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Our Test Kitchen Manager's Favorite Things About the Food52 Kitchen

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Designed to make photoshoots a breeze, our test kitchen isn't all for show—and these are the features that make it run like a well-oiled machine. 

food52 test kitchen favorite picks


For all the kitchen junkies out there (or anyone planning a remodel), our test kitchen is worth taking a closer look at—and not just because Brad Sherman made it look so pretty. Since it was designed to accomodate photo shoots and be the first thing you see when you enter our office, this kitchen isn't exactly as it would be in a home: The hood above the range is extra tall, so you can photograph a person cooking without it being in the way, and all the pantry storage is on the other side of the wall, well out of sight (more on our organizing strategies there, coming soon). But there's a lot going in the design that we are dying to steal for our own home kitchens. 

Derek Laughren, our Test Kitchen Manager who spends more time in the space than anyone, was kind enough to share exactly what he loves and appreciates about our kitchen the most. And since we furnished it with help from Waterworks Kitchen, their CEO and Creative Director, Peter Sallick, also weighed in on the creative process and designs. 

1. Low, Open Storage Rack


"I really like this rack," Derek tells me, gesturing to the open shelf underneath our industrial-style Cuisinier worktable from Waterworks, when I ask what he loves about this corner of the office the most. "Not only because it’s extra storage—it shows off our pots and pans in an appealing way. It’s also nice because they’re more likely to dry fast, which prevents dust from collecting."

The slatted shelf is part of the cast steel frame of the table, which is incredibly heavy-duty but not at all clunky, and topped with a thick slab of Carrera marble. Besides being so solid, it's beautifully designed. "I love to explore the connections between industry and art," says Peter Sallick, the Waterworks CEO and Creative Director, an intent that is visible in all of their designs.

Test Kitchen Love Food52

2. Good Lighting and Flow

Nestled up against a wall of windows, our test kitchen gets a steady flow of sunlight from one side and features workspace on both sides of a single aisle. "I wouldn’t rearrange it if I could," Derek says (and I hope our designer, Brad, hears him). "While natural lighting is most important for the [photo] set, it's good to see how a dish will look in a photograph while you're cooking it."

There are also mounted and hanging lighting fixtures to keep counterspace free. "I really love this lamp," Derek says of a mounted vintage design that extends up and down, illuminating a nook beside fridge without adding clutter to the counter. "It's great because you can change the height as needed." 

3. A Big, Roomy Sink

"Having two sink compartments is nice even if one is small, because you can wash dishes and just use one side that’s totally clean to rinse them." Derek gestures to the faucet, a four-hole design from the Henry line by Waterworks. "And there's enough height here that you can put bulky things in the sink." The spray nozzle, he adds, is indispensible. 

In developing the Waterworks Kitchen line, Peter says that a lot of research went into how people actually use their kitchens. "The sink is the most common bottleneck," he tells me. "We see sinks as the new large scale kitchen appliance, since they are one of the most used items in the kitchen," which explains why ours, a double stainless steel model from their Kerr line, is so roomy. 

food52 test kitchen favorites

4. Multiple Work Surfaces 

The marble-topped work table is not just essential because it's got Derek's favorite shelf: "It's great for working with doughs and pastries, since marble is so easy to scrape clean," Derek says, "and having both wood and marble is huge."

The work table is pushed right up against a butcher-block wooden counter, which is used "for almost all savory stuff. It's great for kneading bread, and is naturally antibacterial so you don’t have to worry. It does require a little more upkeep, but it’s worth it." Ample counterspace is a noticeable characteristic of the kitchen, which is important because on shoot days, any number of editors and stylists are wandering in and out of Derek's domain.

Food52 Test Kitchen Waterworks Cabinets

5. Well-Designed Cabinets 

Derek and I are both fond of the dark grey finish on our Waterworks Alta cabinetry, and also the gunmetal pulls, which pop pleasingly against the blue and peach tones in the wood. They're modern and minimal, but not at all austere. Peter sums up the design: "It’s a pared down cabinet that has an influence of mid-century design, celebrating natural material and prominent hardware." 

"And the shelves inside are adjustable, so you can fit even bulky cookware," Derek points out. "I love this drawer right under the oven, which is great for storing pans." We also agree that the cushioned close, which prevents you from slamming a cabinet or a drawer, is especially awesome because you don't notice it. 

Photographs by Mark Weinberg

Tags: kitchen, test kitchen, hardware, waterworks