Building a gourmet kitchen is a broad subject for sure, but I’ll begin with the basics in this article.

I’m not talking about gathering the finest olive oils, exotic spices, or the most ingenious, expensive kitchen equipment. I’m talking about outfitting my kitchen with the finest, most efficient equipment possible, at a reasonable price. I’d like to create a place where cooking, chatting and spending time with friends happens almost daily.

We all know of artists, wood workers, sports contenders, and truck drivers who wouldn’t think of applying their trade using anything but the finest, most efficient equipment, and neither should a gourmet cook. My kitchen needs some help, as you can see. Actually, I started building it when we first moved to Boquete, Panama, and I’m making progress quickly. I began by studying some of the most famous gourmet cooks’ kitchens.

This is an old file photo of Craig Claibourne, one of the finest chefs in America. Craig is wearing an attractive apron and he’s surrounded by his personal cooking tools.  The thing I notice about Craig’s kitchen, is that it looks much like mine, but seems much friendlier. It’s one place I’ve always wanted to visit.Craig’s kitchen has been my inspiration for kitchen design for many years. He wrote over 20 books and hundreds of articles as a food columnist for The New York Times.

Upon all my study of Craig, James Beard, and many gourmet cooks over the years, one theme runs true. A gourmet cook should never try to cut with dull knives, or make sauces with a wooden spoon rather than using a wire whisk. Looking at it from a practical angle, setting up a new kitchen requires lots of thought and planning. The budget must be considered and whether to spend thousands of dollars on building a “professional” kitchen must be decided. With all the upscale equipment available, that could easily be the result.

If you read “Julie and Julia”, remember how elaborate Julia’s kitchen was?  Her kitchen is probably the most famous kitchen in the world.  Notice Julia’s mix of cookware in the photo at the right, which is being cleaned and replaced in the museum.  Everything has a place where it belongs. Julia’s husband, Paul made a chart for her to follow so that everything got back to it’s original position. That’s not a bad idea, but it doesn’t suit my style right now.  You can visit  The Smithsonian National Museum of American History and actually see Julia’s kitchen on display.

Let’s start with nothing and build from there. When I first arrived in Boquete, Panama, I bought 2 of the finest knives available, a 7 inch Santuko knife and a sturdy paring knife.  Must they be of the same manufacturer? No.

Then, a large stainless steel mixing bowl and a small, oven-proof glass bowl were purchased.  A medium-sized skillet, 2 saucepans and a stock pot, all with lids were added. I tried to buy the finest, stainless steel cookware possible, ones with glass lids to make peeking easy. Other pieces were added later, as just the right pot was found.

After bowls and cookware, I added a 3-quart casserole dish, something that goes from oven to table, and a set of Pyrex glass baking dishes. Lastly, I invested in a few gadgets to make preparation easy and fun. I always buy stainless steel. I found a swivel-bladed potato peeler, wire whisk, large, plain spoon, large slotted spoon and 2-pronged fork.  A sturdy stainless steel colander, measuring spoons and cups, 2-cup glass measuring cup for liquids, can opener, beer can opener for David, 4-sided stainless steel grater, spatula, tongs, and a marble rolling pin. When I started to splurge, I got a salad spinner.

At this point, I found that only one appliance was really needed, a Mr. Coffee coffee maker, since coffee is a must in our household. Most other appliances are used very seldom, so I waited until I knew exactly what to buy. That $1,500 espresso maker is still waiting.

That’s it, my gourmet kitchen was equipped with the finest equipment my money could buy and it will last me my lifetime, if not beyond. If you’re ever in doubt about which piece of kitchen equipment to buy, my advice is to get the best quality item, even if it’s the only one you get for many months.

This last photo is another view of Julia Child’s kitchen.  Soon, I’ll post a more recent photo of my kitchen and tell you about putting the finishing touches into my fabulous, stainless steel, fun-loving gourmet kitchen.

Enjoy the fineness and sparkle,