At home with Chef Michael Smith

When the folks at Cascade recently invited me (and a few other lucky guests) to join Chef Michael Smith in his home for a holiday preview dinner, which included a recipe from his new book, Back to Basics: 100 Simple Classic Recipes With a Twist (Penguin 2013), I jumped at the chance.

Located next to the Fortune River in Prince Edward Island, Smith’s home is an oasis from his busy life as a celebrity chef, author and TV host. The newlywed, who married his longtime partner in their home just days before our visit, joked that he was technically on his honeymoon.

Honeymoon or not, he graciously invited us to tour his property, complete with a custom-built treehouse for the kids(!) and an impressive garage workspace, which he renovated to house a photography studio, an office and a test kitchen.

The Smiths’ treehouse

Smith’s home kitchen is impeccably organized and layered with rich wood accents. His signature stockpile of canning jars filled with spices and herbs line the wall from floor to ceiling. The row of clocks that hang on the wall above the patio door is a nod to all of the Smiths’ favourite places, including Hatteras, North Carolina, where the family likes to vacation; Hyde Park in London, England, where Smith worked as an apprentice; and Kenya, where the proceeds from the annual Village Feast fundraiser go to support village cookhouses, farmers and the community.

A row of clocks shows many of the places that are most important to the Smiths

Smith’s kitchen was designed with his family’s needs in mind. Everything has a place and a reason for being there. The knife block is built into the countertop for easy adult access, built-in cooling racks sit conveniently next to the wall ovens and barstools line the kitchen island for both eating and hanging out.

Smith’s functional family-friendly kitchen

For dinner, we gathered in Smith’s test kitchen to sample dishes including Arugula Salad with Goat Cheese & Pears, Prosciutto Roasted Chicken with Sage Mustard Rub, Garlic-Scented Kale and Cranberry Pavlova for dessert.

Simple and lovely: Arugula Salad with Goat Cheese & Pears as featured in Smith’s newest book

Easy and delicious: Prosciutto Roasted Chicken with Sage Mustard Rub and Garlic-Scented Kale

Most of us aren’t in the position to have a custom-designed kitchen, but regardless of what yours looks like, a big part of keeping it clean is to make cleanliness a priority. It almost sounds too simple to be true, but this is something that Smith has trained himself to do over his years working in restaurant kitchens.

After dinner, I got the chance to sit down with Smith to swap tips on how we like to keep our kitchens clean. Here is a list of our Top 5 tips.

1. Be prepared for garbage.

When you do your meal prep, keep a bowl on your counter for garbage. This way, you can chop, peel and discard anything you don’t need without having to reach for the garbage can every time you make a move.

2. Be prepared for dirty utensils.

No spoon rest? No problem. Use a small plate or bowl to hold your dirty spoon or tongs, because it’s inevitable that you’re going to need to put them down at some point.

3. Get your dirty dishes out of the way.

No one needs the anxiety of looking at a huge pile of dirty dishes, so load your dishwasher as you go and use a good-quality detergent. (Smith used Cascade Platinum Pacs during our dinner.)

4. Get organized.

Arrange your kitchen work area the same way you would organize your work desk. All of the things you use the most – such as cutting boards, tongs and knives – should be within arm’s reach.

5. Clean as you go.

Have a sink full of hot soapy water ready to quickly take care of anything delicate or to just wash up your high-volume kitchen tools, like your favourite pair of tongs. (Let’s face it, most of us don’t have multiples on hand.) Also, keep a clean, wet dishcloth or paper towels on hand for easy wiping.

What are your favourite kitchen cleaning tips?