The hardworking Christmas kitchen
The hardworking Christmas kitchen
The most harmonious Christmases are often when everyone lends a hand; mucking in with the vegetable chopping, keeping drinks topped up and scooping up discarded gift wrap. Because, we all know, festive entertaining is hardwork. But there’s a secret weapon for the savvy host in the guise of a hardworking kitchen. It’s not just about getting the roast timings right (though a couple of timers will come in very useful when there are so many distractions) – we’re big fans of creating a seamless flow within the space, making sure all the essentials are in easy reach, and divvying up the duties amongst the team.
A well planned kitchen layout is your best friend at busy times like Christmas. The classic triangular arrangement of fridge, sink and hob is an old favourite but a wonderfully efficient way of working. Nerine, kitchen designer at Neptune Fulham, explains, “The cook needs to be in the middle of the action - in the middle of the triangle - all the helpers should work around this space, ideally not crossing paths or walking through the cook’s space.” She also suggests positioning your festive helpers on the opposite side of a kitchen island or table, away from the main action.
And next to helpers, plug points are the most useful asset when you’re cooking up a festive storm. Nerine recommends fitting them at the end of island units or in the back of larder cupboards where the microwave - or even a kettle - can be positioned, keeping the cook’s area clutter free.
Access to essentials is key for a smooth running kitchen - and that doesn’t just mean having oils and salts near the stove for cooking. Nerine recommends installing your spice rack and knife block in a drawer adjacent to the prep area to keep your space tidy.
Any food prep requires plenty of handwashing, so a soap dispenser and plenty of freshly laundered towels (we’re big fans of a built-in sliding towel rack). We’d recommend a hand wash with 60-80% alcohol to make sure it’s truly effective.
Slim, integrated chopping block units, plate racks and open racks are all useful design solutions for busy cooks who need equipment close to hand, but cumbersome items like extra large roasting tins and deep saucepans might need to be extracted from their usual place at the back of a cupboard ahead of the big day. We’ve all spent hours rooting around in cupboards trying to find that elusive, extra deep roasting tin!
There’s plenty of organisation that can be done ahead of the big day – the benefits of which will be reaped for months afterwards. We all have a junk drawer, a muddle of can’t-throw-away things - Blu Tac, string, pens, the odd nail varnish and batteries of varying sizes. Drawer dividers will section off cutlery trays (our Barlow or Ratcliff dividers are a good option), or even shallow boxes, are a great way of making sure all the muddle is sorted.
And if you’re fond of a gadget, a built-in charging station is a handy device for keeping electronics (and their leads) out of sight too. Our Chichester charging station is made of oak with a leather surface that slots into a drawer that can be used to charge - and hide - up to six devices. An essential for Christmas lunchtime, surely.
On the day itself, with a little luck, you’ll have plenty of help in the kitchen. The layout of the space might mean this turns into a well choreographed dance or a frantic mix of people getting in each other’s way. We suggest assigning everyone a role, just like a restaurant kitchen - you’ll need runners to carry dishes and accoutrements between kitchen and table; you’ll need a middle man to do the simpler jobs like stirring the gravy while the cook focuses on the final flourishes and there is always a role for the dishwasher-stacker. A job for everyone will ensure harmony at Christmas for all (and you can make it into a game for the little ones).