A. Rachel Kohl Finegold, programming and ritual director at Anshe Sholom B’nai Israel Congregation (540 W. Melrose St., 773-248-9200), says there is very little that is intrinsically kosher or not kosher about a kitchen. A cornerstone of keeping kosher, she says, is the prohibition against cooking and eating meat and dairy together, and that can certainly be managed in a conventional kitchen. Of course it is more convenient if you have two sinks, two ovens, two dishwashers, and separate preparation areas for meat and milk. As for food storage, it is an accepted practice to store meat and dairy products together in the refrigerator and pantry, as long as they are in separate, closed containers.
Fitting in multiple appliances gracefully is the trick. Leslie Dorchen, a design consultant at Community Home Supply (3924 N. Lincoln Ave., 773-281-7010; comhs.com), recently designed a kosher kitchen, 17 by 11 feet, with two tidy work triangles-sink, stove, and refrigerator-based on one centrally located refrigerator. She placed the meat station closer to the dining room because meat menus tend to be used for bigger events. In this modestly sized kitchen she was able to fit in two freestanding ranges, two ovens, two microwaves, two sinks, and two dishwashers.
When you’re working with a big kitchen-and they can be really big these days-the challenge is efficiency, says Mick De Giulio, of De Giulio Kitchen Design (121 Merchandise Mart, 312-494-9200; 1121 Central Ave., Wilmette, 847-256-8833; degiulio.org), who designs eight to ten kosher kitchens a year. "You don’t want to take ten steps for every operation," he says. "You have to make a big kitchen work like a small kitchen." The advantage of a big kosher kitchen is that there’s room for two sets of dishes and even a third set exclusively for Passover. There is also room for a third sink, for those who practice ritual hand washing at meals that include bread, and especially at Sabbath and Passover meals.
A relatively new development in kosher kitchens is the availability of appliances with a Sabbath mode. Observant orthodox Jews don’t engage in work on the Sabbath, from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday-so, no cooking. In the old days, an orthodox family would turn on the oven Friday evening and put in a slow-cooking dish to eat the next day. Modern ovens have a safety feature that automatically turns off the heat after 12 hours, which could wreak havoc with a Sabbath meal. Now, several companies-Kenmore, Wolf and KitchenAid, to name a few-make ovens with a mechanism that overrides the 12-hour shut-off. These companies and Sub-Zero make refrigerators whose lighted displays, icemakers, and interior lighting can be turned off before the Sabbath in compliance with the orthodox prohibition against turning on an electric current on Saturday. (For more information on these appliances and on kosher law in general, see star-k.org.)