December 16, 2017

Kitchen Design: Does Yours Help You Cook Efficiently?

As a personal chef, I have seen a lot of different kitchens over the years – some extremely small, some that look like they came out of a design magazine. Having cooked in so many different spaces I have developed a clear opinion on what works in a kitchen space and what doesn’t. Read on. My thoughts may surprise you.

Spending hours a day preparing meals in different types of kitchens, I have found some days to flow almost effortlessly while others are exhausting or filled with mishaps.

One day I am easily chopping and dropping ingredients into a pan, pulling items from the refrigerator, and quickly washing and drying pots and pans.

On another, I am chopping and dropping food on to the floor, tripping on my equipment to get something from the refrigerator and mumbling things under my breath because I have no idea where to put my clean dishes.

Now you may think that my good days are spent in gorgeous, extravagant kitchen spaces and my more difficult ones in tiny galley kitchens. You may be thinking your kitchen will just never measure up to those drool-worthy kitchens in Architectural Digest and Better Homes and Gardens and there is just no point in reading this article any further.

But you know what? Some of my most pleasant experiences have been in modest-sized kitchen spaces and some of the most expensive kitchens I have cooked in, while absolutely beautiful, have been the least efficient. Surprised?

Having a properly designed and organized kitchen, no matter the square footage and attractive finishes, makes a significant difference in the speed and comfort of your cooking.  So how does your kitchen measure up? Take my short quiz to find out.

The Personal Chef Kitchen Efficiency Quiz

1.  How many steps do you have to take to get from the stove to the refrigerator?

a.  Between 1 -3 steps

b.  Between 3 – 5 steps

c.  Between 5 -7 steps

d.  More than 7 steps

2.  Where is your garbage can located?

a.  Under the sink

b.  Under your kitchen island

c.  Next to the sink or kitchen island

d. Outside the kitchen


3.  Which type of kitchen sink do you have?

a.  One large, deep basin with a garbage disposal

b. One large, deep basin without a garbage disposal

c. One that is evenly divided into two sections – one with a garbage disposal

d. One that has a larger section on one side and a small section on the other with a garbage disposal

4.  How many medium to large sized pots and pans can you fit on your stove burners at the same time? (This is not asking how many burners you actually have, mind you. 😉 )

a.  6

b. 4

c. 3

d. 2


5.  Does your kitchen sink contain a spray hose or faucet with a pullout attachment?

a. No, my faucet only moves from side to side

b. Yes, my faucet has an attachment that allows me to reach all parts of the sink

6.  How many steps do you need to take to put something down that you have just taken out of the oven?

a. 0-1 steps

b. 1-3 steps

c. 4-6 steps

d. 7 or more steps

7.  Do you have counter space next to your stove?

a. Yes

b. Yes, but it is taken up by appliances, bowls, decorative items and the like

c.  Yes, but it cannot fit a large cutting board

d. No


Ready to score your kitchen?

Question 1: Food to Stove

Give your kitchen 10 points for A
Give your kitchen 5 points for B
Give your kitchen 2 points for C
Give your kitchen 0 points for D

The most enjoyable kitchens to cook in reduce the amount of walking back and forth from stove to refrigerator to cutting board. Ideally the refrigerator would be only a few steps from your stove and food prep area, allowing you to easily flow from food gathering to food preparation to cooking. One of the most attractive and expensive kitchens I worked in contained a very large island which separated the stove and the refrigerator. Each time I needed to pull something from the refrigerator I had to walk all the way around the kitchen (over 10 steps) to get from the food prep area to the frigde and back.

Question 2: Getting Rid of the Garbage

Give your kitchen 10 points for A,B or C
Give your kitchen 0 points for D

One of my favorite garbage bins was a pullout container right next to the stove. You could easily chop and drop food into either the pan for cooking or garbage for waste. But by far the most frustrating location is outside of the kitchen itself. If your kitchen just doesn’t allow for a garbage can under the sink or near your food prep area, a no-cost workaround is to always have a big bowl on your counter that you can use for all your scraps. When it gets filled, make a run to your garbage can.

