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Please read – Guest Post from Claire

May 6, 2008

This post is a repeat of the following one, which I modified so that the images could be read in different browsers.  Sorry for the confusion!

If you can take the time to read this and answer a few questions, my daughter Claire would greatly appreciate it. Thank you for your time!

Hello everyone, this is Claire (Casey’s daughter). I am a design student and am currently finishing my thesis project, for which I need your help. Here’s the deal: I need feedback for my project, and so I need as many people as possible to comment on it.

My project is a cooking station. The concept behind the product is to change the traditional ‘dinner-party’ model, in which one person (usually the hostess) is confined to the kitchen getting the food ready while the rest of the party sit at the table and wait to be served before they can all enjoy their meal together. The idea is to achieve this by refocusing the social activity around the cooking station. This is done by allowing for multiple users and encouraging people to eat as they cook, the idea being to experiment different recipes in order to taste many different things in one session. The plan is to instigate more freedom into the cooking process, and promote good food by focusing people’s attentions on the processes relating to it; the result being that they will take the time to enjoy it rather than shoving it down their throats in front of TV.

The design consists of a large (80x120cm, 31.5×47.2in for the Americans) vitro-ceramic surface powered by induction, set on an inverse U-shaped stainless steel structure (80cm high), supporting two sets of shelves (40cm(15.7in) wide) (four in total).

The ‘island’ shape of the unit permits access from all sides, which allows for multiple users. The smooth top is designed for versatility in its accommodation of cooking methods and maximal hygiene. Induction is used to power the unit, which ensures the safety of unsupervised and inquisitive children (as the surface itself does not heat up, only the cooking vessel). Adjustable shelves provide modular storage space and are removable to allow for wheelchair access. The aesthetics of the unit are designed to reflect those of a contemporary luxury kitchen, inspired by the work of top kitchen design companies.

Ergonomics is a big part of the design. The height is calculated so that the ingredients are more visible in the pots and so it is possible for wheelchair users to cook. In order for it to be possible to comfortably chop vegetables or complete other tasks which require more height, a series of ‘elements’ have been designed to go with the cooking station.

Here are some renderings to give you an idea of the operation of the cooking station. Unfortunately I don’t have any good photos of the model as of yet.

Your browser may not support display of this image.

So, tell me what you think. Don’t hesitate to be mean (I know you guys are usually too nice).

I need to know whether you would be willing to try it, and if you think it’s a good idea. If you can be more precise and say how much you would pay for such a product or things like that, that’s even better. Don’t wreck your heads over it or anything; I’m also conducting a focus group.

Thank you!!!!!!!!

27 Comments leave one →
  1. May 6, 2008 12:31 pm

    I like the idea, but I have a couple of concerns:
    if this is truly intended for a party scenario, why not put a little more concentration on ergonomics / comfort; I’d love to see stools/comfy chairs somehow integrated. maybe a lazy-suzan for easy sharing of tools/ingredients. Also – the knife holder makes me nervous with the handles sticking out the side like that, why not have slats somewhere in the tabletop that the knives could slide into in a vertical fashion?
    another thought on party/comfort – what about recessed areas in the body of the island for holding peoples’ drinks/snacks?

  2. May 6, 2008 12:57 pm

    Great idea!
    Two small suggestions:
    a) leave some space for the cook’s feet under the “table” to lean on it while standing.
    b) Leave some kind of fluid collector ,on the surface perimeter, to avoid drippings and to easy the cleaning

  3. Susan permalink
    May 6, 2008 1:26 pm

    I love this concept! Rather than just for parties, this is a nice way to get the whole family involved in daily meals. I think that comfortable stools is a good option and the lazy susan idea previously mentioned is good.

  4. May 6, 2008 1:27 pm

    I agree with the above comments–great ideas. Is the unit self-sufficient and stationary or could the whole unit be situated on wheels? I have always liked kitchen islands, for example, but a friend had one that was beautiful, but could also be wheeled to a side of the kitchen and out of the way if you wanted. It was very cool. Anyway, good luck with your project: I think guests always gravitate to the kitchen anyway, and they usually like that!

  5. betty wilkins permalink
    May 6, 2008 1:27 pm

    I think this is a fantastic idea! It could start a new “wave” of more social meal preparation. With that in mind, I would love to see how it would integrate into the kitchen as a whole. I also think some sort of seating would be a real plus.

