It's a fact almost universally acknowledged that the kitchen's the part of the home where memories are made. Let’s face it—where else do we go when we can’t sleep at night, when that delicious scent of a warm meal tickles our nose when we get home around dinner time, or when it’s time to start a holiday celebration? The kitchen is a school, a therapy couch, and a place of comfort all in one; it is important that it be functional, practical, and, of course, aesthetically pleasing.
Let’s entertain the idea that entertaining could be taken to the next level and your innner chef, whether you channel Julia Child or Emeril Lagasse, finds a new space to create magic while tapping into the connective energy of the outdoors. Imagine hosting a party for a small group of friends on a warm evening as fireflies add an extra bit of atmosphere to your already-ambient lighting. Crickets provide the soundtrack as your outdoor kitchen creates the same welcoming pull as it did indoors. On a fantastic night, cooking outside feels second-nature — because technically, it is.
A history of outdoor kitchens shows us that mastering the art of food has been happening outside since the 1600s. First accounts of outdoor grills come from the West Indies, where island natives coined the term “barbacoa.” (Vegans, trigger warning, that term refers to meats or whole sheep slow-cooked over an open fire.) Yikes! But yum? (Don’t fret, all diets are welcome here.) Moving forward, colonial settlers adopted this way of cooking and brought the idea of barbecuing to the southeastern United States, birthing the beginning of grilling for pleasure.
Our first president, George Washington, was keen to outdoor cooking — he participated in his first social barbecue gathering in Alexandria, Virginia, as noted in his diary May 27th, 1769. While Washington supported soirées on the grassy knoll of the White House, it wasn’t until the 1950s when Don McGlaughlin, owner of the Chicago Combustion Corp. (known today as LazyMan,) invented the first gas grill. By 1958, the first natural gas grill was manufactured, thus making outdoor entertaining and cooking a staple in the American lifestyle.
The Netflix docu-series “Chef’s Table” explores what’s inside the kitchens and minds of international culinary stars who redefine the social mores of upscale dining. One episode seems more iconoclastic than the rest, profiling an Argentine chef who combines traditional Patagonian fire-and-earth cooking methods with his prestigious French culinary background. Francis Mallman, chef, restauranteur, hotelier, and author of Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way and Mallmann on Fire is best known for his primitive grilling techniques.
In his capsule episode on “Chef’s Table,” the viewer is taken on an out-of-kitchen experience, first traveling to Francis’s island in Patagonia where the magic really begins — drive 100 miles down a dirt road past beautiful lakeside mountains, then step into an inflatable craft and trek one hour across the lake where a man in a Tibetan shawl and panama hat will greet you. The episode’s mood is set as Francis lights a cigar sitting in front of his petite wood stove, only to stand and adjust the fire that bellows inside of it. This is a fitting introduction, for, as the episode unfolds, you'll witness an intimate process of Francis’s instincts with fire (and other earthly tools like mud.) The episode is an entire pièce de résistance; it is hard upon its completion to not long for setting cedar and pine aflame to channel a similar primitive aura.
(image via Netflix.com)
But as mesmerizing as Mallman’s cooking aesthetics can be, we may not all be living in the greenery of Patagonia, cooking fish between sheets of lakeshore clay. For those who prefer a stovetop but don’t want to be out of touch, rejoice. In the late 1990s, outdoor kitchen cabinet manufacturers like Danver Stainless Outdoor Kitchens emerged on the grilling scene, making the idea of one-stop-shop outdoor cooking a reality. Today, chef stations are a work of art and a vital part of many interior designers’ portfolios. In fact, a survey published this past March 2017 on Construction Dive states that the demand for outdoor kitchens has increased, as homeowners find it a compelling way to add value to their existing homes.
“With interior kitchens functioning as the hub of the home,” the website cites, “homeowners are trying to replicate that space outdoors and bring some of the related activity with it.” You can read more about those stats here.
Whatever you may imagine for your outdoor kitchen, it helps to reference the experts for some extra inspiration. HGTV is a great resource for the logistics — and their photo library doesn’t hurt either.
Outdoor kitchens can take some research, but your starting point may be easier than you think. Ah, there, we see the light bulb going off over your head, and funny enough, it resembles our Toledo Linear fixture….
We kid, but the Toledo Linear is an ideal light for an outdoor kitchen area, as it's built to endure both indoor and outdoor environments. Its look is bold but approachable — a hang-straight canopy with three stems and an Old Silver finish, adding a kiss of industrial to your layout. The Edison-style bulb exudes vintage class. Perhaps you find yourself more partial to a simpler fixture; the Toledo collection includes a pendant and wall sconces that don’t lack in appeal.
We can’t help but feel inspired while imagining the Old Silver finish of this collection accompanying your dream stainless steel grill.
But maybe your dream outdoor kitchen doesn’t allow for a hanging light fixture or has a less industrial feel. The wide variety of our Exteriors collection suits as vast an expanse of tastes. For the light pollution-conscious, we have our Liberty fixture that meets requirements for dark-sky regulations. More stars at which to gaze and less energy wasted? Always ideal. For many, outdoor cooking and grilling is closely associated with American holidays. You can add to that feeling by outfitting your outdoor kitchen with one of our Made-in-America exterior fixtures. Check out Beacon Hill, Montgomery, and Nantucket, for examples. We imagine George Washington would approve of these fixtures as he indulges in an evening of outdoor dining and music. We can hear the dishes clank and the conversation echo, a dusk-lit night of entertainment. The way of hosting is classic while the decorative environment is fresh, renewed by the contemporary designs of outdoor dining.
Before we daydream (or should we say, dusk-dream) about outdoor entertaining, we know there’s a lot to consider when it comes to designing outdoor kitchens, but we promise the process can be fun as it is thorough. Ask yourself, what would Francis Mallman do? Well, he’d probably pour you a glass of wine, pierce a fish in the ocean with his hand-made wooden spear, and create the best flame-grilled seafood dinner your taste buds have had the pleasure of indulging in. So while he’s doing that, sit back, explore, and pin away for your new outdoor kitchen dream — after all, it’s about the journey and not the destination, right?
We think in this case, it’s both. Cheers!
(Featured image from The Life Picture Cookbook from 1958)