Gallery: Behind the Scenes In Kenji's Home Kitchen (a.k.a. Home of The Food Lab)

  • My Kitchen

    My Kitchen

    It's not bad for a New York apartment, but it's not big by any means. The pass-through to the hallway masquerading as a dining room is especially nice, as it gives the kitchen some decent light (which I block by hanging pans in front of it).

    My Work Station

    This is my main work station, where I spend at least a couple hours a day prepping and photographing food. The cutting board is a big ol' solid wood number that my old chef Barbara Lynch of No.9 Park gifted to me after the health department naively forced all restaurants to shift to plastic cutting boards. In front of my face hang my smaller skillets and saucepans, along with a couple of larger utensils that don't fit in my utensil holders.

    My Wife's Tea Station

    Normally I like to keep the entire countertop free of clutter. But my wife is working on her thesis right now, and requires a steady diet of tea. She's also short, so can't reach the tea cabinet without a step-ladder (or help). Woe befall anyone who keeps a caffeine-starved PhD candidate from her tea.

    Some Knives

    You may have noticed that I have a lot of knives. This is one of the places where I keep them. To be honest, the only one I use from this rack very regularly is the cleaver. The others are eye candy or special occasion only. A pox on anyone who uses my yanagi or usuba without rubbing it down in mineral oil afterwards.


    These two drawers contain my most-used gadgets. That'd be my Thermapen, my scale, my bench scraper, and my Japanese mandoline to start, along with some probe thermometers, an infrared thermometer, some round pastry cutters, a few more knives, a pizza wheel, a citrus reamer or two, and... er... some moose-shaped salad tossers. I use those all the time.

    Photo Gadgets!

    This is the little drawer where I keep miscellaneous odds and ends, mostly photo-related. Extra batteries for my cameras, wireless triggers for flashes, extra fuses, really really tiny cheese graters, plastic forks I was too lazy to take the two extra steps to discard properly, backup tape I'm hiding from my wife, etc. Because my kitchen was seemingly assembled by someone who works for IKEA's slightly lopsided cousin, you can't open this drawer without first opening the dish washer. That helps to keep the extra tape safe.

    Spices and Miscellanea

    These are all of my general-use spices. I have a supply of backup spices squirreled away somewhere as well, which I use to refill these guys when they run out. Some of them literally never get used. I oughta sort through here more carefully next time I move (which is in a couple months!). Others get used so much that I forget to refill them. Still others get used less than I think I use them, which means that I end up buying extras only to realize I still have four more containers of whole cumin seed on my self at home. Oops.

    On the upper shelf is a blow torch, another IR thermometer, random coffee and tea brewing devices, and what appears to be a medieval surgical device for propping open chest cavities, but may well be some sort of trivet we received as a wedding gift.

    Pack it in!

    I try to stay organized, but we have... too much stuff. These shelves contain bowls and small prep bowls of all sizes, extra pickled and jarred pantry items, a salad spinner, butcher's twine, my sharpening stones, a tortilla press, a hand mixer, spare containers for lunch that my wife insists we keep even though I pack her lunch and never use them, and other assorted things that are good for picking through and eating straight out of your hand.

    My Stove

    My stove setup. Near the stove to the right I keep a wine bottle of canola oil with a pour-top, along with a can of extra-virgin olive oil, and a container of deep-frying peanut oil. These are my every-day use oils and get replaced frequently (otherwise they wouldn't stay so close to a hot stove). There's also a salt cellar and a pepper mill. I store most of my cast iron inside my oven, along with a pizza stone and a baking steel. This oven is not quite the world's s*&tiest, but it comes in a close second. Almost every recipe I develop gets tested on this bad boy.


    I love wooden spoons. A lot. I also love spatulas, (particularly this one). I keep them all in easy reach of my stove. Wood in one container, metal in the other. That sorting is rather arbitrary and does not reflect use.

    The Microwave and More Storage

    I have a pretty extensive collection of serving bowls and plates, as I like to serve things on thematically appropriate dishes. It also makes for more variety in photographs. This is a small portion of them, mostly the "international" selection, including dishes from Colombia, Vietnam, Japan, Turkey, and, er, Target. And holy cow, I just realized that's the portable canister-powered burner I've been looking for up there on the top shelf. Joy! My microwave is mostly used to warm up the dogs' food.

    Storage and Asian Pantry

    This cabinet is where I store my deli containers, which, along with the plastic takeout trays I buy from the supermarket downstairs, take care of pretty much all my storage needs. They're cheap, stack easily, and have universally-sized lids. What more could you want?

    The lower shelf contains me Asian sauces and condiments. Mirin, sherry, Xiaoshing wine, sesame oil, vinegars, etc. The items more affected by heat are kept to the right, further from the stove.

    Hanging on my wall is my old Braun hand blender. I don't think they even make that model any more, but it's the most widely-used electrical appliance in my kitchen by a long shot.

    Oils, Vinegars, Teas, Plates, and Cups

    Have you noticed something? The bottom row of pretty much every overhead cabinet is stocked with the normal plates and cups we use every day. Why not put them all in the same cabinet? It's because my wife can't reach above the bottom shelf, so we organize things around her restriction. Fun-sized is what they call it, I think.

