I’ve found that once you really get into cooking, your available space gets sucked up quick. With new gadgets, ingredients and serviceware, there’s barely enough room left to actually prepare the food you want to cook. With chamber vacuum sealers, centrifuges and the like, it’s even more so for a cook pursuing Modernist cooking. So what’s a home cook to do? I figured I’d take a look at what the big guys are up to: the Nordic Food Lab, the Noma Food Lab, and The Cooking Lab of Modernist Cuisine.
The Nordic Food Lab
Created by Rene Redzepi and Claus Meyer, the Nordic Food Lab is a non-profit dedicated to researching Nordic Cuisine. They took over the original Noma kitchen lab, located in a boat that is docked nearby the Noma restaurant.
In this photo, you can see a central cooking area with what I think is a fridge underneath, a combi oven in the background, a whiteboard on the wall, and even a dehydrator sitting on the floor plugged into the wall.
From this angle, you can see a table in the background (with a laptop just peeking out from behind Chef Redpenzi), shelving, and another whiteboard. One thing to note as well is they only have two induction burners. No need to serve people here – this is just for testing and experimentation.
The Noma Food Lab
The new Noma food lab is now part of the same building that Noma is in – an eighteenth-century warehouse. I haven’t been there but we can see from the photos released how they formed their cooking space. From this wide shot we see they have microgreens growing on the left, bookshelves on the right. Behind the shelves we see tables (for dining?) and the cooking area in the back left.
The Cooking Setup at Noma’s Food Lab
From this picture, we can see several things. An induction stovetop with easy access to food directly underneath. Also, a whiteboard for brainstorming, note taking, reminders and what not is directly behind the stove, as in the Nordic Food Lab. In the back there’s a laptop as well.
Here we see more open storage underneath, and storage directly behind. A
couple of small combi ovens combi oven and convection oven are also there (NOTE: Please see the first comment at the end of the post – the Internet keeping me informed!).
The Cooking Lab
I was at the Cooking Lab last night for a little shindig and scoped out how they solve these types of issues. What I found was quite interesting:
The kitchen is well lit and clean, with pots easily accessible while standing in front of the stove and induction burners.
They have several rolling steel tables that you find in hospitals. They’re easy to move, easy to clean, and have plenty of storage for large and odd sized items underneath.
Outlets hang every few feet from the ceiling, allowing easy access to power when you pull up different tools for different needs.
Saves time and frustration looking for things if you have an ‘at-a-glance’ view of your ingredients. This includes glass doors for your refrigerator(s) as well.
I thought this was interesting: a desk next to their shelves of cookbooks (next to their freeze dryer, of course). All three kitchens have a laptop or computer of some kind. A place to sit and read, research the Internet, and get stuff done.
Storage, Storage, Storage
Does a home cook need warehouse shelving and hand cranked rolling shelves? Probably not, but I guess it depends on how much of a hoarder you are.
I found a couple of small plaques around the lab. Something to keep the mind focused and thoughtful.
Home Kitchen Applications
So these are all very good ideas, but how to translate in the home? For outlets, a power strip would be an easy alternative. There’s some room on the fridge for a small magnetized white board.
If I wanted to go nuts, I could remove all the doors from my shelves and put my dining table on wheels. Drop $16k for a Sub Zero fridge with a window. Yeah, I think I’ll hold off for now.
For easy access, I bought some cheap closet shelving and metal hooks to create a place to store my pans and other items.
For a study area, I just use my dining room table, where a bookshelf sits by with all my cookbooks.
Instead of a laptop, an iPad works great in the kitchen.
Storage for all the goods? Metro shelving works just fine for me, even if it is creeping into every single leftover space in my home.
And for inspiration, that’s simple. Just write something down and put it up on the fridge. A little reminder to keep you motivated. I like this one:
So with a little creativity, you can mimic what the food labs do, and have your own personal gastronomy laboratory. Have you done something to make your kitchen more usable? Let me know in the comments – I’d love to hear about other ideas and solutions.
UPDATE 6.17.12: It was pointed out to me that I had the new Noma lab confused with the Nordic Food Lab. I have added a separate section on the Nordic Food Lab. The photos from both Noma and the Nordic Food lab come from Parlafood, Gastroanthropology, and Archinect.
Also, check out the Toronto Food Lab’s response to this post where they give us a look around. Awesome.