What are some of the toughest cooking limitations you experienced on the show?
Off-the-grid cottages with no hydro or running water definitely keeps you on your toes, but it's manageable and makes the hour a lot of fun. When you combine that with another element, such as very limited ingredients or a team who doesn't cook much at home (or has been drinking all day LOL!), that's when things get a little hectic!
What's the most-impressive thing you've seen someone pull off in a tiny kitchen?
Years ago I knew of a lady who ran a business selling beautifully decorated cakes that she baked and decorated in the smallest kitchen you've ever seen — about the size of an apartment kitchen. Now, that's skill.
What are some of the craziest ingredients you’ve seen in someone's pantry?
In the freezer: chipmunks and birds for their pet snake. Pantry: flour from the 1990s.
Do you have any tips for people who cook in small places?
- Keep the counters empty. When you have a small space, there is no room for toasters, blenders, etc. to live in this precious real estate. Look for space-maximizing storage solutions and think vertical: using walls to hang things, tops of cupboards for baskets of rarely used items, and try a hanging pot rack to free up cupboard space (or instead of storing pots and pans in the oven. Ha!).
- Mise en place. In restaurants, cooks and chefs minimize chaos and clutter in their small workstations by prepping ingredients in advance. Adopt a similar mantra: Wash, trim and prep vegetables before they go in the fridge; portion and marinate proteins; and have items like caramelized onions, pesto and tomato sauces portioned into small containers and frozen for speedy additions to meals. Organization in a small space is key!
- Keep it simple. Don't overcomplicate meals with tons of ingredients and process-heavy recipes.
- Good-quality convenience items. When you're pressed for space, purchasing a sauce, a dessert, or a bean, whole-grain or green salad can be a smart move to save your sanity.
What are your top 10 must-have kitchen tools to have if you can fit only a few in your kitchen?
- Chef's knife
- Small serrated paring knife (Go for the cheap ones! I have three at all times.)
- Lightweight, thin bamboo cutting boards for easy storage and washing — one large and one small.
- High-heat spatula
- Salad spinner (basket also doubles as a colander)
- Five pans: 6-inch and 12-inch skillet, 2-quart saucepan, 5-quart stockpot or saucepan, 5-quart saucepan with lid
- Small food processor
- Blender (smoothies/pureeing soups/etc.), or immersion blender if you don't make smoothies
- Box grater (make sure one side is similar to a rasp for garlic, Parmesan, lemon zest, etc.)
- Two good baking sheets/jelly roll pans
What about 10 must-have ingredients?
- Coconut oil
- Baby greens (kale, spinach, arugula, etc..)
- Spices! Especially salt-free blends; buy or make your own
- Sea salt
- Dried beans
- Strong cheese like Parmesan, feta, blue cheese or Pecorino