Jimi Yui, winner of a James Beard Award for restaurant design, has more than a little insight on what it takes to craft hard-working kitchens: In his more-than-30-year career, he has designed back-of-the-house spaces for such high-calibre chefs as Thomas Keller, April Bloomfield and Nobu Matsuhisa. Here, Yui offers some strategic advice to those considering professional kitchen design.
If you can’t get the info from the end user, you’re essentially working blind. Collaborating with the chef – and the rest of the staff – is such an important thing to do. The more information that can be gathered at the start of the design process, the more tailored the tools that are delivered. If there is no input, you’ll likely end up with a generic kitchen and, put simply, generic kitchens are no good – the odds of performing well in one are poor. Just like speccing a house, you need to get in early to customize and tailor and not have to pay for renos or retrofitting after the fact.
Working with a restaurant that has established programming and a clear vision and menu concept makes all the difference, and will drive the design in the right direction. A steak-house kitchen looks different from a Chinese kitchen, which looks different from an Italian kitchen. Fundamentals like the delivery door, bulk storage area, prep stations, dishwashing zone … these don’t change, but they need to be arranged in a manner that works for who will be using them – and how.
People who haven’t worked in the kitchen industry might not be the best ones to design for the kitchen industry. It takes a lot of discipline to do a kitchen well, and without the knowledge of the tools needed, you are at a disadvantage.
Hospitality designer Jimi Yui on what to consider when creating a professional kitchen.