Cleaning

A Professional Baker’s Tips for a Clean, Calm Kitchen

The restaurant-kitchen habits Joanne Chang brings back to her home.

August 23, 2020
Photo by JACOPO MOSCHIN

The first step to better, happier cooking? Setting up a tip-top kitchen. We're talking one that's stocked with essential tools and ingredients, organized so everything you need is close at hand, and sparkling-clean from floor to ceiling. Food52 is here to make it happen. Your Do-Anything Kitchen gathers the smartest ideas and savviest tricks from the Food52 community and test kitchen to help you transform your space into its very best self.


Even if you’ve never been to Flour, Joanne Chang’s much-loved bakery in Boston, you may have gotten wind of the shop’s unbelievably tasty sticky buns and beloved egg sandwich. Or perhaps you have spattered, dogeared copies of her cookbooks—Baking with Less Sugar, Pastry Love, Flour (and Flour, Too!), Myers + Chang at Home—on your kitchen shelves.

Joanne let us into the kitchen of her Boston loft for Your Do-Anything Kitchen. While counter and storage space is limited, the kitchen is airy, tidy, and uncluttered, thanks in no small part, she says, to habits picked up and refined from years of working in restaurant kitchens. Here are the six she leans on most for maintaining a calm, collected (and clean!) kitchen:

Photo by Food52
  • “I don’t think I was super neat or organized before I started working in restaurants,” she said. But these days, her philosophy is to “clean as you go, for sure. This is definitely something I got from working in restaurants. After every task, I make sure to wipe down and put away and clear.” The rewards: having to tackle just one small post-cooking pile, and knowing where the knives/measuring spoons/tongs are at all times. Speaking of which...

  • Return tools and ingredients to their homes as you use them. “I know that I cook best at home when everything is nearby and neatly arranged.”

  • Use a bench scraper to clear the counter. It’s the quickest way to clean [scraps] so that when you wipe down you are just wiping clean—otherwise your towel gets really dirty really fast.”

  • A stainless steel scrubbie (which Joanne picks up from her restaurants from time to time), paired with just the lightest application of elbow grease, “really works wonders on cleaning dirty pans.”
Left: Joanne finds dishwashing meditative. | Right: Dishwasher as storage. Photo by SARAH RAINWATER FOR KITCHN
  • Whether cooking or tidying or just hanging out in the kitchen, Joanne tries not to rush. “When I'm in a rush I don't cook well, I don't enjoy it as much, the food doesn't shine, it's all wrong.” This extends to finding pleasure in the meticulous, meditative tasks of prying grime from the grooves of her 25-year-old stand mixer with a toothpick and hand-washing and putting away dishes (a task so calming that she and her husband Christopher Myers, with whom she owns the restaurant Myers + Chang, occasionally “fight” over who gets the privilege of tackling the after-dinner sinkful—the kitchen’s dishwasher goes unused except as storage).

  • When it’s time for a true deep clean—"Compared to the kitchens at Flour or Myers + Chang, my home kitchen is honestly a bit of a mess. I'm pretty much the only one using it so I don't need to worry about keeping it clean for others.”—Joanne begins by pulling out each item from the cabinets and shelves (“every single plate and bowl and cup and can and spice and jar”) before wiping down and straightening the rows and stacks.

What is your never-fail tip for keeping things calm in the kitchen? Tell us in the comments.


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6 Comments

Tara_Lee_Gibby September 25, 2020
Music calms. I tend to play Bassa Nova https://youtu.be/_wXefXHkk3M is a classic, but explore what music you like to cook or relax to. Makes cooking that much more enjoyable!


 
Bread &. October 16, 2020
I smiled so big when I clicked your link. One of my dad’s favorites that I’ve been too long in revisiting, and yes, classic. Currently jamming while I fix an omelette.
 
Tara_Lee_Gibby October 16, 2020
Aww, I am so happy I made you smile Bread &. :) Thank YOU :D!
 
Cindy J. August 24, 2020
So happy to see Joanne Chang on Food52. I live in the Boston area and am a regular at Flour. That said, aren't there better ways to express the deliciousness of Joanne Chang's sticky buns other than "criminally tasty" and the breakfast sandwich other than "killer"? Thanks for considering.
 
Arati M. August 24, 2020
Thank you Cindy for your thoughtful comment—we so appreciate it. And yes, absolutely!!
 
Author Comment
Caroline L. August 25, 2020
Thanks so much for this, Cindy—you're completely right. We've changed the language to reflect. Hope you're well!