Question 3: The Kitchen Sink

Give your kitchen 10 points for A
Give your kitchen 5 points for B
Give your kitchen 2 points for C
Give your kitchen 0 points for D

While I do love the ease of a garbage disposal, the thing I just can’t overlook is the divided sink with a tiny basin on one side and a larger one on the other. Tell me you haven’t gotten water all over the counters and yourself when trying to wash large pots and pans in a sink that is just too small.

Question 4: Useable Stove Space

Give your kitchen 10 points for A
Give your kitchen 5 points for B
Give your kitchen 2 points for C
Give your kitchen 0 points for D

You notice the question didn’t ask how many burners you have, right? While I prefer working with gas stoves instead of electric, the more important issue is not the type of stove but the amount of useable space it provides. Can you use all of your burners at the same time?

Question 5: Cleaning the Sink

Give your kitchen 0 points for A
Give your kitchen 10 points for B

When I leave my clients homes, I want their kitchens and sinks to be just as clean as when I arrived. Having the ability to spray the sink down and reach all the corners where those little pieces of chopped parlsey are hanging out makes cleanup quick and easy.

Question 6: Hot, Hot, Hot!

Give your kitchen 10 points for A
Give your kitchen 5 points for B
Give your kitchen 2 points for C
Give your kitchen 0 points for D

Fess up! How many times have you burned yourself or nearly run into someone else while you are grabbing something from the oven and then looking around for somewhere to put it?

Question 7: Plenty of Prep Space

Give your kitchen 10 points for A
Give your kitchen 5 points for B
Give your kitchen 2 points for C
Give your kitchen 0 points for D

While a nice big kitchen with lots and lots of counter space is a wonderful thing, there are ways to get creative with your more modest space. I had a client who lived in an apartment with a very small galley kitchen. Despite the size, there was actually plenty of space for food prep because of a wooden utility cart and a cutting board designed to fit over one half of the stovetop. If you have the space and are just filling it up with cookbooks, decorative items, appliances and paperwork, a little decluttering and organizing will have you working more efficiently in just minutes.

So how did your kitchen fare?

While some questions indicate a need for better flow in the kitchen between workspace and appliances, others would only require a quick trip to the hardware store, some kitchen organization or a new kitchen preparation tip. What changes could you make to your kitchen this month to improve your efficiency? What are other things do you look for in a well designed kitchen space? Share in the comments below!


  1. Nice post. Very informative post. Excellent kitchen designing tips. Was very helpful to know that every simple and small things can make your kitchen an excellent place to cook. Thanks for letting me know it.
    Kitchen Benchtops Adelaide recently posted..schmidtsliderMy Profile

  2. Interesting questions! My kitchen here in Hong Kong is so small – absolutely all parts of it are within 3 steps and at all times. I think that it is surprisingly easy to use even though there is a tiny amount of prep space: just one 2-foot wide counter. (I scored 37 points on your quiz.) Great ideas; thanks, Fran.
    Sarah, Simply Cooked recently posted..EmptyMy Profile

  3. Loved this quiz!

    I like to think about other questions too. How close are the spices to the stove? How easily can you find the right spice you want use? How close are the cutting knifes to the chopping boards? How close are the coffee/tea supplies to the tea pot and coffee maker? Are like food items stored in your pantry? Do you have all breakfast items together? All snacks together? Do you have your refrigerator optimized..with the liquids and eggs towards the bottom where it is coldest? Do you have healthy snacks at eye level?

    I do have a question about the quiz…on question 5..are the points backward? I don’t have a sprayer and I think you are saying that I should–is that right?
    Lisa B Marshall recently posted..Are Your Recommendations Five Star?My Profile

    • Lisa, glad you liked the quiz! Great kitchen organization tips you added as well! Yes, having a sprayer is better and oops the points are backwards. Fixed it. 🙂

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