Stories From the Hub: Central Coast Kitchens

By Jaime Lewis / Photography By Jennifer Olson | November 22, 2017
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However comfy your couch, however dignified your desk, they’re no competition for the humble charms of your kitchen counter. the workhorse of the American home, a kitchen serves as the food-preparation room as much as it does the family room, the boardroom, the situation room. When friends come for dinner, where do they gravitate? Where do children struggle over homework? Where do couples dance? The kitchen, of course.

Though aesthetics vary widely, their effects do not: the places in which we prepare our food comfort us as much as the food itself. Here, we peek inside the very di erent kitchens of three local families to discover the hub of their homes.

Photo 1: Brigitte Falkenhagen prepares dinner at the counter
Photo 2: Old World touches include warm copper and butcherblock

Falkenhagen Kitchen, Edna Valley

Despite the high style of their Spanish Colonial Revival kitchen, with its wrought-iron chandelier from Arte de Mexico (ArteDeMexico.com) in Los Angeles and Old World tile brought home from a trip to Cabo San Lucas, Brigitte and Bruce Falkenhagen use the space on a very practical level every day— nary a frou-frou fruit basket or piece of vanity kitchenware to be seen.

Brigitte runs her hand across the honey-colored butcher block countertops, made by John Boos & Co. (JohnBoos.com), that span the kitchen, which she and Bruce designed themselves. “It’s our cutting board,” she says, pointing out a map of criss-cross knife marks. She mentions her two grown daughters and their significant others, all of whom have their place in this kitchen. “We all love to cook, and we all love red wine, and when six of us get together, there’ll be a mess.” She laughs. “But red wine comes right out. It’s easy to keep up.”

Most of the time, she says, the kitchen serves only Bruce and herself, but they have donated the house as a venue to nonprofits like the classical music organization, Festival Mozaic. Caterers have plenty of space and amenities, including two sinks, two dishwashers, a trash compactor, a warming drawer, a Viking range, double oven, two refrigerators and a freezer in the attached pantry. And that’s not to mention the teeming kitchen garden just outside, or the inspiration of 180-degree views of Edna Valley’s rolling vineyards through each window.

“I used to polish this but now I just let it go,” Brigitte says of the commercial copper range hood made by local kitchen builder Garry Odbert (father of Chef Ricky Odbert, featured on page 16). A pleasing patina covers its reflective surface. “You cannot be a slave to your kitchen, you know, or else you’ll be polishing forever.”

Photo 1: Bill and Barbara Spencer in their kitchen at Windrose Farm.
Photo 2: The Spencers have devoted an entire room of their house to books about food, but cookbooks of all sorts still crowd the kitchen counter.

Spencer Kitchen, Windrose Farm, Paso Robles

Eleven days after Bill and Barbara Spencer met on a blind date, they cooked and hosted a dinner together for 30 people. “It was like, ‘Okay, I guess this’ll work,’” says Barbara, laughing.

The hospitality and resourcefulness that would compel brand-new lovebirds to throw a legendary dinner party emanates from the kitchen the Spencers have shared at Windrose Farm (WindroseFarm.org) for over two decades. Huge beams, salvaged from Tank Farm in San Luis Obispo, frame butter-yellow walls and celadon cabinets, beneath which an upright antique stove and white hood from Idler’s Home (IdlersHome.com) serves as centerpiece. A cat licks its paws on a quilt in the corner while Bill kneads bread dough on the 350-pound meat block reclaimed from an old grocery store in Pasadena, years ago. Plumes of flour puff through the golden light of mid-morning; cookbooks pack the countertops.

“There was only a single-wide mobile home here when we movedi n,” Bill says of the East Side Paso Robles property he and Barbara bought in 1995. “The only trees here were three oak trees.” Everything else, he says, they did themselves, including planting 2,500 fruit trees and acres of row crops—all farmed organic and biodynamic—that came to supply some of Central and Southern California’s hottest chefs and restaurants. It also included converting the existing mobile home into the Windrose Farms shop and office, and establishing another mobile home on the property for the Spencers’ private residence. “We’ve disguised it pretty well,” Bill says of the mobile home with a classic farmhouse kitchen at its heart.

There’s a knock at the door and Chef Julie Simon—formerly of Foremost Wine Company in SLO—walks in with several sealed cuts of lamb. She works at Windrose Farm now, and is preparing a lamb dinner for the upcoming annual heirloom tomato festival on the property. As the three of them work—Julie sharpening her knife, Bill kneading the dough and Barbara washing dishes—the cat curls up on her quilt and dozes to the sounds of a working kitchen, as she’s surely done hundreds of times before.

Photo 1: Courtney and Ben Taylor in their modern Avila Valley kitchen, while their children Elliot and Rory run laps around the island.
Photo 2: An art major in college, Ben's large-format artwork is displayed throughout the home.

Taylor Kitchen, Avila Beach

When designing the kitchen of their contemporary Avila Valley home in 2016, Ben and Courtney Taylor wanted, first and foremost, to avoid the accumulation of clutter and filth. “I don’t want to clean gross surfaces,” says Courtney, a partner in Simas & Taylor law firm, specializing in wine law. “I’m not really a clean-freak, but when you cook a lot, you have to deal with oil and dust, which mix and become thick. I’d rather avoid having to deal with that.”

The solution, they found, was a set of IKEA (IKEA.com) cabinets that lack recesses or bevels where dirt might settle. Their crisp, white faces merge with the white walls and open plan of the Taylor’s home, where their sons Elliot and Rory run laps around the kitchen island, giggling. The countertops remain empty of toasters, coffee makers or blenders, which tuck into deep drawers for easy storage. Even the microwave lives out-of-sight in the Taylor’s sizeable pantry.

Ben worked with contractor Jeff Casida to build a booth with bench seat where the boys work on art projects while mom and dad cook at the six-burner Verona stove from Cucina Kitchens in SLO (CucinaKitchens.com). Bursts of color stand out against the white palette, including Courtney’s kitschy salt and pepper shaker collection, large-format paintings by Ben from his days as an art student (he’s now the viticulturist and orchard manager at Talley Farms) and three stools made from tractor seats by Ben’s grandpa, Joe. “They are probably on Ben’s short list of things he would grab if the house was on fire,” says Courtney. “I love that the kids sit on them every morning to eat breakfast.

Article from Edible San Luis Obispo at http://ediblesanluisobispo.ediblecommunities.com/food-thought/stories-hub-central-coast-kitchens
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