Nationally recognized chef Spike Mendelsohn has never been one to follow the status quo. From working with local organizations to make a positive impact on the food system, to owning and operating more than five different dining concepts in the DMV, his decades-long career has been diverse.
And now, this fall, Mendelsohn is trying something new once again by becoming the brand ambassador to NoVA-based builder Van Metre Homes. The Van Metre x Spike initiative will include the launch of Spiked Kitchen, featuring several designs for the home that are inspired by the needs of a chef, as well as in-person and virtual demonstrations that at-home cooks can follow along with.
Ahead of the launch, we chatted with Mendelsohn about what it was like to intertwine the standard home kitchen with that of a chef’s, how his personal style is incorporated into the designs and so much more. Find highlights from our conversation below.
What inspired this partnership between you and Van Metre?
Van Metre and I definitely share the same belief that the soul of a home for most people is in the kitchen, at least it is in my family. I think Van Metre was looking for a way to amplify the message and they started seeking out a chef. Glenn Forester [Vice President of Marketing for Van Metre] had logged onto my website and saw the different things I’ve been up to, as I am not really the typical chef. I try to diversify the portfolio. He visited one of my restaurants, Vim & Victor, and loved the aesthetic and design of the kitchen. A lightbulb went off, he reached out and we hit it off.
The idea is that … I’ve always felt like the standard kitchen is designed behind this idea of the holy triangle, where the sink, island and fridge are all connected. But that’s not really functional for a home chef or someone who is actually trying to entertain in the kitchen. This partnership really represented the opportunity to bring a constructive idea to the classic home kitchen and give home chefs a world-class kitchen they can feel good about.
How is your own personal spin, both as a professional chef and as a person who cooks at home, incorporated in the soon-to-be-released kitchen designs from Van Metre?
I’ve been working in world-class kitchens my entire life, and I’ve also been able to cook in many home kitchens. One of the things I’m really bringing to the home kitchen from the restaurant kitchen is the idea of preparation, where things are done in sections … We are really trying to make great use of the pantry for instance. The pantry is useful, it may have a sink in there, a fridge, tabletops to work, a place to hold appliances, it actually acts as a home sous chef, if you will. You can do a lot of your preparation in that pantry kitchen, and then during the entertainment hours you can filter things into the kitchen as an execution kitchen. That really mimics a restaurant-style kitchen and you can feel at ease while you’re entertaining.
The process of creating these designs was really about the detail. For instance, a lot of the times your oven is underneath your stovetop. You always have to bend down to look, see how things are going, you’re worried about kids (if you have them) getting burned … In a restaurant kitchen, the stove is eye level and you have your pots and pans underneath it, in your range. So small little details like that, or a deep sink, the right type of shelving that’s open so you can see what you’re working with. Researching all that was fun for me.
Can you tell us more about the experiences that you and Van Metre plan on hosting?
Obviously, in this modern-day world right now, safety is our first concern. There are so many opportunities to go virtual, and that’s kind of what we are leading with. We don’t want to congregate together at kitchens until things settle down a bit. We are going to do a virtual cooking event, maybe with my mother or that kind of thing. The sky’s the limit with how we promote these things. It’s going to be so fun, I am the right guy for that.
What recipes and tips will be included in the virtual offerings?
I am constantly filming at the Van Metre homes. Those videos are anything from fully cooked meals (I just did a Vietnamese fish recipe on there), to kitchen hacks like how to peel kale off the stem, ensure avocados are ripe, all these small hacks that are fun. It’s these nicely condensed, short recipe videos so people can follow along and not feel overwhelmed.
In your own opinion, what does every kitchen need to have in it?
One of the things is a butcher block built into the island. If you’re serious about cooking, a butcher block can help with prep work. You can clean it off and it’s a centerpiece of the kitchen. Definitely one of the big features is the pantry, how we are taking a pantry to the next level by incorporating refrigeration, even a window so you have a view while you’re in there. And as for appliances, everybody has to have a blender. If you don’t have a blender right now, I don’t know what you’re doing. There’s so much you can do … if you don’t have one, now you know. Get a blender.
What recipes have you been obsessing over this summer?
I’ve been grilling a ton of Beyond burgers, which are delicious. I am onto this plant-based movement right now and some of my favorite recipes are based on these Beyond burgers. I’ve also been doing some fun watermelon gazpacho with jalapeno. I’ve lately been dehydrating mushrooms too, having fun with all sorts of different varieties. I watched the documentary Fantastic Fungi and it really inspired me. I am having a lot of fun with different ingredients I don’t use. I am kind of trying to push the limits here.
The Van Metre Homes team is also giving local residents the chance to receive $20,000 off a new home through its Staycation with Spike promotion, open only until Friday, July 31, if they buy a home between July 1 and July 31. With the promotion, Van Metre will help you create an ideal chef’s kitchen, outdoor oasis or a spa bathroom that fits your needs. Find out more here.
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