Lights, Camera, Action
Denise Austin stars in two health-and-fitness shows on Lifetime Television and in exercise videos; her new book is Eat Carbs, Lose Weight. She and husband Jeff, a sports attorney, built their dream kitchen five years ago in their Northern Virginia home. They have two daughters.
Made for TV: Austin designed a "camera-ready" kitchen with an open floor plan so she could film TV segments from home. An island looking onto the great room serves as her stage. "Everything can be done right there," she says.
Sunshine colors: She chose buttery-yellow cabinets, easy-care concrete counters in soft gold, and accents in tangerine and terra cotta. "It's warm and happy," she says. Glass-front cabinets showcase ceramic Vietri plates from Italy.
The little things: Appliances are top of the line: Viking rangetop with six burners, Thermador oven, Sub-Zero dual refrigerator. But Austin's favorites are things she uses every day: a Mr. Coffee coffeemaker and an Oster In2itive blender with which she makes smoothies for her daughters.
Healthy, mostly: Low-fat chicken dishes, turkey lasagna, and pasta with vegetables are standard fare, but Austin likes to cook a big breakfast on weekends: "I make really good pancakes, omelets, and French toast."
Social event: Austin enjoys company while cooking. Barstools surround the island, where she chats with family while preparing dinner or serves chicken salad to friends after tennis on her private court. She and Jeff have coffee and read the paper every morning on a couch in the kitchen.
DC Mayor Anthony Williams cooks or bakes once or twice a week in the Foggy Bottom apartment he shares with his wife, Diane. "I would one day like to go to a cooking school," he says. "For now I'm wandering around in amateurism."
Retro kitchen: The Williamses have lived in their apartment for nearly ten years. The kitchen--with Whirlpool appliances, gas stove, and Formica counters--works well but could use updating. Says the mayor: "It was a great kitchen in the early '60s."
Dreaming of more space: Williams's ideal kitchen would have two sinks, more counter space, a baking area, and enough storage to keep cookware accessible--plus a desk where he could work between tasks. With more room, he says, "things that take me an hour now would take only 30 to 45 minutes."
Bread basics: "Baking is very exacting--you can't fool around and improvise," says Williams, whose specialties include focaccia and other breads. "My cooking tends to be bland. It all looks great, but there's nothing really exciting about the taste--it's just not 'wow.' "
Well equipped: "I have really nice things," Williams says. He collects Calphalon and Le Creuset cookware, and a favorite tool is a KitchenAid mixer Diane gave him. But in general, he avoids shortcuts, preferring a mortar and pestle over the food processor when appropriate.
Mayoral privilege: Williams has gathered advice on preparing pesto from chef Cesare Lanfranconi of the restaurant Tosca and baking tips from Mark Furstenberg of Bread Line, both in DC. "The nice thing about being mayor," he says, "is you can talk to all the chefs."
Christopher Vazquez and Rick Davis
Down on the Farm
Where can you sip fresh-blackberry margaritas while watching peacocks, guinea hens, ducks, and quail? The St. Mary's County cottage that Christopher Vazquez, manager of downtown DC's Zaytinya restaurant, shares with Rick Davis, who runs Amaryllis, a flower shop in the city's Eckington section. On their 27-acre farm, they raise rare breeds of fowl and grow in their gardens almost everything they eat.
Making do: Vazquez calls their yellow-painted kitchen with moss-green cabinets "nothing glamorous." Whirlpool appliances, including a four-burner gas stove, get the job done: "As a cooking friend says, never blame it on the tools. If you have good product, you can work on anything."
Town and country: Vazquez and Davis moved to the country five years ago. So far they've focused on clearing the woods for flower and vegetable gardens. Next year they'll renovate their rustic kitchen. Plans include opening up the room by 20 feet, adding a bay window overlooking their pond, and replacing the laminate countertops with marble or soapstone. They'll keep the slatted pine floors, which were refinished by local Amish workers. "Their craftsmanship is amazing," Vazquez says.
Sharp notes: Vazquez couldn't live without a set of Global knives and a pair of garden shears for clipping herbs. He never uses his Cuisinart food processor, preferring to chop by hand.
Page turner: Vazquez saves home-and-garden design ideas from magazines like Metropolitan Home and Country Living. He's also a cookbook addict: Alice Waters's Chez Panisse Vegetables and the Haymarket Cookbook are favorites.
Keeping cool: Because produce, eggs, and meat come from the farm, the refrigerator/freezer is full of vinegars, mustards, cheeses, and homemade pasta. Vazquez cans vegetables and makes his own hot sauces. A fridge in one of two barns holds homemade jams, frozen berries, and tomato sauces for winter.