Chefs might have differing views on how much salt to use in a dish or when to add it. They may disagree about whether they cook to please their own palates or those of their customers. But when it comes to their home kitchens, chefs agree on one thing: gas stoves are way better than electric.
Colin McClimans, chef d’cuisine at Equinox Restaurant, felt so strongly about cooking with gas — which allows for easier control over the heat level than electric stoves do — that not having it was a deal breaker when he and his girlfriend, Rosemary LeMense, searched for a rental last spring. “We’d walk into an apartment, and there would be an electric stove,” he says, “and I would say, ‘Nope. Can’t do it.’ ”
Plenty of amateur cooks struggle to find decent kitchens for at-home culinary experimentation. Pleasing professional chefs, used to working with high-end gear, can be next to impossible. Here’s what they look for in a rental kitchen — and you can look for too.
Unfortunately for McClimans and his fellow chefs, the new buildings are moving toward electric stoves instead of gas, says Doug Culkin, president and CEO of the National Apartment Association.
You’re more likely to find gas burners in older buildings. But if you still want the “new” feel, look for newly renovated buildings such as Adams View DC (3201 Wisconsin Ave. NW; 202-248-4953; adams
viewdc.com), where McClimans, 25, and LeMense, 25, have lived since March. Originally built in 1959, Adams View got a complete overhaul this year.
Even worse news if you want a new apartment: as “microunits” become increasingly popular in the U.S., developers are shrinking kitchens and appliances, Culkin says.
But one silver lining of the microunit trend may be a renewed focus on shared space, including cooking space. A positive trend for foodies, chefs and burger-fans alike is that community barbecue grills are becoming standard fare in apartment buildings, Culkin says.
That was a big selling point for Jeremy Shelton, chef d’cuisine at BLT Steak. Shelton, 30, relocated from Miami a year ago and signed a lease at View 14 (2303 14th St. NW; 866-482-1295; view14.com). The U Street neighborhood apartment building offers two community barbecue grills on a roof terrace, but the kitchen stoves are (gasp) electric.
“Outside of work, I typically try my best not to cook, at least in my own home,” Shelton says. Though he’d rather a gas stove, he spends more time at home on the outdoor grill, cooking up a whole chicken (“on the bone, always!”) or a fatty cut of beef like hanger or skirt steak.
Neighbors who hear Shelton’s steaks sizzling on the grill often stop by to see what smells so good. “They’re like, ‘What did you do?’ and I’m like, ‘Well, I put salt on it,’ ” Shelton says.
As is pretty common for chefs, McClimans works six or seven days a week until past 10 p.m. When he gets home at night, he’ll likely just whip up a quick pepper jack grilled-cheese sandwich framed in crusty cheese (see sidebar for the recipe) or, like the rest of us kitchen-mortals, pop a Marie Callender’s frozen pizza in the oven.
There are some days, however, when he has the time to prepare a five-course dinner for friends and family. (Lucky friends and family!) That’s when the details of his kitchen matter.
Before settling on an apartment, McClimans figured he’d need to supplement limited counter space with a portable island cart, but he found the granite counters in his Adams View unit gave him plenty of workroom.
Since a McClimanized-version of handmade spaghetti with mouth-watering meatballs might take a couple of hours to perfect, an open floor plan was important to the couple. “My old house had a gas stove, but the kitchen was closed off to everything else,” McClimans says. “Here, the kitchen’s basically inside the living room. So people can sit on the couch and drink some wine. I can cook, and we can still converse.”
“And, he can see the TV too,” LeMense adds.
“Always,” McClimans says.
Crusty Grilled Cheese Sandwich a la Chef Colin McClimans
What you need:
Non-stick pan that is just a bit bigger than the sandwich
Two slices of sourdough bread
Pepper jack cheese (3 slices or more to taste)
Mix of sharp and mild Cheddar cheese (1⁄2 cup)
What to do
Put the pepper jack cheese inside the two slices of bread and butter the outer top and bottom of the sandwich. Heat the pan on medium-low and cook the sandwich until golden brown on the bottom. Add butter if pan gets dry.
Flip the sandwich and spread the shredded cheese along the outside edge of the sandwich. Cook until the cheese has melted and made a little crust, and the bread is golden brown.
Allow sandwich to rest on a cutting board for about a minute before eating.