    The very best of luck!!

  6. Claire permalink
    May 6, 2008 1:39 pm

    Thank you so much for your comments!
    The unit is stationary, although it’s designed so that you can bring it with you when you move house. i toyed with the idea of mobile units, but this one was simpler. I like the idea that there are loads more possibilities so that I keep redesigning it and do loads of different versions.
    Keep the questions and comments coming!!
    Thanks again

  7. May 6, 2008 2:13 pm

    I love the induction cooking surface. I agree with the seating/perching idea, I agree strongly that the accessable knives make me nervous (but I’m sOo like that about knives. I’m tall so would have concerns about day to day functionallity of such a low cooking surface. Unless, within the wider table top border (asthetically pleasing and handy for a glass) you had a raised shelf the same depth as your cooking surface and abt 1/3 the width that would roll side to side as needed. In the center to hold prep needs, down to my end so that I could cut. No, never mind, I wouldn’t be able to reach comfortably past my mineral water/ wine glass holding border would I? Good luck with your concept.

  8. May 6, 2008 3:33 pm

    Interesting idea. My tiny New York kitchen couldn’t accomodate this – but I tried to imagine it in the other big kitchens I’ve had. Also, we love cooking and I hated using a smooth electric cooktop because it was so hard to quickly change temp in comparison to gas burners. We removed ours and put in gas in our Texas home. Maybe the induction type is easier to use.

    1. I don’t understand induction cooking, i.e. the pot not the stovetop heats up – but if this is truly the way it works, it would be a great safety feature.
    2. One of my concerns would be the daily use of this by the principle family cook – are you sacrificing too much by dropping the height a little? If most cooking would be done on a conventional stove, my comment doesn’t apply. If this were the only cook top, I would want to make sure that I could stand straight up because any bending to the level of my dining room table to work on textile activities or a card table to paint silk KILLS my back after a short period of time! I actually put 4 28 oz cans of chopped tomatoes under the 4 legs of my card table to lift the height when I’m painting with dyes on silk in my kitchen. I also had an island in the middle of my large Texas kitchen that was higher than my counters because it was a great prep area. How about making the height of the whole unit easily adjustable (electric switch to raise and lower) based on what it was being used for.
    3. Is there a wide margin around the top to rest wineglasses like your model is holding? I’d hate to look down and see my wine boiling!
    4. Where do the chopping block and griddle go when the party is over? Hopefully the chopping block can be turned on its side so the knives will be upright and more safely stored either in the middle of the unit or on another countertop. Good luck with your project. Hope to meet you when I see your Mom the next time – a sketchcrawl in NYC???

    The last photo didn’t open on the blog – so I might have missed something important. SORRY.

  9. May 6, 2008 3:45 pm

    Your ideas are great. But if you want the people to cook and eat while cooking more, you will need a place for them to sit down.
    Some oriental restaurants have a cooking surface surrounded by a table and chairs so you can keep your food hot, cook more, and still be eating at the same time. Almost like a hot plate sitting in the middle of the table where everyone can reach the cooking surface with ease.
    This idea hasn’t caught on in the Western world. But I like it as I have eaten in this type of arrangement before.
    A mobile unit would definitely be a plus, then you could even move it outdoors for guests to use.
    Was not able to view the last immage, browser wouldn’t support the image for some reason.
    Good luck in your project.

  10. May 6, 2008 4:01 pm

    I couldn’t add a thing to what has been posted. I want somewhere to set. I want room for my wine glass… some place to chop, an oven, possibly a sink and dishwasher … I’m not sure all of this is possible in a unit that can be taken with you when you move. Nix the dishwasher and sink I guess.

  11. Claire permalink
    May 6, 2008 4:09 pm

    Just to clear up: induction cooktops create an electromagnetic field which causes magnetic materials (e.g. steel) to heat up by friction of internal molecules; it has no effect on other materials like glass, wood, etc.. You can directly touch the surface with your hand when it is switched on and not feel anything. It is also very easily controllable, and will heat pots/pans very quickly. The beauty of it is that nothing bakes on the surface like halogen or other smooth top version so it’s really easy to clean, and it’s as controllable as gas.
    So no worries, your wine won’t boil!

