Alina's Exotic Cooking Lair

Alina's Exotic Cooking Lair

Jill Slater
Aug 28, 2012

Alina takes the best of what a country's cooking and design tradition has to offer and brings it into her home. All the materials are natural and all the colors are warm. It seems that, aside from the food, everything about this kitchen will last forever.

The quality of the elements makes for a striking and envious cooking environment. Alina, a professional set designer, loves to curate. There is no question that she has brought these skills to her kitchen. Alina also loves to cook. Her travels have taken her around the world. At every destination she investigates that culture's traditions and rituals and the tools used therein. She finds the products used for generations — items people continue to embrace because they are at once practical and beautiful. In fact, she's gotten so good at it, that she started her own online retail store to sell these finds.

Alina finds fun and inexpensive fixes that yield sophisticated results. She also salvages great old pieces and occasionally splurges on quality products. The sum total is a warm, intriguing, thought provoking, jaw dropping, show-stopping space, full of character, integrity, sustainability, and the consistent impetus to create great meals.

Alina's kitchen, more than most, speaks for itself!!

10 Questions for Alina (and her Kitchen)

What inspires your kitchen and your cooking?
Far away places and forgotten relics. I like to enjoy stirring soups with a spoon that feels handmade. I use almost no plastic based materials in my kitchen; rather, I choose materials like wood, metal, cast iron, clay, ceramic, and glass. For example, I love cooking with my La Chamba pots and pans—hand-made in Columbia with black clay—and I think they add flavor to the dishes I make.

What is your favorite kitchen tool or element?
My wood workers bench which serves as my kitchen island. I use this piece all the time. It's such a perfect solid surface. It has a well so that things don't slide off, and dowels for hanging towels and pot holders. I love all the possibilities that it has to grow with my needs and since its and old piece it has some great patina and marks. It also makes for a great console for entertaining.

What's the most memorable meal you've ever cooked in this kitchen?
I think one of my most memorable meals has been with my friend Stephanie. She's a professional chef so I learn and proudly follow her every move. I always feel like we inspire each other with experimentation. But all of the memorable meals in my kitchen have been small gatherings with friends. I love seeing them cook in my kitchen, drink wine, laugh, smile, talk, and share food.

Biggest challenge in your kitchen?
More storage for my growing collection of glasses. I have a fantasy about constructing a wall size storage with glass doors.

Biggest indulgence or splurge in the kitchen?
Well, the immediate thing that comes to mind is my dishwasher. I'm not sure what I did before that. It's great for dinner parties. Oh, also my juicer, I love it! Especially in the summer.

Is there anything you hope to add or improve in your kitchen?
I plan to re-fashion the underside of my wood-workers bench. I think adding some drawers for linens and additional shelving for trays would make this piece complete. I also really want a kitchen-aid mixer, I think this would be a nice addition.

How would you describe your cooking style?
Simple but spicy. I favor my savory palate. I travel a lot so I'm always bringing back spices from all over the world for myself and much loved cooking friends. I love rich spices and sauces over simple ingredients. I also like fresh herbs, and combining crisp cool with hot textures.

Best cooking advice or tip you ever received:
Fresh herbs and some butter—the most useful ingredients for a delicious quick dish.

What is your favorite cookbook?
My Food Lovers Companion. It's my go-to for questions about ingredients. I also love Nigella Lawson and any of her cookbooks.

What are you cooking this week?
This week I am imagining roasted saffron chicken to make crisp salads, a cold cucumber soup, and a fava bean spread over toasted raisin bread. I also plan to make a mini chocolate cake with a simple crème fraiche frosting.


• Frigidaire
• KitchenAid
• Big Sur table: Crate and Barrel
• Kitchen rack: Pottery Barn
• Restaurant industrial shelving
• Counters: IKEA
• Vintage salvage elements
• Cookware: La Chamba and All-Clad
• Many of the beautiful foreign sourced pieces: Dar Gitane

Thank you so much for letting us peek into your kitchen, Alina!
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(Images: Jill Slater)

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