Steam oven makes the most of summer corn: Karen Williams

Now that we’re at the peak of summer, fresh corn from the farmer’s market is on the menu almost nightly. Here’s where I love my steam oven. I put the corn in for three minutes, in or out of the husk, and it always comes out just right, moist and flavorful. Great for eating by itself, or in a corn, tomato and avocado salad. So much faster and easier than boiling it.

I love my steam oven for corn and three-minute eggs. And because it's also a convection oven, it does double duty.

I love my steam oven for corn and three-minute eggs. And because it's also a convection oven, it does double duty.

With all the house guests in the summer, the steam oven comes in handy for breakfast too. I break an egg into an individual ramekin, add some gruyere, salt and pepper, and steam for three minutes. Perfect! And everyone can eat on their own schedule.

Great new prep center sink: Karen Williams

A great prep sink. I'd put the Crevasse into a butcher block station.

A great prep sink with disposal. I'd put the Crevasse into a butcher block station.

I’m all about the importance of the prep center. Good prep is the secret to great food, so the prep center is really the heart of the kitchen. That’s why I love this cool and convenient stainless sink with disposal. Scrape your peelings into it, touch a button, and the water sends everything into the disposer. There are three rinse cycles. The sink is compatible with all continuous-feed disposals and measures about 31 inches by 6 inches.

Karen Williams loves traditional with a twist

I’m often asked to create a kitchen that’s traditional, but fresh. To keep traditional from becoming boring, I opt for out-of-the-ordinary materials and eye-catching elements. This kitchen is a great example with its dramatic underlit agate island. The semi-precious stone takes the kitchen to a whole new level.

Underlit agate island adds a fresh twist to a traditional kitchen.

Underlit agate island adds a fresh twist to a traditional kitchen.

The cooking center is housed in a marble-clad niche adjacent to the island and features classic white and stainless cabinetry to contrast with the wood on the island.

Marble-clad niche houses the cooking center adjacent to the agate island.

Marble-clad niche houses the cooking center adjacent to the agate island.

And for added utility, there are convenient marble-clad pull-outs next to the range.

Sasha marble pullout

Cleverly concealed marble-faced pull-outs keep everything within the cook's reach.

Other touches I love in this kitchen: frosted sliding doors that close off the room, a see-through china hutch that reveals the marble tile on the wall, and two sinks side by side, each with their own faucet. Ideal for two cooks working next to each other.

Who says traditional is boring?

Decorati profiles Karen Williams

I had the honor of being profiled by the high-end interior design website Decorati in an article  headlined “Metropolitan Moxie.” The author Karin Edwards wrote about my “soft, lovely spin on modern ergonomics” and mentioned that my designs “channel classic couture.”  We talked a lot about the importance of creating kitchens that make everyone feel right at home. And about looking beyond all style idioms to a “shared sense of place.”

My Decorati profile.


And you can also check out profiles of Geoffrey Bradfield, Charles Pavarini, Barclay Butera, Joe Nahem and other A-list designers.


CBS News Sunday Morning’s Martha Teichner interviewed me  for an upcoming design segment on refrigeration. The producers were looking for an expert to discuss the changing design aspects of the appliance as part of a segment on the history of refrigeration.

CBS New's Martha Teichner interviews me about refrigeration.

CBS New's Martha Teichner interviews me about refrigeration.

We talked about when I started 30 years ago in this business, clients were still hauling out their hairdryers and icepicks to defrost their “iceboxes.” And how awful food tasted with that freezer burn. And from a design aspect, there was only a built-in that somewhat concealed the unit…or there was a hulking avocado or harvest gold monstrosity.

Then we fast-forwarded to today’s freedom of design thanks to fully integrated refrigeration, point-of-use units and wine storage. I pointed out how we’ve taken integration to the next level with fronts that are a combination of materials that can reduce the visual size of a unit, as I did in my showroom and my own home.

CBS was interested in our new take on integrating refrigeration.

CBS was interested in the new take on integrating refrigeration in our showroom.

Plus I explained how with the new drawers, refrigeration can move into other rooms like bedrooms, living rooms, dens and dining rooms. Wine units give us even more flexibility. And I showed them how a refrigerator can now take on any style when we specify cabinetry.

I explained to CBS how a refrigerator takes on the style of the room's cabinetry.

I explained to CBS how a refrigerator takes on the style of the room's cabinetry.