    Good insight on the Asian cooking by the way; I spent a semester there last year so I was very influenced by their cooking/eating style. i thought it was a really good idea to cook and eat at the same time like they do for hotpot, and pretty entertaining as well! I’m sort of combining that with buffet stype eating in the western world. I like to taste loads of different things in one sitting…

    PS: We’ll see about the sketch crawl in NYC; I’m might move to the US in september, so I could stop over with Mom…

  12. May 6, 2008 5:37 pm

    Great idea. I don’t think I would use it for daily cooking but it would be great fun for dinner parties. With another family we are doing monthly theme parties (French food, Thai, etc) and it would be great to have something like this to work around. The lower level would also make it easier for children to join in the cooking. But I picture this more as an outside model for us then an inside. My kitchen just wouldn’t have a place to handle this. And as a second cooking unit, I wouldn’t be able to pay a lot for it. Maybe a few hundred $$$? But I do think it is a good idea and just may start appearing in new kitchens everywhere! I wish you well on your project.

  13. nbd95 permalink
    May 6, 2008 5:40 pm

    Hi Claire,

    Great idea with the induction cook top. I can’t really see the base of the unit, but in the drawing it looks like it goes to the floor. I think a recess, like a base cabinet, would be necessary for comfort of the cook. I am also tall, so the height would be a killer for me.

    The knives could be an issue, too. One solution could be putting them farther in the block so the handles don’t stick out, with a slight angle so the don’t fall out. This is assuming of course that it in not a solid block of wood (talk about back strain!)

    The idea is a great for a party atmosphere, but I think I would want to be able to move it out of the way for the daily grind.

    Good luck on your project! – Denise

  14. May 6, 2008 6:22 pm

    Cool idea Claire!

    I also think it needs seats/stools. it’d be great to be able to sit around it like a table or bar and help or watch the meal prepared and then partake of the food-ly creations without moving to a table. Would be neat to have a whole mini kitchen in a mobile unit that could easily from room to room to patio.

  15. May 6, 2008 7:04 pm

    I’m short so I LOVE the idea of a lower cooktop!!!! Having a whole kitchen designed around a model that is nearly a foot taller than me is, quite literally, a pain. It would also be easier to include children in the cooking process with the lower surface. Induction is a wonderful idea for keeping it safe for group use. Some sort of mobility, like casters would make it more versatile.

  16. Kathleen permalink
    May 7, 2008 1:59 am

    Claire, I think you have done very well here. I would imagine that something like this would need to cost $1500 or so. I couldn’t afford it, but if I could afford it I would get one, if it came in a more traditional style (which I’m sure you could work out). I would want it somewhat higher up. So you might either want to think of a handicap height model and a regular height model, or one that the height can be adjusted. I would also like to be able to sit around it with my feet tucked under, so the shelves underneath could be removed for that. Maybe you could have a little bit of storage accessible from the short ends, located just in the middle of the island so you can still have shelves or seating space under the island at the long sides. Anyway–nice job.

  17. May 7, 2008 3:17 am

    When I first started reading about your project, my interest was piqued by your idea of creating a more sociable cooking environment. The guests are going to be in the kitchen anyway, might as well put them to work in a way that promotes good conversation. participation, and experimentation. For the station to keep people interested, I would also support the idea of seating being readily available, if not integral to the station itself. In the same vein, if the shelves are to be removed, where would they be stored? I would suggest shelves that flip up and out of the way within the unit itself.
    Is an induction cooktop thin and relatively lightweight? If so, I would be more drawn to a portable unit that could be put on top of an existing island, picnic table, or (god forbid!) a coffee table in front of the TV.
    Does each person around the station have their own set of controls?
    The idea of custom accessories would be a good selling feature; but, I question the combining of a cutting board with horizontal knife storage. I can see the juices overflowing and getting all over the knife handles.
    I admire your design enthusiasm! Good luck with it.

  18. May 7, 2008 6:17 am

    I hope you don’t mind me dropping by: I couldn’t resist the idea of a induction gathering spot!

    I agree with the other thoughts–not sold on the horizontal knife storage under the butcher block, but quite like the induction as tabletop theme.

