth Rogers & Rose Grey's River Café books; Julia Child "The Way to Cook"
What are you cooking this week?
- • Fennel, radicchio and grapefruit salad
• pasta primavera
• beef tacos
• swiss chard & gruyere pizza
We bought all our appliances from EBA in Brooklyn
• Stove: Bertazzoni
• Dishwasher: Bosch
• Refrigerator: Summit
• Faucet: Kohler
• Cabinets: Ikea
• Shelving support system: Rakks, with homemade walnut plywood shelves
• Soapstone counter tops and sink: VT Soapstone
• Walnut countertop: John Boose
We're always looking for real kitchens from real cooks.
Submit your kitchen here.
(Images: Jill Slater)