Sure, a formal dining room has its perks, but put a cheese board out with some wine on the island, and you’ll have a hard time getting anyone to sit down.
The kitchen is a place of comfort and conversation. You associate words like “cozy” and “warm” with it, even in summertime, oddly enough. When people say, “It smells like home,” they are likely tapping into a childhood memory of something good cooking in their kitchen—something they love, like chocolate chip cookies, meatballs and marinara, or a slow-cooked curry.
For me, it’s a toss-up between fried chicken and fried okra. Not so long ago, homes were built with kitchens in the back. They were a place of utility, hidden away from places of congregation. The open floor plans that began to emerge in the ’50s became popular for several reasons, but one of the biggest was our innate desire to tear down the wall between where our food is made and where we enjoy it.
Now, kitchens are the heart of most homes, a working centerpiece that may showcase the homeowner’s personal style and core values more than any other room. And it’s not just the design elements that do the talking. It’s the little things, too, like which cookbooks are stacked on the counter, which knickknacks are kept within arm’s reach.
“KITCHENS ARE THE HEART OF MOST HOMES.”
I can’t share my own kitchen with as many people as I’d like, but I can in our restaurants. Sure, there is a showbiz aspect to an open kitchen, but that’s not why I built them that way. I always want our guests to feel connected to the kitchen and the people who are cooking their meals like they would in a home. And vice versa; it’s important for our cooks to see the faces of people for whom they’ve prepared a meal.
My newest restaurant, Noble Smoke, was also built with this in mind. A wide-open kitchen is visible from three sides, so people can see the barbecue being chopped and sliced, the side dishes being cooked, and the fish being grilled. Behind that is the smokehouse, home to six custom-built offset smokers and two traditional Carolina masonry pits. Guests will be able to peer inside through enormous windows, but they’ll also be able to request tours. And I hope they do, so we can share everything we’ve learned about cooking barbecue.
It will be a little warmer here than a home kitchen, but it’s still worth it, in my opinion.
CHEF JIM NOBLE is the executive chef and owner of NOBLE FOOD & PURSUITS. NOBLE SMOKE and BOSSY BEULAH’S are set to open later this year. For more information, visit NOBLEFOODANDPURSUITS.COM.