By nature, home kitchens have always been a more casual and more intimate version of a restaurant — but that doesn’t have to mean that they can’t be as efficient as a bustling restaurant kitchen.
To make your kitchen as efficient as you are, it’s a good idea to look to the pros for ideas. Between prep, serving, ambiance and cleanup, even the smallest diners have to stay nimble, and creating the right storage solutions are key to that success.
“A successful storage system suits your needs and your space,” says Monty Koludrovic, the award-winning chef and culinary director at Botanical Hospitality. “If you have something that you use on the regular, then make it super easy to find. If it’s there for safekeeping, then make sure it is safe. This sounds simple, but you’d be surprised. Kitchens are busy, and they possess a mystical ability to swallow up esoteric pieces of equipment just before you need them.” Follow these six restaurant-approved storage tips to ensure that your kitchen runs smoothly, no matter what’s on the menu.
1. Place your prep in plastic containers.
There are countless ways to use the clear, plastic containers you often see stacked in restaurants for your own prep. Tall ones are perfect for large quantities of stocks and ice creams, while shorter ones can hide pestos and dressings away. As you are well aware, dinner routines are an essential part of the week, and storing your food prep in easy-to-see containers should help. The best part? These lids are interchangeable, so you don’t have to worry about a stray topper.
2. Label everything you eat.
You know that tasty tomato sauce you made a while ago? Its leftovers are now sitting in the fridge, and you can’t quite tell if that smell means it’s still good or not. This would never happen in a restaurant — and for good reason. All ingredients are promptly labeled, making it easy for anyone to see what’s still fresh and what’s past its prime. Get in the habit of writing the contents of your leftovers on masking tape with a permanent marker and include the date. It’s a fast and cheap way to keep your fridge clean.
3. Use bench seating to maximize space.
There are likely two reasons why banquettes are a classic part of the dining experience: They fit as many people into one space as possible, and it simply feels cozier than individual chairs. If your kitchen has a breakfast nook, consider the possibilities of creating a banquette of your own, or at least adding a bench. Either option provides the chance to add storage underneath the cushions as you also expand seating. A drawer would be perfect for linens, but open-air baskets would pull off the same trick.
4. Create zones for flow.
Restaurants get food out quickly because everyone on the line knows their place. And even though no one should expect a meal on the table in about 12 minutes where you live, they should be able to move around the room in a flash. All utensils, cups and plates should be gathered in the same area of your kitchen, and set at least a few feet away from the high-trafficked areas of a refrigerator, oven or even microwave. Store once-in-a-blue-moon appliances inside your pantry, or in a cupboard out of the way.
5. Add shelving everywhere it fits.
If you’ve ever worked in a restaurant or peeked in the back, then you’ve probably noticed that no space goes to waste. Shelving spans above and below countertops, and walk-ins are lined with tiered units. If you have a pantry, then take note of this design: Place the items you use most at eye level, the heaviest items beneath and the specialty items above. If you don’t have a pantry, add open shelving to a blank wall—for everyday items like plates and cups—or place a cart beside a small countertop. And while you’re at it, add extra shelving inside your cabinets to maximize the number of pieces you can fit inside.
6. Make space for pegboards or rails.
There’s a reason why Julia Child used a custom pegboard in her famous kitchen. By having her trusted pots and pans within reach, it was easier to pick and choose which items she needed on the fly. Take her advice and install a pegboard for everything from pots and pans to ladles and spatulas.
No space for a pegboard? Opt for a single rail beneath upper cabinets to hang your favorite items from hooks. A bronze one will patina over time, making your vignette look as perfectly lived in as Child’s.
(Real Simple magazine provides smart, realistic solutions to everyday challenges. Online at www.realsimple.com.)