How do you discourage people from bothering you while you cook?

Not strictly recipe related, but important for the cook's sanity.

When I cook, I need the kitchen to myself. I need space to carry boiling hot water to the sink without risking burning well meaning intruders or having curious onlookers distracting me while the meal burns. I admit it, I'm a control freak in the kitchen. But I have trouble maintaining focus when people want to talk about whether or not it's raining harder today or was it raining more yesterday.

I either need the whole room to myself or if you are going to help, you need to be under my direct command. Otherwise someone gets injured (usually me cutting myself to avoid cutting the strange hand that suddenly dashed under my knife).

So how do I discourage people from being in the kitchen? How do you discourage them?

I tried asking nicely and telling firmly to get out while I'm working. It really doesn't work, in fact it has the opposite effect.

I don't feed tidbits (although people feel it's quite okay to steal them from under my knife... ug!) or any other treats until meal time. I don't want to encourage them to come a begging.

I have tried putting people to work. Fine, if you are going to be in my way in the kitchen, you can do this really awful job. I even go out of my way to buy make-you-cry onions for interlopers to chop (even when I don't need onions) just to try and reinforce the idea that the kitchen is for working, not hanging out or gawking. But they have caught on to the fact that I don't need onions chopped for making bread pudding, and simply refuse while standing in front of the cupboard with the raisins (and won't get out of the way!)

*pulls hair in frustration*

I need help finding a new way to keep people out of the kitchen while I'm cooking, otherwise they are going to go hungry while I go quietly insane in a corner somewhere.

Oh, and I'm talking about adults here. Kids know better than to awaken the 'Great Grump of the Kitchen' (me).

So what do you do in order to have the kitchen to yourselves? Or, am I the only one who had this trouble?



beleszove February 6, 2023
who are the "people"? is it family or guests? if it's family, have a sit down discussion and tell them your needs. If it's guests, finish your cooking before guests are set to arrive. Plan dishes that specifically don't need last minute cooking or fiddling. Socializing with the cook during a gathering is something most people enjoy, so be aware that you are going against the grain. People may be worried you feel lonely/cut off. Also as host, it's kind of your role to interact with your guests, so if you're doing something you need no interuptions for, you're giving mixed signals.
Author Comment
Wow, just, wow. Maybe we are the odd ducks, but for our family, and I mean generations, the kitchen is the heart of our homes. We do some of our best visiting while cooking together. If you come in the kitchen you are giving a task to help with as soon as you are old enough. Everyone cooks, even my sons, and for those not as skilled at cooking, you follow behind and clean as we go. When someone in the family passes away, we take solace in cooking together and remembering stories of them as we go. We celebrate, commiserate, and just take pleasure in the everyday tasks. I find it hard to imagine keeping the kitchen to myself. Wow...
Kristen W. January 28, 2013
There are a lot of variables at play here, but for what it's worth, whenever possible I've learned to try to get all of my prep done ahead of time. Then the cooking part, when guests are around, is more like cooking show-cooking, where all the ingredients are pre-measured and sitting tidily in little bowls, waiting to be dumped into the pot or whatever. Obviously there will be other parts of the process I still have to pay attention to, but I find I am much more relaxed about the whole thing if I've done as much as possible ahead of time.
smslaw January 26, 2013
Most people like to chat with the cook/host. Sounds like a kitchen layout problem. Having an island with stools on the other side from the cook gets people out of your way but they can still offer unsolicited advice, which you can ignore. Do you have room for a table or someplace for them to sit, out of your way, but within chatting distance? Maybe train the dog to administer a non-lethal, but intimidating growl whenever someone crosses the demilitarized zone?
Linn January 26, 2013
You are definitely not alone. It has always been a problem for me too. I have been told that behind my back I am referred to as the KITCHEN NAZI. And that tells me I have been marginally successful. For well meaning helpful people, my approach is to think out a list of tasks, preferably to be done outside of my kitchen like setting the table that I can delegate as needed. For those who steal my preparations before I am ready to serve, I am rude and belligerent. Which is not a great way to break bread with friends ... For those other well meaning mindless conversationalists, I have never come up with really good answers. I admire llorean's answer, but I have never been able to do it. The meal is important to me and the experience is what happens when I eat out or am a guest at someone else's table.

But thank you so much for posting this question. Like you, I have always wondered if I was the only one!


Voted the Best Reply!

lloreen January 26, 2013
Hand them a bottle of wine and tell them to go to the living room. You seem like someone who doesn't have trouble speaking her mind so just tell them to pour you a glass and take the rest with them....and put out some simple things to munch on in the living room like carrots and hummus.
Drink that glass of wine and relax! At least these people care about you enough to want your company, right? Isn't that what cooking at home is all about in the long run? You are creating memories with people you care about if they are in the way and the meal doesn't look like Gourmet magazine, who cares? In the end, people will remember the meal as an experience, not a dish.
pierino January 25, 2013
Yellow "caution" tape in covering every entry way. One thing I hate is little kids running around in the kitchen---barefoot. When I was a kid I stood next to my mother, but never in someone else's kitchen.
trampledbygeese January 25, 2013
I did the yellow tape one year for Christmas dinner. It worked well at first, but then people just ignored it. oh, the fun we had that year.

I'm actually pretty good with little kids in the kitchen. Of course, my friends kids are only about 2 years old, so they are still easy to distract with toys and stay away from things that are called 'ouch-hot'. I worry about when they get older.
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