    One of my first thoughts was to soften the corners – perhaps make the top a oval shape with slight overhang on all sides. Less chance of banging one’s thigh (and which might provide just enough overhang for the stools everyone has mentioned.) A “T” base might lessen the shelves but provide even more seating area although wouldn’t be as easy for wheelchair users to reach the shelves. Hmmm.

    I would see this as two heights as well if it went to market.

    Also, at 80cm x 120cm, it’s just enough to position 6 people maximum around the unit if everybody keeps their elbows in. (Each person being approximately 60cm wide.) Would that be enough for the dinner parties?

    In California, the unit would be considered fine for family, but too small for a dinner party. (Many of my clients have between 12-40 people over for a gathering; I’ve been here 9 years and it still takes some time to get used to.)

    I can see how well it might do in Europe–being able to move it from room to room would definitely be a bonus. I’m less sure as to how it’d fare in the U.S. or Canada (although I could see the potential of having one as an island or even having an island built around it.)

    Having said that, I could see it positioned for the 20-40 luxury market with heavy focus on a “cool/trendy” internet pitch. (I’ve not seen much of the luxury market here with the children gathered around to cook.) The older generation might view it as a step up from the old fondue parties of the 1960s and 1970s–the marketing pitch might be that nod to the past.

    I hope that helps. Best of luck with your thesis!

  19. May 7, 2008 9:57 am

    Hmmm – lots of interesting comments. I’m not crazy about the lower cooking surface but can see it’s usefulness for wheelchair bound cooks – it might be a nice option.
    Where would the people eat? I’d like to see this surrounded by a curvy sitting area, where plates could rest and people could then sample the food and just sit right there and chat with the cook = or where serving bowls could sit to get filled up with new food, and then the guests would be interactive and take the food to the table. And perhaps a prep area – but as someone said, I can’t see the last photo so perhaps I’m missing something.

    are we really too nice?

  20. Claire permalink
    May 7, 2008 10:33 am

    Hi guys,
    Thanks again for all your comments; they are extremely helpful! I didn’t think I’d get such a good turnout..
    I probably should have said that there are a few more configurations for the cooking station (i.e. an 160x80cm and an 80x80cm).
    This is pretty much a conceptual piece, so it definetly would have to be modified to suit exisiting kitchens… For now, to give you an idea of the price; each of the integrated induction elements (3 in total) cost about 950euros, so the total unit including the shelves made of expensive woods and the stainless steel base…. REALLY EXPENSIVE!!
    I definetly want to develop the range if I have a chance; this is really more of a conceptual design to set the tone for a collection (like those crazy cars they design that would never work)
    Thanks again, you’re all going into the acknowledgement section, so if you’re in Dublin next year check it out at the DIT library…

    PS: if you think you’re not too nice, you should hear what my engineering lecturers will have to say about my project… I’m getting cold sweats just thinking about how they’re going to massacre me… (still can’t figure out why engineers are teaching a design course..)

  21. May 7, 2008 4:38 pm

    Hi claire
    I’m impressed…it looks good and I can’t add anything as all the points have been well mentioned, so I think you’ve got great input from the “public out there”…good luck on the final presnetation!

  22. Claire permalink
    May 8, 2008 8:44 am

    Thanks Ronell! (I’m impressed with your strawberry desserts, really makes me in more of a hurry to come home…)

  23. Annie permalink
    May 8, 2008 9:40 am

    I flunked physics, Claire, so I am not sure
    about how this could work, but I would like
    to see a cooking top that could raise to
    several heights on posts, you know,
    similar to those big coffee tables
    that raise into dining tables? And I
    love anything portable. Good luck.

  24. Henrietta permalink
    May 8, 2008 10:44 pm

    A fascinating design – I would like to add to the person who suggested a rolling wooden shelf that fits over the whole unit (like a bed-table in the hospital!) why? because it makes the unit feel more accessible, more friendly – a cube feels a little hostile with no inlets or other features to break up the surface or the edges. Plus the rolling table thing gives a higher height and this is important for people’s backs. Also maybe have incursions of wooden areas at intervals along the edge? Even though I understand about induction heating but psychologically, to have some islands is soothing. I do love this whole concept, it is very cool! Be brave when facing the examiners, deal from your strengths and never apologize!

  25. jay permalink
    October 12, 2008 5:09 am

    good but is it expensive.. like the available ones in the market


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