My husband and I have lived in this rental kitchen in Portland, Oregon for over a year now, and while it isn't a designer showcase space, it does have its quirks and charms. It's been the site of many cups of hot chocolate, champagne toasts, triumphs and failures, for which I'm incredibly grateful.
This kitchen is a little awkward in that it has five entry points into the rather large space. While that makes it the main thoroughfare for the house, it has hardly any walls to affix much countertop to, so it's very spacious, yet a little unruly when you've got many ingredients out or several meals going. It has a gloriously large sink with two sides for drying dishes and a cheap oven that preheats quickly. Our pans and most-used items sit on a wood shelf my husband installed along with a few delicate touches of his, like the painting he did of my name and the heart-shaped cookie cutter to keep me company as I cook.
While this kitchen isn't perfect, I'm proud to say I cook here almost everyday, so whatever its shortcomings are in terms of the not-so-pretty wall color, linoleum floor and crazy plywood storage, it works for me. It's the place I spend a lot of time preparing for photo shoots (I'm a food/lifestyle photographer, educator and contributor to The Kitchn) with a small team of food stylists, prop stylists and assistants, so I'm proud that it's functional for our purposes. And isn't that what's really important anyway? Plus, my tea drawer and electric kettle are both a source of great pleasure and they are located in the kitchen!
10 Questions for Leela (and Her Kitchen)
1. What inspires your kitchen and your cooking?
I'm most inspired by simple meals with minimal ingredients: a really tangy coleslaw or poached eggs on toast or a tray of fudgy brownies. I'm sorta ordinary and love to cook easy and plain. Leave the fanciful stuff for desserts and going out!
2. What is your favorite kitchen tool or element?
I use my electric kettle about 9 times per day. It's so handy. I cannot recommend this device enough, especially if you live in a cold place where tea, coffee and just warm water are a multiple-times-daily essential.
3. What's the most memorable meal you've ever cooked in this kitchen?
I was part of a team that cooked 10 dishes in this kitchen for a Food & Wine shoot, all totally diverse foods like Cajun Shrimp with Corn and Dates, Roasted Tomato Bruschetta, Savory Oatmeal with Peas and Pecorino, Chicken Chausser, Pasta with Peppers and Garlic... the list went on and on. It was total cooking insanity with my co-conspirators Adrian Hale and Jenni Grisham. It was a lot of fun, too, with a great lunch break where we sampled from this oddball buffet.
4. The biggest challenge in your kitchen:
I dream of having a dishwasher one day. Other than that, everything in this kitchen is pretty swell.
5. Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
We don't own this kitchen, so I guess as renters I would have hoped to have put some gauzy curtains up by now.
6. Biggest indulgence or splurge in the kitchen:
I fought tooth and nail to justify buying a big fancy Le Crueset pot for cooking stews in. It's bright red and so heavy with quality. I love it!
7. Is there anything you hope to add or improve in your kitchen?
I'd love to be better about not letting dishes build up in the sink, and having less kitchen stuff of better quality would be great.
8. How would you describe your cooking style?
Seasonal, easy, fast and tasty!
9. Best cooking advice or tip you ever received:
Don't tell everyone about the mistakes you've made with the food on the table.
10. What are you cooking this week?
White bean chili, roasted beets with walnuts and pickled onions, steel cut oats with toasted coconut and banana chips, peanut butter toast with quince jam.
Resources of Note:
• Fridge & stove: Kenmore
• Pots & pans: random thrift stores, Le Crueset and a beloved Scan pan from Sur La Table
• Dishes: Ikea, thrift stores, a few gems from Beam & Anchor and Alder & Co. in Portland
• Rugs: Ikea
• Wood chop block: Craigslist
• Visit my Tea/Travel blog: Tea Cup Tea
• Visit my photo portfolio: Leela Cyd
• Join me in Florence, Italy for a photography workshop this May: Photography & Florence
We're always looking for real kitchens from real cooks.
Show us your kitchen here!
Related: Leela and Dave's Tiny Bright Kitchen
(Images: Leela Cyd Ross)