At Home on the Range
Three local chefs with different cuisines and kitchens
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When adventurous palates meet imaginative chefs, magic ensues. And where the magic usually happens is in state-of-the art restaurant kitchens. What happens, though, when those chefs take off their toques and go home? Do they cook for themselves? What kind of appliances do they use? What are their favorite gadgets? What guests would they invite to dinner?
Those questions were inspired by a recent visit to chef Farina Wong Kingsley’s new home kitchen in Tiburon. We posed them to Kingsley and to Roxanne Klein and Scott Howard, two other acclaimed chefs who live in Marin.
The Cultured Chef: Farina Wong Kingsley
Raised in a traditional Cantonese family in San Francisco, Kingsley leads a life infused with both the culture and cuisine of China.
Armed with a degree in East Asian Studies, she studied Mandarin and completed culinary programs in the Bay Area and abroad, including Tante Marie’s Cooking School in San Francisco, the Oriental Hotel Cooking School in Bangkok and the Hong Kong Kowloon Restaurant School in Hong Kong. She cooked at the Shanghai Eating Club in Hong Kong and at the Ritz-Carlton Dining Room in San Francisco under top chef Gary Danko.
A cookbook author (Asian for Williams-Sonoma) and a recipe tester and contributor (to Nonna’s Kitchen, A Spoonful of Ginger and Savoring Southeast Asia, among others), Kingsley is also a designer for her family’s two furniture companies. She serves as Asian specialist and culinary instructor at Tante Marie’s Cooking School and as consultant for the Center for Culinary Development in San Francisco, where she develops and publishes recipes. Her two latest books, The Aqua Restaurant Cookbook and Food Made Fast – Asian for Williams-Sonoma, will soon be in bookstores.
Kingsley’s house, which she shares with husband Chris and daughters Sophia and Lane, is in the Tiburon hills. The 700-square- foot kitchen with granite countertops and taupe hand-painted cabinetry has a gracious, California-contemporary style. During its refurbishing, Kingsley kept the existing stainless steel appliances, including a Viking cooktop, ovens and warming drawer, along with two dishwashers and an espresso center from Miele, and added a Kitchen-Aid icemaker, a U-Line wine cabinet and a Sub-Zero refrigerator.
Who was your cooking inspiration? My paternal grandmother from China, who taught me the foundations of Cantonese and Shanghainese cooking.
How does cooking at home differ from cooking at work? Cooking at home is more about convenience, being efficient with my time and being able to watch my girls while preparing meals for my family.
What are your kitchen essentials? Fresh and dried ingredients from Clement Street in San Francisco, local farmers’ markets and my home vegetable garden in Tiburon; sharp knives; and a high-BTU stove with a powerful vent.
What are your favorite kitchen tools or appliances? My mini food processor, mortar and pestle, and double dishwashers.
What is the best surprise of your kitchen? My pot filler faucet above my stove. It’s perfect for filling large pots and stir-frying.
How would you improve your kitchen? A large wok burner in addition to my six-burner Viking stovetop and deeper cabinets for storage of large platters and woks. Down the line, I would like to replace the Viking stovetop with either a larger Wolf or a Jade cooktop, both of which simmer at a consistent, lower flame than Viking. They also offer sealed burners that are much easier to clean.
What are the top dishes that you cook at home? Thai curries, Asian-style dumplings of all kinds, and grilled marinated meats wrapped in banana leaves. I always try to experiment with unique fresh ingredients in authentic Asian recipes, such as interesting greens, herbs or different cuts of meat.
What would you serve at your dream dinner party and whom would you invite? I would serve stations of Singaporean street food from Laksa (such as curry noodle soup), assorted satay on skewers, wok-seared chili crab and wonderful exotic fruits. My ideal guest would be my paternal grandfather, whom I never met and who passed away long ago. He was an entrepreneur who traveled the world and started the ground transportation system in Macau, China. Also, Aung San Su Kyi, the democratic leader of Myanmar, and Nelson Mandela.
What are your plans? I would like to continue to write food-related books, maybe something on Asian street food or how to create and cook from an Asian pantry.