News & Politics

Great Kitchens: Celebrity Kitchens

Inside the kitchens of Washingtonians--here are favorite gadgets and cookbooks, why they've renovated (or haven't), what they'd change, and how they make room for guests, kids, and other cooks.

Denise Austin

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.

Anthony Williams

Apartment Life

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.

Kris Tschetter

On the Move

Kris Tschetter plays on the Ladies Professional Golf Association tour, traveling almost weekly during golf season and eating out often. "When I'm home," she says, "I like to cook." Tschetter lives in a Fairfax townhouse with her husband, Kirk Lucas, a teaching pro, and their two daughters.

Nice and bright: Against a backdrop of terra-cotta paint, the kitchen has white wood cabinets, white Formica counters, and a white floor. Tschetter regrets the floor choice–with small children, it's hard to keep clean: "The day after I got it, I said, 'This is a mistake.' "

Within reach: When a friend tried to declutter the kitchen, Tschetter shooed her away. "I have pans hanging and utensils sitting right on the counter," she says. "I want everything right there so I don't have to open a drawer."

Trading secrets: Tschetter and Lucas are friends with Gerard Pangaud, chef/owner of Gerard's Place in DC, who sometimes cooks and plays golf with them. "I told him I don't really like to cook from recipes," Tschetter says. "He said, 'Then there is hope for you.' "

Building plans: The couple plans to begin building a new house this year in Warrenton, on property where they have a golf teaching facility. Priorities are a large kitchen that opens to a great room and an island with seating.

Keeping an eye out: Tschetter often stays in other people's homes when on tour, which helps her collect ideas. On her wish list: a warming oven, a spice cabinet, a quiet dishwasher, a large refrigerator and separate freezer, and "a spot for everything."

Carolyn Parkhurst

Cooks and Books

"I love writing about food," says Carolyn Parkhurst, author of the novel The Dogs of Babel. But her characters aren't the only ones who cook. At home in DC's Glover Park neighborhood, Parkhurst makes dinner three or four nights a week for husband Evan Rosser, a software engineer, and their three-year-old son.

Just in time: Parkhurst was nine months pregnant when she and Rosser bought their three-bedroom rowhouse. "We were not looking to do any major renovations," she says. They kept the white cabinets with gold knobs and green Formica counters. They added a wire wall rack to hold food and small appliances.

Division of labor: The galley kitchen gets crowded. "It's not really comfortable for two people to work in at a time," Parkhurst says. She does most of the daily cooking; Rosser undertakes bigger projects on weekends, such as pies or batches of Bolognese sauce to freeze.

Old-style stove: "I love the character of our stove," Parkhurst says. It's a gas range by Wincroft that came with the house and has to be lit manually. "The inspector thought it was from the 1950s, but we think it might be even older. It's kind of fun to use."

Gadget collection: The family could use more cabinet space. "I like to buy gadgets," Parkhurst says. Her favorites: a Rival Crock-Pot and a Villaware panini maker. A pasta maker she gave to Rosser has sat idle.

Book learning: "I'm a big recipe cooker," says Parkhurst. Favorite cookbooks include Mark Bittman's Minimalist series. Her dream kitchen would have space to store the family's cookbook collection–including one her son likes, Pretend Soup by Mollie Katzen and Ann Henderson. Says Parkhurst: "He'll have me read it to him like it's a storybook."

Ris Lacoste

From 1789 to 2005

Ris Lacoste, chef at Georgetown's 1789 restaurant,just wrapped up a three-year renovation of her house in DC's Glover Park. With the help of Arlington's Bedrock Builders, Lacoste created her dream kitchen with DC designer Andrew Cassatt: "Now I just need time to use it."

Everything old is new: Lacoste preserved historical elements–the original blue wainscoting and oak and maple floors–while updating the appliances. The two ovens–conventional and convection–and four-burner gas range are by Thermador; she saved by buying floor models. She also likes her Bosch dishwasher and KitchenAid refrigerator.