Finally we blue skyed a bit about the future. Why not have a small U-shaped larder you can stand in, to see all your party platters? Why not have more user-friendly refrigeration in cars, that moves from auto to home? And units that switch from freezer to fridge as needs change?

You can see the segment at Click on the story Baby It’s Cold Inside that Box.

Karen Williams on what a kitchen designer learned in cooking school

After 30 years at St. Charles of New York I still love kitchen design as well as cooking. I’m always learning new techniques at hands-on demonstrations. But wanting  a refresher course in the fundamentals, I signed up for a class at the Escoffier school at the Ritz in Paris.  Whew! We donned our chef’s whites at 8:30 and worked until 5:30 every day. But it was worth it.

All ready for class to begin
All ready for class.

Excellent ingredients and painstaking prep, I learned, are the heart of good cooking. I mastered the art of meticulously dicing or chopping everything precisely the same size so that it cooks consistently. We spent a lot of time on this.

If you don’t prepare an orange properly, for example, removing all the bitter white pith, you’ll never make a good duck a l’orange. A boning knife, it turns out, is the best tool for the job.

Thorough prep and good ingredients are key.
Thorough prep and good ingredients are key.
We went through dozens of eggs!
We went through dozens of eggs!

Once everything was prepped, we took all the ingredients  to the cooking area on a cookie sheet. I loved working on the La Cornue ranges with the French plaque, because it is so easy to control the heat by moving the pan to a hotter or cooler part of the top. You don’t have to fiddle with the burners constantly. It’s perfect for making sauces.

cooking P1070286

I loved using the La Cornue ranges with the French plaque.

We were graded not only on the taste of the food, but also on presentation which is just as important. We learned not to drown the food in a sauce, but add it on the side to enhance the flavors.

Presentation really matters.
Presentation really matters. Note the perfectly prepared oranges.

What was the most important thing I learned at the Escoffier about kitchen design? That it’s all about stations, not the work triangle. And the  prep station is key. You don’t need a lot of counter space at the range because everything is prepped first and then brought to the cooking station. So the old rules don’t hold up.

Graduation...and new insights on kitchens.
Graduation…and new insights on kitchens.

The rotisserie: Karen Williams’ new favorite way to cook

It’s no wonder I became a kitchen designer. I’ve loved cooking ever since I was a kid when the wonderful aromas of simmering sauces permeated our Italian home.  Later I became fascinated by design. And now I’m lucky enough to combine both passions in my career here at St. Charles of New York.

In the 30 years I’ve been practicing kitchen design, my love of food and entertaining has given me special insights into creating beautiful custom kitchens that put joy and ease into cooking. So naturally I take every opportunity to learn more about new techniques.

Two schools in Paris

Last month I attended two cooking schools in Paris. One was the Escoffier at the Ritz Carlton where I learned everything from making the perfect (labor intensive!) stock to an awesome duck a la orange. The second was at the La Cornue showroom where I learned the (less labor intensive!) techniques of rotisserie cooking and tappanyaki grilling.

In this blog I’ll share what I learned about rotisseries. In future posts I’ll talk about the tappanyaki, convection ovens, the French plate and what I learned at the Escoffier.

Simple, moist and delicious

What I loved about the Flamberge rotisserie (so much that I’m building one into my apartment kitchen) is how simple it is to use, and how moist and delicious the food is. Really, it’s just about idiot proof. You preheat the unit, load the food onto the spits, attach them to the rotisserie and start cooking. The initial blast of heat sears in the flavor, then after about 15 minutes you turn it down and let it do its thing.

Although you see flames at the bottom, and on the ceramic wicks in the back, they never actually touch the food. Instead they create radiant heat that cooks the meat, poultry or fish (in a special basket) indirectly. The food self bastes and stays incredibly moist. And in case you were wondering, the rotisserie does not put heat out into the room at all.

Clean up is a breeze

And no,  it does not spatter either. The ceramic dish catches juices that can help flavor any vegetables…we put onions in it and finished them up later with potatoes in the oven. Clean up is a breeze too. Spits and the ceramic dish go in the dishwasher. The rotisserie itself wipes clean.

A simple way to make a wonderful meal especially when entertaining. Can’t wait to use mine at home.

Loading the rotisserie spits
Loading the rotisserie spits
Watching the meat as it self bastes and flavors the onions/
Watching the meat as it self bastes and flavors the onions

karen cutting meat small

Serving up a great meal