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Kitchen Chef Decoration
Colombe Jacobsen - tiny kitchen dinner party tips
Just because your kitchen is the size of a closet doesn't mean you can't have friends over for supper. New York City chef Colombe Jacobsen lays out her ingenious strategy for whipping up an impressive feast in a small space.
Photo by Francesco Lagnese January 2009
1. Serve a one-dish meal. "Soup, salad, entree and dessert? Not easy in this kitchen!" Jacobsen laughs, so she opts for an effortless but elegant single course.
2. Choose a no-prep side. Her main course is a meal in itself, but if Jacobsen wants to up the ante, she goes with an add-on like fresh greens (usually spinach or watercress). She submerges them in a bowl of cold water, drains and then tosses them in a pot on the stove for a few minutes until wilted. "When the water's almost gone, it's done," she says. She then adds toasted sesame oil, sea salt and sesame seeds for flavor.
3. Go for easy-to-eat sweets. Finger foods, such as coconut macaroons, make for an addictive dessert—and don't require plates or forks.
4. Make something a day before. To free up counter room on the day of the party, complete at least one dish ahead of time—Jacobsen sests dessert. She likes the coconut macaroons because they can be baked up to three days in advance.
5. Stagger your day-of duties. Jacobsen divides her prep into chunks ("I don't have room to fix everything all at once"). Before she leaves for work, she readies her ingredients, then stashes them in the fridge. Two hours before guests arrive, she sets the table, assembles the main elements, puts them aside and cleans up the kitchen. "Then I pour everyone a drink, put the fish in the oven and toss the greens on the stove. Fifteen minutes later, we can eat."
6. Pick simple drinks. Jacobsen sticks to ready-to-pour drinks inspired by her menu's theme: for her Thai-inspired meal, she likes Asian beer like Singha or Tiger and ginger tea with dessert. "I love a fancy cocktail," she says, "but my rule is, the less bother, the better."
7. Minimize utensils. A single knife and fork per guest make cleanup without a dishwasher faster.
8. Make your furniture multitask. A stool serves as an extra counter; later, it becomes bonus seating.
9. Be creative about storage. No linen closet? No problem. When you're not using your dinner-party table clothes, Jacobsen sests tacking them on the walls as decoration.
10. Be even more creative about storage. Use every inch of space. With magnetic canisters, Jacobsen turned one side of her fridge into a clever ad hoc spice rack.
Chef John Tarver
My Mom did all the cooking, but John came and did all the prep and plating and serving once the party started. He set up all the tables, prepared all the platters, and dishes, and poured the wine and champagne, and just took care of everything in the kitchen for me so I could enjoy the party, same for my Mom too. He and I bartered services; I do portfolio photography for him in exchange for this evening he did at my party. I owe him 6 hours of work on my end. I already did a beautiful photo essay on the Laney College Culinary Arts Department where John is a top chef and T.A. for the department. I used 6 of those photos to enter them into a PDN photo competition, and provided a DVD and CD with 80 photos on it to John to show the two classes that I photographed back in November. They really enjoyed it. My teacher said it was some of my best work; she called it extraordinary. That works for me! So, John and I really hit it off, and he is going to come back to my house after the first of the year and I am going to photograph him and 6 or 8 of his cakes for his cake portfolio, then we will go from there. I want to represent him with my new company, IMAGINATION, and we talked about a possible book deal and products, so we shall see. He is one talented guy, and quite a character. We hung out in my office apres' the party, it was really nice getting to know him better. That always makes it so much easier to photograph my client to, when I know them more intimately, one on one.
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