Kitchen Design

A Genius Workaround for a Counter-Sparse Kitchen

Food52’s Genius-hunter Kristen Miglore borrowed this trick from a restaurant kitchen—and made it her own.

August 17, 2020
Photo by Food52

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If you’re a Genius Recipes fan, you’ve been inside creative director Kristen Miglore’s apartment kitchen, where she’s been cooking and filming Genius Recipes videos since stay-at-home orders began. And you just may have noticed something missing: much in the way of counter space.

Kristen has spent years hunting down, testing, and retesting Genius recipes—and writing two (soon to be three!) cookbooks. This has turned her into a smart, efficient, and organized cook, with obsessively efficient space usage and storage habits. Her cooking utensils are stashed away in tidy wire drawer dividers to keep them from getting jumbled, and she keeps spares of all her most-used tools (think: silicone spatulas and kitchen shears), so that she doesn’t have to wash them twice during the same recipe. That, matched with a New Yorker’s seen-it-all attitude towards cramped rental kitchens (in her tiniest-ever kitchen, her baking supplies, she said, living in bags on the seat of a chair under the kitchen table), meant she didn’t blink when faced with a counter-light space.

Instead, Kristen devised a clever workaround. She ordered a stainless steel prep table from a restaurant supply store and set it in the middle of the kitchen. Topped with a hefty wooden butcher block, it made a roomy freestanding island at an arm’s length from the refrigerator, sink, and oven. It’s now where she chops vegetables, rolls out biscuit dough, rests hot pans, and enlists her husband Mike to film new episodes of Genius.

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Top Comment:
“So the tip is to add a kitchen island (even if smaller, still the same gist)? Have to agree with Julie- this is a great "tip" for people with lots of open space and not lots of counterspace. But my apartment kitchen in Queens would be able to accommodate exactly one kitchen island (no matter how narrow or industrial) and 0 humans at the same time. My tips? If you are not using your stove (meaning it is cool), put your cutting board on top of the burners and use it as extra counterspace (just don't turn your burners on!). I also use coasters as trivets for hot pans and put a few on my dining room chairs, instead of the counter, to offload a pan once it's out of the oven. Last tip- get a folding card table and break it out anywhere you have a little space to put your bowls of chopped ingredients or just give yourself a little extra space. When you are done, fold up the table and put it under the bed.”
— Girlfromipanema
Comment

It is a Genius Tip of its own.

“Because I’ve always wanted Genius Recipes to be as welcoming as possible to all home cooks, the recipes always call for pretty minimal, basic equipment,” said Kristen. “So I’ve never needed to buy a sous vide circulator, or even a rice cooker! A big pot works for both.”

Similarly, the prep table may not be the generous island of her dreamland kitchen, but it certainly does the job. Designed for the rigors of restaurant use, it’s sturdy enough to stand up to anything she can throw at it. An adjustable shelf below the work surface is ideal for storing heavy pots so that they’re easy to hoist onto the nearby stove.

The tables also come in such a range of dimensions that even the most particular of kitchens could accommodate one. And they’re affordable: Most models (available from online restaurant suppliers who, by the way, will ship directly to your door) go for well under $200—or less, depending on the size.

To add a prep table like Kristen’s to your own kitchen, measure the space you’d like to use, then find the largest possible table that will fit in your space with room for you to easily navigate around it. We’d recommend one that’s at least 24 inches deep, if possible, which will give you a landing zone for a cutting board and ingredients, plus a place for cooking tools or most-used ingredients (like a jug of olive oil, a salt cellar, or a bowl of onions and garlic). If you like, you can even top it with a slab of butcher block as functional as it is handsome, giving it the feel of a wooden countertop—one you can take with you, if and when it’s time to leave your rental for your dreamland kitchen.


Speaking of Kristen's kitchen...

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9 Comments

Pamela L. August 25, 2020
My kitchen is smaller than the photo, and I bought a folding table, works like a card table as mentioned in another post, but rectangular at 20" x 48" . Set it up in a deep corner and it's excellent addl workspace when baking, large batch cooking, or entertaining. Costs $35 at BB&B or simi!ar.
 
bwbradley August 24, 2020
So, can we talk about the butcher block? I’ve actually been admiring Kristen’s, and I’m curious to know more about that. What do you look for, where do you look, and how do you care for it?
 
itneverrains August 23, 2020
Great organization! But a question: Where is the sink and refrigerator?
 
witloof August 22, 2020
She has TONS of counter space compared to my narrow "one butt" Manhattan kitchen with a five foot counter area, which, if you tidy as you go, is perfectly adequate for every catered multi course meal and dinner party I have cooked in it. I watched a few of those genius videos and marveled at how spacious her NYC kitchen is, and how much work room she has in it. Sheesh.
 
BeachGirl August 20, 2020
That kitchen is huge...compared to my rental kitchen :-/ to me, that counter has space for at least 3 cutting boards....🙄
 
Nancy August 19, 2020
Um, builders have been doing this for generations. It's called an island when they put a free standing counter in the middle of the kitchen floor. Differences from island are slight.
 
Jodydh August 19, 2020
I think a more appropriate title for this article is, "A Genius Workaround for a Counter-Sparse, but Square-Foot Rich, Kitchen." I also have a galley kitchen and clicked on this article expecting the topic to be about a much smaller kitchen space.
That said, I agree with Girlfromipanema: cutting boards on the burner are a major space saver! I also invested in some excellent heavy-duty magnetic hooks from Amazon. They claim to hold up to 100 lbs, and are great for holding frequently-used pans and racks on my fridge and oven (after you've run out of storage space inside the oven haha).
 
Girlfromipanema August 18, 2020
So the tip is to add a kitchen island (even if smaller, still the same gist)? Have to agree with Julie- this is a great "tip" for people with lots of open space and not lots of counterspace. But my apartment kitchen in Queens would be able to accommodate exactly one kitchen island (no matter how narrow or industrial) and 0 humans at the same time. My tips? If you are not using your stove (meaning it is cool), put your cutting board on top of the burners and use it as extra counterspace (just don't turn your burners on!). I also use coasters as trivets for hot pans and put a few on my dining room chairs, instead of the counter, to offload a pan once it's out of the oven. Last tip- get a folding card table and break it out anywhere you have a little space to put your bowls of chopped ingredients or just give yourself a little extra space. When you are done, fold up the table and put it under the bed.
 
Julie August 17, 2020
Not sure this is helpful for galley kitchens. Compared to my kitchen I wouldn't call this one small. Would love to see this in a galley kitchen or how you'd make this work in that situation.