Tom Price always thought it would be nice to have a kitchen designed with a drain in the middle of the floor. That way, he could just "hose it down" because "sometimes cooking can be so darn messy."
He now has a kitchen where he can do just that because his kitchen is outside.
Price, a plumbing contractor, designed the outdoor kitchen for his North Tustin home so he can use it at least three times a week, usually year-round.
The L-shaped kitchen has a barbecue with a rotisserie, a commercial griddle, two gas burners, a sink with a garbage disposal, plenty of counter space, storage areas and electrical outlets. It cost about $5,700.
Now, when Price prepares fried chicken or tacos, cleanup is easy. He just closes the barbecue cover and places a custom-made cover of galvanized sheet metal over the grill and burners. Then he squirts a little cleaner on the counter, wipes it lightly and hoses everything down.
Price isn't the only back-yard chef.
He's just one of a growing number of people who are taking the traditional Southern California back-yard barbecue to a whole new level.
"Outside barbecue units and kitchens are becoming a lot stronger," says Dale Waldo of D.W.L.A., a Tustin landscape architect firm. "I think once people understand how to barbecue and cook outside, they really use it quite a bit."
There's no set rule about what an outdoor kitchen has to include. The idea is to enhance a barbecue area to include whatever will make it more convenient to prepare and serve a meal outside.
Some people want a counter area where guests can sit around in chairs or bar stools, talk with the chef and consume the results of his or her efforts. Others also want a refrigerator to save trips back into the house. Or maybe they need a sink for washing vegetables.
Earthstone Ovens in Studio City is even beginning to interest people in outdoor wood-fire ovens that can cook pizza, chicken, roasts and other items. The ovens cost about $1,000 and installation is $600 to $3,000. Most people with outdoor kitchens want electrical outlets so they can use hot plates, electric skillets, blenders or crock pots outside.
Sam and Kathy Perricone of San Juan Capistrano told their landscape architect they wanted a barbecue. Originally they had something small in mind, according to Carl Vella, a landscape architect in Costa Mesa.
What Vella designed was a U-shaped counter near a pool area. The counter has an eating area, a large barbecue, an under-the-counter refrigerator, a sink, electrical outlets and storage areas.
"When we finished the preliminary designs and explained how it would function and the ease with which they could carry out their entertaining, why, they absolutely had to have it," Vella says.
The Perricones' outdoor kitchen has two 10-foot-long counters covered in 2-inch-square aqua-colored ceramic tile. Part of the wall of the outdoor kitchen is Slumpstone with a bull-nose brick cap on it. The rest is brick.
Then there is the six-acre estate that interior designer RoxAnn Johnson of Spatial Expressions in Orange worked on. The Los Angeles home has two pools--a volleyball pool and a diving pool.
An outdoor refreshment center became part of an entertainment area that was 100 feet away from a home.
A barbecue, tables with chairs and patio umbrellas are on one side of the volleyball pool, and a sunken refreshment center is on the other side. The refreshment center's countertop is level with the pool and bar stools are inside the pool so people can swim up, take a stool and socialize with the chef.
The counter has dark blue ceramic tile to match the pool tile. The refreshment center includes a deep stainless steel sink with lab-style faucets, storage for glasses and bottles, an ice maker and a small stainless steel refrigerator under the counter, according to Johnson.
Price says he uses his outdoor kitchen so often that "we've got a fairly virgin (indoor) kitchen."
His favorite element is the 30-inch-wide commercial grill. "I do a lot of Oriental cooking," he says. "It's really nice for making fried rice on. You get the grill nice and hot and fry the rice and the vegetables, the stir-fry type of stuff.
"It's nice to have a place with a couple of burners," he adds. "If you want to put the beans or the vegetables out here, one person can watch the whole thing."
He's also pleased with his outdoor sink, which is made out of a granite-colored synthetic. He had a gray cast-iron sink at first, but didn't like the water spots. The sink has a vegetable scrubber, a pullout German faucet and a soap dispenser.
"When you bring home things like corn on the cob you won't have all that mess inside," he says. "You just bring it outside."
He uses the barbecue to cook steaks, chicken, pork chops, fish and even corn and baked potatoes. When the light begins to fade outside, he just snaps on his outdoor lighting, including a 100-watt floodlight directed at the barbecue.