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When one of Vancouver superchef Dale MacKay’s friends was planning her outdoor kitchen, she turned to him for advice. Naturally: Not only is Mr. MacKay the first-ever Top Chef Canada, he also trained with Gordon Ramsay and has cooked in restaurant kitchens around the world, including Claridge’s Hotel and the Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in London, The Conrad Tokyo Hotel and Daniel Boulud’s Lumière and db bistro moderne in Vancouver.
In 2011, he launched two restaurants of his own in Vancouver, Ensemble and Ensemble Tap, a.k.a. ETAP. He is also a “massive” barbecue fan.
Start at the top
The first and best thing for an outdoor kitchen, says Mr. MacKay, is to have it at least half covered, “because you’re going to want to use it rain or shine.” A cover is important even when the kitchen is not in use as it takes a serious toll from the weather, he notes.
No. 2 on Mr. MacKay’s outdoor kitchen list is a sink. “Having running water is kind of important if you plan on entertaining out there and actually using it as a kitchen outdoors. Not everyone’s going to be able to, but having that is a huge plus.”
Put it together
Mr. MacKay recommends an L-shaped space. On the longer part of the L, he would put the barbecue with counter space, a little prep area and maybe cupboards underneath. On the shorter part of the L would be the sink, a wash-up area and the fridge underneath. The best place for a bar is either beside the sink or opposite the L arrangement. “You don’t want it close to the barbecue. You want it either on the opposite side or the far other end” away from the heat.
Make counter plans
If you are going to build your barbecue into a counter, Mr. MacKay says to make sure to allocate some space to put plates and utensils beside the barbecue. A laminate or tile surface is both easy to clean and waterproof. “You don’t want a wood surface, in my opinion, because even if it rains in the morning and then you come out and want to use it in the afternoon when it’s sunny, the wood is still going to be all wet.”
Depending on your setup, Mr. MacKay says having an outdoor fridge is great both for prepping food and keeping it outside, as well as for drinks. He recommends a fridge that can be locked so you can store food outside without having to worry about theft. Plus, it will keep children out.
Add the finishing touch
“And finally,” says Mr. MacKay, “if it’s really, really posh, it would be nice to have an ice well.”