On Wednesday, revealed its latest cover star, and it's someone you may have heard of. Yes, Kim Kardashian West, the original Instagram influencer, beauty maven, and all around PERSONAL BRAND graces the cover of the iconic 'zine in her first Vogue solo spotlight (Kardashian fans and haters alike will remember she snagged the cover in 2014).
In the accompanying article, veteran celebrity writer Jonathan van Meter does an excellent job of portraying the lesser-seen sides of Kardashian West: Her newfound passion for criminal justice reform, her law studies, and the particularly soothing effect of her presence. Admittedly even I, far from a Kardashian fan and someone who hasn't watched one episode of the clan's famous show, was intrigued.
Really, what grabbed me was one detail: In his description of Kardashian and West's home, a plastered modern marvel by the revered Belgian minimalist Axel Vervoordt, van Meter divulges that the Kardashians have two kitchens. Not because one is in a guest house or a pool house or a mother-in-law suite (though those may well exist—van Meter's description is a rare glimpse into the West's private family home); because one is a "staff" kitchen and one is a "show" kitchen.
Despite the fact that the latter boasts "an island as big as a dance floor" and a breakfast "nook" that seats 20 (might want to find another word there, Jonathan), van Meter divulges that the staff kitchen is "where the family inevitably winds up spending most of their time together." Alongside, presumably, the staff for whom it is named: The team of culinary experts tasked with preparing meals for some of the world's most obsessed-over people.
This phenomenon of separate kitchens for cooking (ew, messy) and presentation is hardly one unique to the first family of reality TV. Numerous designers I spoke to revealed that, for super high-end projects, it's not uncommon to delineate separate spaces for staff.
One Dallas designer recently created a "formal" kitchen with a large island as part of an open floor plan; behind the free-floating millwork is the "working" kitchen, where staff prepares meals. "So one does not have to look at messy pans, food, and utensils," she explains.
Hamptons-based designer sees the phenomenon a lot "out East." The show kitchen, she says, is "the show pony of the two, designed as part of the home, with the owner in mind. This is where you can have more fun with the budget and splurge on statement lighting, or incorporate a beautiful piece of artwork that would ignite conversation during parties," she reveals. "The staff kitchen is more about function than decor."
It's not just an American trend, either: "It's common in Brazil, in wealthier homes with live-in staff," says the Rio-born, New York-based designer "They're called the 'gourmet' kitchens for when you cook yourself—it may have an open layout with a pizza oven or a nice BBQ outside, and then the staff kitchen is essentially a staff quarters."
This speaks to a larger history of kitchens: Up until the 20th century, of course, the kitchen in wealthier (and, often, even middle class) households was always hidden away. Dirty from the wood-burning stove and smelly from ingredients (especially in the era before refrigeration), the kitchen was the realm of servants and cooks. Downton Abbey fans, how often do you see the Crawleys down in the basement with Mrs. Patmore?
With the advent of gas stoves, refrigerators, and more streamlined appliances—plus the decline in household staff—in the 20th century, the kitchen became the domain of the woman of the house. Now, with more recent moves towards open floor plans (more thoughts on those here), the kitchen is increasingly serving as the hub of the household. And even families whose staff means they themselves have little to do in the kitchen don't want to miss out.
Enter: the two kitchens. In India, where household staff is common for wealthy families, Brian DeMuro of say he and partner Peru Das do double kitchens "all the time," quipping "the show kitchen is done with the idea that the family will use it but I doubt they ever do."
For the Kardashian Wests, of course, the concept is taken to the nth degree: Bigger, brighter, and better equipped with top of the line appliances, it is the ultimate manifestation of America's cultural fantasy. Keeping up with the Kardashians, indeed.
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