Bamboo cabinetry, matte-finish Fireslate countertops, lots of brushed stainless steel, and a river-rock backsplash create a calm Zen atmosphere in a usually bustling kitchen.
Marissa Hardie has been a chef, dining critic, blogger, consultant, line cook, kitchen manager, and more, in a career that’s spanned two decades and five states.
Things didn’t always run this smoothly in Marissa’s kitchen. When the Hardies moved to their 3,600-square-foot modern house in Chappaqua in 2001, the original kitchen, with its small, four-burner cooktop and inconveniently located wall oven, was far from ideal. And the Culinary Institute of America-trained chef realized that a few tweaks wouldn’t add up to a perfect solution. “I needed a layout that allowed me to cook big while the rest of the family had access to what they needed,” she says.
Durability, function, and efficiency topped the chef’s wish list. As far as looks, she had few ideas beyond her preference for modern design. “I don’t do a lot of fussy things,” she says. “Modern just feels a lot cleaner to me.”
To get started on the remodeling, Hardie contacted Fivecat Studio in Pleasantville. The architectural firm made room for the new design by gutting the kitchen, appropriating an adjoining breakfast area, and stealing space from the living room. Though some major remodeling jobs end with hard feelings and frustration, months after the kitchen was completed, Hardie and project architect Annmarie McCarthy, a Fivecat partner, reminisce about the experience like longtime girlfriends. “Marissa could literally walk through every inch of this kitchen and say, ‘I know what I want here, I know how I’ll work here, I know what I’ll be doing here,’” McCarthy recalls. “That kind of detail is hugely helpful to build the design around.”
Two sets of NanaWall folding doors bring the outdoors in.
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Practicality informed most of the chef’s products and appliance decisions. Hardie found her 60-inch BlueStar Prizer stove, which retails for roughly $13,000, at Albano Appliance in Pound Ridge. Besides having the oven capacity she requires, it’s factory-fitted for propane, a key issue since the house does not have a gas line. She liked the modular options for the Sub-Zero Pro 48, also from Albano, which allowed her to choose two refrigerator drawers, two freezer drawers, and a variety of drawer dividers from a range of available components. The shelf-free doors permit extra-deep interior shelves that can easily accommodate big party platters and serving dishes. The easy-care, man-made countertop material, Fireslate, is tough and stain-resistant. It develops a soft patina that looks similar to slate, without the natural version’s fragility. The Miele speed oven combines microwave and conventional cooking abilities in a small unit that fits nicely in the breakfast/snack-center space. Hardie liked the idea of a space-saving, built-in unit coffee system rather than one that sat on the countertop. After using the Miele system, she declared that, no matter where the family lives, including “a tent or an RV, we will take this system with us.”
To ensure that a set of frequently used recipes would always be within arm’s reach, McCarthy devised shallow, recessed shelving, with hooks from which to hang the recipes. Hardie also can prop cookbooks open on the adjustable shelves, which have a slight lip to hold a book open to the right page, and lighting along the sides for easy reading.
There was a lot of give-and-take between the architect and the chef during the remodeling. “Annmarie was spot-on about things,” Hardie says. “Sometimes I had to think about them, but then I agreed.” A trough sink Hardie had considered having installed along the back of the island was nixed after the designer pointed out that it might be out of comfortable range for the petite chef. A commercial refrigerator was another wish-list item that was ultimately rejected, because the motors of those refrigerators are typically too loud for home use.
Are the Hardies likely to move, now that Hardie has her dream kitchen? “Only if Annmarie will come with me. Seriously.”
A chef’s guide to must-have tools
Having a showplace kitchen loaded with high-end amenities and the newest technology is all well and good. But when it comes to whipping up a great meal, it’s the little things that count, according to Marissa Hardie. In addition to good-quality pots, pans, utensils, and measuring cups, her top five kitchen picks are:
1 Three good knives: a chef’s knife, a paring knife, and a serrated knife, along with sharpening tools such as an oil stone, water stone, electric sharpener, or honing steel.
2 A set of instructions and references like a cookbook or a set of index cards. “My favorite recipes are mostly on clipboards or in binders,” Hardie says.
3 A fine mesh sieve for draining, straining, and puréeing foods, and for sifting flour and confectioner’s sugar.
4 A bench knife/dough scraper for scraping bowls, dividing dough or baked goods, and for scraping a countertop before scrubbing.
5 Cutting boards: a heavy wooden board, plus a polyurethane board you can bleach.
Grilled Fish Tacos
Makes 8 first-course servings
Use any firm-fleshed white fish or experiment—this is good with salmon, too. You can prepare the fish on the stovetop or in the oven. Searing will ensure a nice brown crust and the best flavor.
â—† 1 lb fresh fish
â—† 1 Tbsp ancho chili powder
â—† ½ tsp salt
â—† ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
â—† 2-3 Tbsp corn or vegetable oil
â—† Juice of 1 lime (about 4 Tbsp)
â—† 2-3 Tbsp chopped cilantro leaves (optional)
Preheat grill to medium-hot. Sprinkle fish with chili powder, salt, and pepper. Drizzle with oil. Grill until the fish is almost cooked through. Remove and cool slightly. Break into chunks with a fork. Serve on a warmed flour tortilla with a squeeze of lime and the accompaniments of your choice.
Elzy Kolb is a White Plains-based freelance writer and editor.
Photography by Philip Jensen-Carter and Andre Baranowski