Kitchen Task Areas & the Work Triangle

Kitchen Work Centers

We have talked about the kitchen work triangle and how it effectively makes or breaks a kitchen design.  If the geometry is off, the kitchen -no matter how beautiful it looks- will not work successfully.  Sometimes clients refer to this problem as a “dysfunctional layout.”  This has all to do with the location of work centers (or task areas) and the logic of work flow.

The work centers are:

  • storage (pantry & refrigerator)
  • food preparation areas (sink, countertop, butcher block)
  • cooking areas (range, stove top, wall ovens, microwave)
  • clean up areas (sink, dishwasher, garbage disposal, and recycling bins)

The individual work centers must be organized so that the cook has all the utensils, vessels, and supplies easily at hand.  Each area needs to be planned for efficiency and ease of movement—which leads us to work flow.

Work Flow

Work flow relates to the order in which kitchen work centers are utilized in food preparation.  Although somewhat intuitive, the most cooks use the following progression:

  1. Food and supplies enter a kitchen
  2. Food and supplies are stored in a pantry and refrigerator
  3. Foods and supplies are selected and set up at the prep center
  4. Food is cooked
  5. Utensils, pots, plates, and waste are cleaned

Ideally, kitchen work centers are located in close proximity to minimize the number of steps needed to move from one process to the next.

Economy of Movement

Set up your work space so that you don’t strain and waste energy that should be going into the work at hand.  I was taught this lesson in one of my first part-time jobs in high school while working at Mr. Leonardo’s Four Corners Bootery in Delmar, NY.  “Economy of movement,” he said to me, emphasizing with a shake of a wing tip shoe in his black smeared hand.  “Don’t waste time or materials.  Follow that formula and you can produce,” he stressed emphatically.  I don’t think Mr. Leonardo ever cooked a meal in his family kitchen upstairs from the shoe repair shop, but he had the right idea.

And that is precisely what kitchen design is all about.  Eliminate unnecessary effort by organizing work centers close to each other so that all your energy goes into the task at hand. There is a beauty and a sort of extravagance in this sort of “economy.”   It is the sort of economy—or mindfulness— that sets you free, rather than restricts you.

 

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