It’s not space that is important, but how you manage it. My Paris kitchen has a gas stove, high ceilings, wasted corners, a big window, and easy access to the dining area. To make it workable, I immediately filled a wasted corner with a tall, narrow fridge that is almost invisible and doesn’t interrupt my flow. I had shelves installed almost to the ceiling, to get everything up and off the counters. This means I occasionally need a ladder; I have one that folds away to almost nothing and weighs less than that.
Countertops; Hang Things
As for countertop space, bless the dual gods of kitchen efficiency – Ikea, and a sculptor friend. One supplied me with three simple, butcher-block tables that take up surprisingly little space, the other a hand-crafted counter made for the odd space by the stove. I am also a big believer in hanging things, so brass hooks take care of whisks, sieves, knife sharpener, pots, lids, hrebs garlic, onions, and more. I do everything to get things up and out of the way, and I put dishes on open shelves, which makes for quick access, quick cleanup.
With a small space, one is obliged to be resourceful. The parquet floor becomes the ideal spot to set the cooling rack for cakes, cookies, bread. The dining room table holds extra mise-en-place while I’m cooking; If I make rolls or bread, which rise a long time, even the bedroom comes into play.
Music and Strategy
Occasionally I side-step to avoid pan handles or other crowding, but with music playing and flames leaping, everything comes together. And from there on, it’s all about strategy.
I make dessert first and leave it to cool somewhere out of the way, and I plan a menu which includes a dish or two that can be done in advance. I keep the dishes washed, dried, put away right after use, as much as possible. When the dishwasher is full, I turn it on, then empty it immediately. Never have a full dishwasher before a dinner party.
The other essential element is timing. Calculate back from the hour your guests will arrive. Get all but very last-minute things ready. I even dress the table, but I wait until the apéritif is almost over to pull it out from the wall, raise the leaves, arrange the chairs.
A capacious kitchen is a wonderful, comfortable thing indeed. A tiny kitchen, with its adjacent small dining room is too. In the former, you spread out; people join you while you do finishing touches, and if someone feels moved to tidy up and start to fill the dishwasher, they can. In a small space everything is to hand, quick to retrieve.
I hope this helps those of you out there who asked me “How do you do cook in such a small kitchen?” Courage! Bon Appétit!