Hanging out: The kitchen is organized as in the restaurant: "Everything is out so you don't have to hunt." Copper pots–many from Lacoste's years cooking in Paris restaurants–hang from a wrought-iron rack, which has hooks of different lengths so everything falls at the same level. A stainless-steel rod from Ikea holds whisks and spatulas. Small appliances such as coffee grinders–one for coffee beans, one for sweet spices, another for hot–stay on the maple countertop.

Smart and clean: An extra-deep soapstone sink–with a separate section for cleaning vegetables and the same industrial hose Lacoste uses in the restaurant–makes pot scrubbing easy. The trash can, paneled with the white wood of the drawers, pulls out and can roll around the kitchen while she's cooking.

Art and life: Lacoste loves flea markets and estate sales, and long shelves show off a collection of colored glass and mixed china. She has a thing for pitchers and juice glasses. "I have a hundred million, but I can't say no," she says, picking up a glass decorated with orange daisies. "It enhances life to drink water out of this."

Ellen Tauscher

Bicoastal Kitchens

Cooking was a central part of California congresswoman Ellen Tauscher's childhood in an Irish Catholic family, and it remains a favorite activity. "It's a way of decompressing," she says. She and daughter Katherine, 14, prepare meals often in their homes in California and DC's Kalorama section.

Inside and out: Tauscher designed indoor and outdoor kitchens in her six-year-old California house. Outside, she grills pizza, swordfish, and steak. Inside, her workspace is next to a bar where guests can drink wine.

Down to work: In DC, Tauscher doesn't have much free time, and the large galley kitchen in her 80-year-old Kalorama house suits that lifestyle. "It's a working kitchen," she says. She does most of her cooking on Monday mornings when Congress doesn't vote, preparing a week's worth of meals–often marinara sauce, a casserole, and a turkey breast.

Room with a view: Tauscher kept the cherry cabinets and cream-colored Italian ceramic counters, which look good but require lots of maintenance. "On a rainy Saturday, I get out a toothbrush and go to work on the grout," she says. She added a Sub-Zero refrigerator and a convection oven for cooking roasts. Her favorite thing about the kitchen: the view of the Chinese ambassador's pool.

Irish tradition: Tauscher's father, who managed a grocery store, taught her that the best cut of meat for corned beef is eye round. "Once a year, I make it in my Crock-Pot," she says. "I just put it in there with some seasoning, some water, and some beer."

Chef in training: The house has a utility kitchen in the basement, which daughter Katherine uses. Tauscher took her to a Paris cooking school in March, and Katherine has mastered some sauces. Now she's working on timing. Says Tauscher: "I think everyone struggles with timing."

Patsy Mote

Presidential Parties

Patsy Mote and her husband, University of Maryland president Dan Mote, throw a lot of parties–sometimes two a day–in their official residence. The former graphic designer revels in the challenge of devising menus for up to 200 guests–a university chef helps–and makes the best of a 1970s kitchen.

Home improvement: "The house wasn't built as a president's residence," Mote says. "The party room is a converted garage." The kitchen was built for home cooks but is outfitted with a Viking four-burner gas stove, three ovens, and plenty of storage space. The central island makes serving easier.

Party girl: "I love themes," says Mote, who used to design theater sets, "but you have to make sure you don't end up with a pile of special effects." For some parties, she color-coordinates food and decor. A spring luncheon had a pink-and-green motif: watercress soup, prawns with herbs and lettuces, and custard with raspberry sauce.

Family favorites: When Mote's son, daughter, and their families visit, a Maryland crab feast and Norwegian breakfast–the family used to live in Oslo–are musts. Mote cures her own gravlax with sugar, salt, and dill. "It's not that hard," she says. "That's the big secret." It's served with rye crackers, Edam and Swiss cheeses, pickled herring, tomatoes, and cucumbers.

Keep it simple: Mote has drawers full of gadgets; some, such as an egg separator, never get used. During a previous home's renovation, she got by with a chef's knife, paring knife, peeler, spoon, and spatula. "I thought I was going to die without my Cuisinart," she says, "but hand-chopping can actually be soothing."

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.