We remodeled this kitchen three years ago when I was seven-and-a-half months pregnant, and the contractor promised it would be an easy five week job. Then of course I was three-and-a-half weeks early with Dahlia, and the kitchen was two-and-a-half weeks late. I went into labor to the sound of hammering and sawing downstairs, and when I was leaving for the hospital I told the contractor “Finish the kitchen now — I’m having a baby!” Maybe that’s the only thing in New York that’ll get a renovation finished? Now I’ll always associate this kitchen with Dahlia’s birth.
The one most important priority I had for the remodel was a pull-out pantry that I could find everything in. I have a lot of condiments — I need to, professionally — and I couldn’t ever find anything in the back of my shelves. But the architect screwed up, and the unit was too wide to fit the standard Ikea pull-out cabinet (all my cabinets are from Ikea), so for three years I suffered until finally I found this amazing builder/carpenter, Andy of Brooklynbilt, who remodeled the remodel.
Credit: Noah Fecks
I used to have all my spices in a crowded cabinet right by the stove, which was just the stupidest thing. When Andy came he installed special spice drawers for me and now I can find everything! All my spices are in square tins, which is key because they don’t roll around. They’re all labeled and organized by special Melissa Clark logic that wouldn’t make sense to anyone else. The top drawer is for the ones I use most: 28 kinds of chiles and all my sweet spices. Organizing them was this big project: my assistant, my recipe tester, and I all sat down and did it together. We had a kind of a therapy session during the whole thing, because they slowly had to wean me from spices from like 1998. I’d say “But I brought that one back from France!” and they’d tell me it smelled like nothing and needed to be thrown away. So that way it was like Spice Hoarders Anonymous, and we all held hands and threw the rest away.
One of my husband’s additions to the kitchen was this darkroom timer he’s had since high school, when he did a lot of photography. I keep it by the stove; I love that it’s super loud and I can hear it upstairs. If I relied on the little timer on my stove I would be burning everything.
I have this weird marble bust which used to live in a niche across from the bathroom in my aunt’s house, where she was always a grand presence since as long ago as I can remember. When she had to move to a nursing home, I brought the bust home. She was covered in dark yellow because my aunt was a smoker, so I put her out in the garden for a year; now she looks much better and lives in the kitchen. We keep changing what we want to name her, but I think her name is Florence. She’s our kitchen muse.
Interview conducted and condensed by Anna Stockwell