Q&A With a Food Network Chef: Making the Most Out of Your Teeny Tiny NYC Kitchen

| February 16, 2012 4:00 AM video

Food Network chef and food justice advocate Danny Boome gives us tips for how to cook in small NYC kitchens. AP/Anonymous

Danny Boome has made a life out of cooking and sharing recipes. He is the host of the Food Network show Rescue Chef, and is a burgeoning force in the New York City food justice movement, which seeks to give New Yorkers better access to healthy foods.

Boome, a 5-year resident of New York City, is leading a workshop at the Just Food Conference on Feb. 25 about how to cook in tiny, NYC apartments.

He discussed how to make the most out of the New York City kitchen with MetroFocus.

Q: What’s the best, and worst, thing about an NYC kitchen?

A: The best thing is that it forces you to be tidy and organized. The worst thing is it’s demoralizing! You don’t feel like cooking or eating in it. Small kitchens are a pain because as humans, we’re hoarders.

Q: What are your tips for cooking in a small kitchen?

A: 1) Preparation is key. Try to prep many of your ingredients before you cook. Then you can work through the stages of a recipe with organized ease.

2) “Mise en place,” meaning “Everything in its place.” Keep your surfaces clear and organized; it will give you an optical sense of space. Most importantly, clean as you go. Don’t let trash and dirty dishes build up. Get them out of the way. A clean work space creates less stress in the kitchen.

3) Use your oven and microwave. For some reason home cooks don’t like using them! Use your oven to keep food warm. Pre-cook vegetables and side dishes and then heat them up in the microwave when you’re ready to serve. Both of these methods will save you space on the stove top. And don’t forget to protect your food with foil in the oven and plastic wrap in the microwave.

4) Clear out all of the things you don’t need and will never use. Are you really going to need a fish poaching pan or the 32-piece set your mother-in-law gave you? Only keep what is absolutely essential. For most of us, that is two good sauce pans (medium and large), a crock pot and a skillet/frying pan.

5) Use what you do have. An immersion blender can make soup or grind coffee. A skillet is good for an omelet or a grilled cheese sandwich. Use your sauce pan as a garlic press. And your oven isn’t just for storing kitchen equipment you don’t use. Use your imagination and have fun in the space you do have!

Q: Is there anything you teach that really surprises people?

A: We teach people that they can cook a lot of things in their ovens and microwaves. You can make a stew in your oven and use your stove top for prep. The oven is your best friend in a small kitchen. Most people don’t know it but you can make a sponge cake in your microwave in seven minutes! I want to show people that they can use equipment in different ways. People buy something and think it’s for one thing only.

Q: What do you tell people who don’t think they can cook — especially in tiny spaces?

A: It amazes me what can be made in small kitchens, if you just have faith in yourself. We have forgotten to use our instincts. People are always asking for permission. “Can I do that?” they ask. “Of course you can!” I tell them. I give people permission to have fun.

WATCH VIDEO:

Danny Boome visits Newark, N.J. to teach healthy cooking to a desperate chef in this episode of the Food Network’s “Rescue Chef.”

Q: There are so many amazing restaurants to eat in here…Why should New Yorkers bother to cook at home?

A: New York is a city for foodies. You can go to Bobby Flay’s restaurant and have an experience, but why wouldn’t you try and recreate that experience at home? The thing that fascinates me about New Yorkers is the foodie pretentiousness. “Yes, I’ve been here and here,” but no one’s willing to make it. It’s easier to criticize than to try. We have such amazing food here, and we should support the amazing stores and local farmers. We have fabulous green markets and CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture). New York state has some of the best wineries and farms in the country.

Q: Is there anything about New York kitchens that makes you chuckle?

A: The funniest thing about the New York kitchen is how many spices people have. When you open a cupboard they fall on top of you! It’s that one purchase you’ll use once and never again, but yet you think, “I must have this!” If you need it, you should get it, but remember that you have it when planning your next meal. Most spices only last a couple of weeks if they aren’t sealed air tight.

The amount of pots and pans is also just amazing. IKEA has made a huge business out of selling pan racks to New Yorkers. People inherit stuff, too. I’ve got friends with the whole Le Creuset set and it just sits in the closet! I don’t know why they don’t sell it on eBay and pay the rent for the month!

Q: Why are you working with Just Food?

A: For the past year I’ve been working with the nonprofit I started, Better Fed Than Dead, on the Better FED Project, which explores community-based food education programming. I am partnering with Just Food on it and wanted to get more involved with them. I’m a chef and a food advocate, and Just Food is a leader on food issues.

Q: What will you teach at your Just Food workshop?

A: On “Rescue Chef” one of the first things I always find is that people need to be taught common sense. In the kitchen, we forget how to merge our time and our environment. We will go over how to use your space efficiently, and how to simplify equipment needs. What do we need and what do we not need? You know, people say “I have this panini maker, but where do I put it?” That’s the starting point.

Multimedia Web Editor Georgia Kral conducted this interview, which has been edited and condensed.

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