When Caroline Schiff moved into her Fort Greene, Brooklyn, apartment in 2009, she didn’t know exactly how she was going to set up the kitchen, but she was certain she wanted it to function as much like a professional kitchen as possible. “I always want to see my ingredients, have them handy, and scale out my mise en place,” Schiff, executive pastry chef at Gage & Tollner and author of The Sweet Side of Sourdough: 50 Irresistible Recipes for Pastries, Buns, Cakes, Cookies and More, told me. “It just makes things neater and more efficient.”
Over the years she’s maximized every square inch of the narrow space, and because she rents, she’s done it all without making any structural modifications—or spending too much money. “Chefs are very smart with budgets; we’re always forced to be thinking about the bottom line,” she says. “Also, I’d rather spend my money on cheese than an expensive built-in kitchen.” Schiff estimates she’s spent about $2,000 to outfit her kitchen, with the bulk put toward modular wire shelving, stainless-steel prep tables, and many, many S-hooks.
The end result may look busy, but it’s the perfect space for the James Beard Award-nominee and she wouldn’t want it arranged any other way. “I just love tools! I love how they look. I’ve always loved walking into restaurant supply stores and seeing everything on display. I really see them as part of the overall decor,” she says. “I feel so well equipped, and I love this space so much.”
Schiff says hobby bakers and home cooks can achieve some of the same restaurant-level functionality in their own kitchens if they’re willing to get creative with storage. “It’s not so much an investment in major equipment or remodeling. It’s how you set things up and think about maximizing your space,” she says.
Here are her top tips for creating a more efficient, professional-style kitchen—and 17 products to help get you started.
Embrace open shelving
It’s hard to see what you have to work with when it’s tucked in a cabinet or behind a pantry door, which is why Schiff stores everything—ingredients, utensils, small appliances, cookbooks, everything—out in the open. Even as someone who swears by open kitchen storage, I was still surprised to learn just how dedicated she is to her system. With the exception of delicate stemware and some of her less-attractive dishes that she only holds onto for backup, Schiff doesn’t keep anything in her cabinets. “There are a few that are completely empty,” she admits. “I know that’s weird and almost a crime in New York City.” But for Schiff, forgoing enclosed storage in favor of freestanding shelves is simply a more efficient use of her small space because it makes everything truly accessible. It also inspires her to be more creative. “Seeing things means I use them and move through them. It also drives my creativity, having all options on display. Like, I never forget that I have amba on hand because it’s right there.”
5 Tier Wire Shelving
5-Tier Chrome Shelving Unit
Steelton 14″ x 60″ Chrome 5-Shelf Kit
$147.00, Webstaurant Store
Elfa Classic 4′ Open Kitchen Shelving
$574.00, The Container Store
There are plenty of arguments to be made for and against decanting every single item in your pantry, but for Schiff, transferring flours, sugars, and other dry goods into clear containers is nonnegotiable. “I want to see all of the ingredients and I don’t want to see any of the packaging. I immediately decant things when I bring them in, so you’ll never see a bag of sugar in my house because it automatically gets dumped into the bin and that’s it,” she says.
Schiff suggests that even hobbyist bakers should make a habit of decanting their staples. “It keeps your work so much neater. If you open a bag of flour and scoop some out of it, then roll it back up, next time you open it, there will be flour everywhere.”
In addition to keeping her supplies accessible and tidy, the clear containers also make it easy to manage her inventory. “Since I can see everything, I can see what’s getting low and I also tend to use things more often because they’re right in front of my face and not hidden away,” she says. Schiff swears by stackable canisters, especially for small spaces, and uses square Oxo and Cambro containers in her own kitchen. “Squares and rectangles are the best since they use the space most efficiently” she says. “Square Cambros are staples in every restaurant kitchen and they don’t waste one square inch!”
Cambro Food Storage Containers (4 quart with lid)
Cambro Containers With Lids (4 quart and 6 quart)
OXO Good Grips Pop Containers, Set of 5
Create more counter space with prep tables
Ample counter space is a luxury many only dream of, and that’s especially true for apartment dwellers. Schiff’s workaround? Stainless steel prep tables from the online restaurant supply retailer, Webstaurant Store. “They have every size and you can get exactly what you need for your space,” she says.
Schiff managed to fit three 48-inch tables into her narrow kitchen. One is pushed up against a wall by the fridge and two form an eight-foot island down the middle of the room. The island serves as her main workstation and allows her to prep at home like she does at the restaurant. Well, almost. “If I’m scaling out a recipe I’ll stand on the pantry side to grab things. If I’m doing something at the stove or using the blender, I’ll pop over to that side.”
Even if you can’t squeeze an entire prep-table island into your kitchen, a few feet of extra workspace can make a world of difference when yo
Regency 18″ x 24″ Stainless Steel Commercial Work Table
$110.00, Webstaurant Store
Stainless Steel Table + Add Casters
Mophorn Stainless Steel Work Table
Take your storage all the way to the ceiling
Bakers need all kinds of utensils, often in multiple sizes, and Schiff found a home for every whisk, offset spatula, pastry brush, rolling pin, and more by going vertical with her storage. While she has a few utensil crocks for items she can’t hang, she prefers to use basic S-hooks to suspend tools from her wire shelves as well as from pot rails attached to the wall. “I like hanging them because then I can really see everything,” she says. “Smaller and shorter tools get lost in a crock.”
And just when you think you’ve run out of storage space, Schiff says you should go higher. “Utilize that vertical space. Get yourself a tape measure and get down to the quarter inch!”
In addition to using rails and hooks, you can store metal tools on a magnetic knife rack.
Floating Lines Metal Rails
$30.00, West Elm
Wallniture Lyon 31.5″ Wall Mount Kitchen Utensil Holder
GreenCo Pot And Pan Metal Wall Mounted Kitchen Organizer Rail
15 Pack Heavy Duty Stainless Steel S Shaped Hooks
Modern Innovations 16-Inch Stainless Steel Magnetic Knife Bar
Originally Appeared on Epicurious