Ocala Style Home & Garden: Homepage

The Heart Of The Home

Tony Trinidad, executive chef of Ocala's Dine Design Group, knows a thing or two about creating beautiful, yet functional, gourmet kitchens.

- Thursday, June 05, 2008

THE KITCHEN IS OFTEN CALLED THE HEART of the home. It’s where friends gather for special occasions and where families spend quality time together each day.
So why not make your kitchen the space that’s practicable yet easy for entertaining?

If you’re in the market for a new home or a kitchen remodel, the first step in creating your dream kitchen is the selection of surfaces and materials. Stainless steel, granite, marble, concrete, the options are only as limited as your imagination.

“If you’re trying to create an Italian villa kitchen, you may choose to go with marble or ceramic tile,” says Dine Design Group’s Executive Chef Tony Trinidad.  “If your home is modern, you may like stainless steel appliances and concrete floors and counters.”

When building your kitchen, think about flow. Make your space convenient by placing a built-in cutting area near the sink to easily dispose of clippings. Think about your personal needs. If baking is your passion, you may want to consider investing in a convection oven and cooling rack space. Grill connoisseurs may choose to focus their resources on a high-end stove and a proper ventilation system.

“One of the most important elements when creating a working kitchen is a quality gas stove,” says Tony. “Electric stoves don’t have the necessary BTU’s to create the heat needed for many dishes.”

When choosing counters and cabinetry, design your kitchen to fit your personal needs. If the family chef is tall, consider raising the counter height to allow for comfortable food preparation.

Tony, who spends most of his day in the kitchen, has been a professional chef since 1994. He joined the Dine Design Group, a collaboration of restaurant entrepreneurs, to open one of Ocala’s most talked about restaurants, SKY Asian Fusion. SKY follows in the same tradition of its sister company, Ipanema Brazilian Churrascaria, as an inspired dining alternative to restaurant chains.

Of course, the appliances and cabinetry are just the beginning. The options for stocking a kitchen are endless. Tony suggests splurging on quality cookware and knives.

“Sure it’s more expensive to go with restaurant-quality cookware like Ironclad or Calphalon,” he says, “but they will last much longer and distribute heat much better than your low-end products.”

Of equal importance to Tony is a set of high-quality kitchen knives.

“You really only need three knives,” he says. “A serrated edge, a bread knife, and a four-inch utility knife will get the most use. For any chef, home or otherwise, a great set of sharp chef’s knives would be an ideal first purchase.”

So what about the luxury items that make cooking a joy? Tony says indulge if you have the means, but it’s not a necessity. Built-in wine coolers, dishwasher drawers, and instant hot water pot fillers make cooking and entertaining a breeze.

One of Tony’s favorite picks? Under-counter refrigerator drawers.

“Having a different drawer for each item like vegetables, fruits, meats, and fish keeps everything convenient, fresh, and at its optimal temperature,” he says.

Now that you have a mental image of what your dream kitchen could look like, you may wonder what ingredients an executive chef stocks in his personal pantry. For Tony, it’s a complete selection of fresh vegetables, herbs, and spices, including curry, sea salt, and black and white pepper.

“I also always have a chili paste on hand to pull from, as well as a good quality olive oil and aged balsamic,” he notes. “When creating a dish, the sauce and finishing touches are very important.”

Fresh herbs are readily available at a variety of grocery and specialty stores. Why not create a container garden in the kitchen or on the outside patio? Leaf lettuce, basil, thyme, rosemary, dill, and chives are all hearty herbs that not only add flavor to any dish, but are also decorative when placed in pots. Your personal herb garden will give your meals that made-from-scratch appearance and integrate your cooking style into your surroundings.

Remember, the kitchen isn’t just another room in the house.

“The kitchen is where people gather,” Tony says, smiling. “Make sure your kitchen truly is the heart of your home. Growing up I spent a lot of time laughing, conversing, and, of course, eating in the kitchen with my family — that’s probably how I ended up in this business.

“I remember watching Julia Child as a boy and being entranced. My mom is a wonderful cook and my dad would drive two hours to a great restaurant. I didn’t like it when I was a kid, but now I get it.”


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