We love quiet minimalist kitchens, but we’re equally enamored with heart-of-the-home kitchens, the kind of space that you can’t imagine without also hearing the cacophony of pots banging, pencils scribbling, and kids running in and out. Phyllis Grant’s Berkeley kitchen—with its open shelving stocked with cooking tools; hard-wearing, no-nonsense building materials; and large butcher-block island designed for food preparation and SAT preparation alike—falls into this everything-AND-the-kitchen-sink category.
Not long ago we reached out to Phyllis, who amassed a legion of writerly foodie fans via her blog Dash and Bella, after spying her recently remodeled kitchen on Instagram. “This current kitchen is really the result of fifty years of kitchens,” she tells us. “The kitchen has always been where I want to spend most of my time. When I was a little girl, I use to get up early and bake. In my twenties, I was a cook in New York City restaurants. And with my kids over the past seventeen years, I have cooked three meals a day in a very small kitchen.”
All the lessons she gleaned from a lifetime of obsessive cooking came in handy when she and her husband, Matt Ross (you may know him as comically mercenary Hooli CEO, Gavin Belson, on HBO’s Silicon Valley), embarked on their renovation: “I knew about materials that could take all kinds of daily abuse from working in restaurant kitchens. I learned organization out of necessity from cooking in tiny kitchenettes,” she says. What they ended up with is a practical and efficient kitchen that is also a warm and cozy command center for their family of four.
“I have been in the new kitchen now for one and a half years, and I love it more and more every single day. At least once a day I exclaim, ‘Oh wow, I feel so lucky to be in this space.’ And, of course, my kids roll their eyes,” shares Phyllis. “But it was such a satisfying process with such a usable result. Partly because it’s so functional. Partly because it’s so beautiful.”
And partly because the new kitchen is, poignantly, where her grandmother’s kitchen once stood: Phyllis and Matt moved into the apartment above hers, in a 1906 house, about 17 years ago. When she passed away, they converted the house back to a single family house, opened up the original staircase, and built their dream kitchen. “My grandmother used to move through this space, making her tea and toast. It’s nice to have her with me in the space,” says Phyllis.
Those years living above her grandmother is just one of the moving experiences she writes about in her book, Everything Is Under Control: A Memoir with Recipes. It’s an unflinching look at how the ebb and flow of her appetite has affected her life. And no less than Ruch Reichl has given it her stamp of approval: “Phyllis Grant has the voice of a poet and the sensuality of a cook. This very brave book makes you want to experience the world with equal intensity. As for the recipes, they’re completely irresistible.”
For more on the home kitchens of chefs, see: