Private chef

An interview of Thomas Bühner, chef and owner of the frequently distinguished restaurant “la vie” in Osnabrück, by Thomas Edelmann.

The kitchen is subject to constant change. In the course of modernity starting in the 1920s, it moved away from being a central place in the house and first became a machine room designed for efficiency. Starting in the 1980s, the kitchen played a greater role as a place for the shared preparation of food. Since then it has been organized in the image of the professional kitchen. How will the kitchen develop in the future?

From my childhood, I can still vividly recall that the kitchen had a completely different level of importance. When my parents were building their own home, the kitchen was almost the smallest room in the house. It was separated and poorly visible from the other rooms. In addition, it had a high window so that one could not look in from the outside. This has changed completely. Today the kitchen is a social gathering place.

Privately, are you more likely to cook for yourself or together with friends?
Nothing is more horrible than cooking solely for oneself. We get together with friends in the kitchen and cook together with them. That is social and communicative. This is also what I am familiar with from my friends. They have a TV in the kitchen as well as great furniture and tools.

What kind of design elements does a kitchen need?
The kitchen has taken a great leap in the last few years. It has become a prestigious object, like the car. Nowadays it is not uncommon for someone to spend $50,000 to $100,000+ on a kitchen. Although few people actually cook in these kitchens, they are superbly equipped. This is similar to people buying a sports car but never driving it at its limits, but only using it for shopping or to cruise on Sunday afternoons.

What kind of kitchen do you prefer?
I expect that the kitchen be properly equipped – that’s what it’s also like in my home. This should include a corresponding oven, if possible a steamer. I like to have a plate warmer to keep things warm. Before I would invest a lot in a coffee maker, I would prefer to have a large induction burner, and a gas burner as well. That belongs in a kitchen. In addition, the kitchen has to be properly laid out so that one can work well in it. Here one should pay special attention to the proper working heights. The configuration of drawers and storage spaces also plays a role here. In addition, we have picked a wine cooler for ourselves, because that is important to us. A proper fridge which keeps things fresh, without the cheese tasting like strawberries and vice versa: These are the sort of things that are important to me in a kitchen.

As a cook, what do you wish for in the kitchen of the future?
I don’t expect a lot of futuristic innovations there. First we have to get a handle on the small details.

For example?
We had a new fitting installed recently. The tap forms a really high arch. Not only does this look good, it is also very practical. In addition, it has a spray head. If one installs it close to the stove one can fill even large pots directly on the stove, which is a great relief.

How could the water supply change in the future?
The idea that one can also drink the water from the tap has been completely forgotten. Maybe this could be emphasized more through new technical and design solutions. One could purify the water directly at the fitting and carbonate it, for example. One could also have a water supply which is optimized for the functional demands of working and cooking.

What role does the design of a kitchen play for you?
We just got a new kitchen with orange-colored fronts. It is located in a 600 year old building. That can stand a bit more color. We selected a stone countertop for it which is very functional. Color and light create a strong vibrant effect in the room. I want to get away from the image of the kitchen as being a room in which one works. The kitchen should be a beautiful room where you like to sit and eat. We do in fact still have a dining room as well. But initially we always get together in the kitchen. Well, that won't come as a surprise in our case.

How should the ideal water supply in the kitchen of the future be built?
I can’t say much about that. Ultimately all of us only use water to cook!

“A good kitchen is not aggressively designed. It helps to accomplish what one is currently planning to do. It supports the aims of its user like a good host. It knows what you might need even before you do.” Alain de Botton, London philosopher and author.