    In the middle shelf here I keep all of my vinegars (on the left), and my fancier oils on the right. I love a good olive oil and I try and pick up a few bottles whenever I travel through a good oil-producing region of the world. My current favorite? The ridiculously grassy stuff from Seka Hills.

    Dry Goods and Baking Dishes

    Did I tell you I collect knives, wooden spoons, and cutting boards? I also really love ceramic baking dishes. Don't know what to get me for my birthday? I'll take some nice Le Creuset stoneware, please.

    One of the large containers on the left contains my Japanese dried goods. Shaved bonito, various seaweeds, rice, togarashi, and the like. The other contains non-standard flours and grains. I also store my sous-vide circulators in that cabinet.

    Mixing Bowls and Large Pots

    Do you have enough plain metal bowls in your kitchen? The correct answer is no, because even if you do, it's not enough. You can never have enough. At least, I can never have enough. I'd be happy if glass mixing bowls just went away entirely, with their stupid chip-prone edges and, bulky nesting, and heaviness. Stupid sexy glass mixing bowls.

    Treats For All

    We keep both dog treats (fake bacon, rawhide, biscuits) and human treats (gin, aguardiente, bourbon) in these shelves. Would that we never mix them up.

    The Fridge

    Yes, we're one of those couples who likes to put cute pictures up on their fridge. At least, I'm one of those couples. I also keep timers, a Chefalarm prob thermometer, and a magnetic pen holder on there, and would recommend you do the same. That cute pink card? That's from Hambone's three-year-old dog-sitter. She draws pictures of him. He has eight legs.

    Above the Fridge

    Here we have my various pizza peels, all hanging from a wall-mounted guitar rack, which is perfect for the job. On top of my fridge are more serving plates, random things I threw up there, a pasta machine, four onion soup bowls that I've used twice, some baking supplies, a Le Creuset tagine I've used oh, let's call it zero times, and a fondue pot I break out only for romantic weekend getaways with my wife because nothing says romance like accidentally dropping chunks of bread coated in congealed Emmenthaler into a heart-shaped jacuzzi in the Poconos, am I right?

    Fridge Door

    Ok, now we're getting a bit personal. Here is my fridge door. It has lots of mustard, soy sauce, hot sauces, capers, salad dressing and home made sauces in squeeze bottles (you did read me post about squeeze bottles, didn't you?), way more fake wasabi than any man should own, some clam juice that is old enough that I'm afraid to throw it away for fear of destroying the start of a fully-evolved, semi-civilized society, and some Frank's hot sauce. Death and ruin to any who finish off my Frank's without replacing it.

    Inside the Fridge

    Oooooookay. Let's see. On the bottom we've got leftovers and containers of homemade dog food, along with eggs, and various homemade preserved things. There's also a dog brush which my wife stuck there as a reminder to me that I have to brush the dog two weeks ago. Now it just serves to remind me that I don't listen to my wife.

    Middle shelf is yogurt, milk, pickles, more leftovers, mayonnaise, REALLY old buttermilk, and various non-perishable preparations like preserved lemons, pickled jalapeños, and hog casings.

    Top shelf is yet more pickles (I like pickles), and a butt-load of sauces, curry pastes, purees, sambals, more pickles, and yet more pickles. You can get a sense for how I like to cook from all that. Flavor bombs are the key.

    In the Freezer Door

    I practice what I preach! Yeast, bay leaves, nuts, and the coffee that my wife has suddenly gotten into live here. Oh, and that's a deer's heart on the right. I cryo-vacked it after a hunting trip two years ago. I promise I will cook it for my family for Christmas this year.

    In the Freezer

    At one point this freezer was perfectly organized. That was before fish-pocalypse, when some good folks in Alaska sent me a treasure trove of frozen salmon, halibut, scallops, black cod, and king crab. We've been working our way through it, but there's only so much we can consume.

    Aside from the massive amounts of fish, I keep all of my backup homemade dog food in here, along with some puff pastry, dried chilies, and various soup, stews, and prepared foods, all cryovacked and stored flat so that they stack easily and defrost quickly.

    Good Dogs!

    90% of the time when I'm cooking, this is where the pups are. They know they aren't allowed past the line on the floor, so they sit there, waiting for scraps to fall their way.

    Baking Station

    All of my flours and sugars are kept on this rolling rack for easy access. Up top are my lovely Le Creuset dutch ovens Below are the bamboo steamer baskets in which I store onions, shallots, garlic, and other dry-storage vegetables that want a bit of breathing.

    My Gear Rack

    Er... I also collect gear. Though I also try and give away the stuff I don't use. Here I've got a Thermomix (which I don't really use... anyone want it?), a Vitamix (which I use all the time!), an 11-cup Cuisinart food processor (also heavily used for the last 13 years), a Kitchenaid stand mixer which gets used a bit less than it used to, some dry pantry ingredients, a toaster oven, some large stock pots, a wok, a juicer, a waffle iron, a panini press, and a few other odds and ends.

    The Outdoor Kitchen

    My deck is not that large, but it's big enough to put a grill out there. I'm not really supposed to be doing it, but I live directly across the street from the fire department, so it's a short ride if things do go south. The best part of the deck is that the kitchen window opens up directly out to it, which means that in the summer, I can pass dirty dishes and utensils straight through into the sink, and in the winter, I can pass stuff out the window to the table outside for extra freezer space.

    The View

    Ok, I lied. this is the best part of the deck. Harlem has its charm.