James Beard award-winning chef and restaurateur Michael Symon is famous for his mouthwatering charcoal-grilled dishes. So naturally, this pro needs an outdoor kitchen that’s on par with his culinary abilities. We teamed up with Chef Michael Symon to build his dream setup with our Westport Outdoor Kitchen and outfitted it with all the essentials. He’s offering up some pointers to help you design your perfect setup.
Frontgate (FG): Given the Westport Kitchen’s modularity, is there a layout you prefer?
Chef Michael Symon (CMS): I prefer straight across. It allows me to work front to back like I would in a restaurant kitchen.
FG: If limited on space, what elements of an outdoor kitchen are essential?
CMS: If you can fit it, I feel an island is the most essential. It gives you more counter space and gives guests somewhere to sit while being part of the action.
FG: If space is not an issue, what extra items elevate the experience?
CMS: Definitely an outdoor refrigerator and a cabinet that can hold ice for drinks and cocktails. A drawer for housing utensils and a cabinet to keep tableware and other essentials are also helpful.
FG: What else do you consider when setting up your outdoor kitchen?
CMS: I like to allow guests to sit on the opposite side of the island, so barstools are crucial. Having enough room for a built-in trashcan and a water source is a bonus. It is also essential to have a place to store charcoal and wood for grilling.
FG: Do you change your kitchen layout based on the type of gathering you’re having?
CMS: I typically stick with a straight-across layout because it works great for both formal and casual gatherings. It is also a great natural barrier keeping guests from entering my cooking space – a chef needs his space … haha!
FG: Best tip for eliminating the need to run inside for items?
CMS: An outdoor refrigerator or an ice bucket is a game changer. If you don’t have either, an insulated cooler can also work great.
FG: Where in your layout do you place your grill?
CMS: I prefer my grill behind the island, similar to where an oven would be in a traditional, indoor kitchen setup. This format gives me plenty of prep space and lets me work how I’m used to.
FG: What are those essentials you recommend everyone have stocked in their outdoor kitchen?
CMS: Charcoal, chimneys, blow torch, insulated gloves and a grill brush. With those essentials stocked outside, you can then bring out the remainder of the items needed from your indoor kitchen, such as cast-iron pans and utensils.
FG: What are some must-haves to surround your kitchen?
CMS: I love having a bar cart nearby to keep the party going. Ultra-comfy lounge chairs beneath a large, quality umbrella are imperative so that guests have a place to sit while staying out of the sun.