Seeing Double

Kitchen & Bath Business (KBB), December 2004 Issue

There have been many articles written of late on how to differentiate yourself as a kitchen designer. Being able to design a kosher kitchen is certainly a specialized skill that, when added to your design arsenal, could open a new market for you and increase your client base.

The basic tenet of keeping kosher is the separation of dairy and meat. This includes food preparation, cooking utensils, cooking and cleanup. So you say to yourself, “How hard can it be? I’ll give the client two sinks, two dishwashers and a double oven. Bingo! Kosher kitchen!”

Unfortunately, like understanding many ethnic customs, it is never as easy as it seems. The problem lies in understanding the lifestyle of the kosher client. The lives of Traditional or Orthodox Jews typically revolve around the observance of the Sabbath and the Festivals. Each has social and culinary customs that dictate how the kitchen needs to be designed.

For example, it is not uncommon to serve a multi-course meal with several guests in celebration of the Sabbath each week. The kitchen needs to be flexible enough to handle the weekday requirements as any other kitchen, but still be able to prepare a Thanksgiving-style meal on a weekly basis.

Other variables are available space, resources and how strictly the client adheres to the laws of keeping kosher. As you can see, it starts to get a little complicated. When it comes to designing a kosher kitchen, there are “minimal requirements” as well as add-ons that would include every ideal feature?short of building two separate kitchens (which some people do).

In its simplest form, a kosher kitchen must have sufficient storage to handle a full set of dairy and meat silverware, pots, pans, dishes and utensils, a two-compartment sink and two ovens. If space does not allow for two dishwashers, most clients will opt for one designated to handle meat dishes and utensils, since they typically represent the largest meals with the most cleanup. There needs to be plenty of countertop space to prepare large meals with areas designated specifically for dairy and meat. To accomplish this, you can use undercounter ovens.

If space allows, the next “upgrade” would be completely separate sinks. This addition usually can include that second dishwasher for the dairy dishes. A double-drawer dishwasher can accomplish this in the space of one for a smaller family. A compromise to two sinks is a three-compartment sink with a ‘traif’ (non-kosher) sink in between.

One also needs to take into account food that is neither meat nor milk. This category includes fruits, vegetables and, interestingly enough, eggs. This category is called parve, meaning that items can be used at either a meat or dairy meal.

If there’s room, a separate storage and preparation area for parve cooking is a great luxury in a kosher kitchen. A vegetable prep sink, extra storage for mixing bowls and utensils and possibly a small oven would allow the cook to prepare salads and baked goods that can be eaten at either a meat or dairy meal.

Foods that are stored dry or cold can be stored together, although you will find clients with a larger kitchen who want two refrigerators, so that the work triangles are kept to a reasonable distance.

To keep everything straight, it’s often helpful to use a checklist of topics to discuss with your new kosher client:

- Separate sinks – double bowl, triple bowl, or two separate sinks.
- Dishwasher – one or two.
- Ovens – double, two singles or stove with a separate oven.
- Cutlery and utensil drawers – double or an extra for parve.
- Separate pot and dish storage with at least one for parve.
- Lots of counter space.

Designing a kosher kitchen involves careful attention to detail. Understanding the needs and jargon of this niche client will ultimately make both parties more comfortable.

- Rick Glickman is founder of Dream Kitchens Inc. in Skokie, IL. He has written extensively about designing ethnic kitchens, and his projects have been featured in several national design magazines. He can be reached through his website