Landscape Visions: Beyond the barbecue

A backyard cookout isn’t what it used to be. In fact, the latest “must-have” in entertaining is a deluxe outdoor kitchen. The trend toward including the backyard as another living space fuels the demand for high-end, outdoor kitchens landscaped for privacy and functionality. Pantelis “Pete” Georgiadis, president of Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet, says the most recent market research estimates U.S. households with full outdoor kitchens (defined as a grill, refrigeration, sink, storage and countertop island) will more than double from 1 million to 2.2 million in the next year.

What’s driving the trend toward backyard entertaining?

PG: Homeowners want to escape to an outdoor oasis in their own backyard. Adding a complete outdoor kitchen as part of the outdoor living space creates more options for relaxation and entertaining at home. In fact, the industry has seen returns on this investment that rival kitchen and bath remodeling figures.

What deluxe features of an outdoor kitchen are in hot demand?

PG: The more glamorous features include our top-of-the-line hybrid grills for cooking with any combination of charcoal wood and gas as well as outdoor wine chillers, keg tappers, ice makers and even martini glass chillers. More than 90 percent of outdoor kitchen sales include a refrigerator.

Pizza ovens are in hot demand across the county. Ours delivers the performance of the traditional brick and clay Italian ovens at a fraction of the cost, and the countertop design can be easily added as an upgrade to an existing outdoor kitchen.
What about cleanup?

PG: Homeowners are looking for equipment and cabinets that are easy to clean and require little or no maintenance. Our outdoor kitchen cabinet system is crafted entirely from recycled stainless steel and features seamless rain gutters around every door and drawer opening. The cabinets are not only impervious to the weather; they are also weather-tight and you can hose them clean.

How do you guide a customer through the planning process?

PG: We want to help design the right kitchen to suit the needs of our customers. The two most important components are space and equipment. It’s crucial to design the kitchen in relationship to the available outdoor living space. To help choose equipment, typical planning questions include how frequently they plan to cook for their family, how much entertaining they expect to do, the potential use of caterers and how the outdoor kitchen relates to the indoor kitchen. The end result is a recommendation for components, layout and a complete set of measured drawings for the custom outdoor kitchen. The process is nearly always iterative and frequently requires compromises related to space or budget. The planning process can take as little as one week, and the customer’s kitchen can typically ship within four weeks of placing the final order.

What kind of landscaping trends would you say pair well with outdoor kitchens?

PG: I think the biggest trend is using landscaping to extend the length of the outdoor season. Installing misters for cooling and heaters for chilly nights keeps the outdoor area more comfortable and usable. Other landscape design elements include shelter from the sun and from rain, the integration of both task- and ambient-lighting, and planting with shade trees and dense shrubbery for privacy purposes.

Material selection for the patio and the counters should meet aesthetic goals as well as being stain-resistant and durable.

The landscape elements should blend the outdoor kitchen with the other outdoor “rooms” or functional entertaining areas such as pools or ponds by pathways or steps.

Are there any environmental concerns or trends?

PG: Outdoor kitchen designs can indeed be green, from the selection of materials to the efficiency of the cooking equipment and refrigeration.

CSA and UL publish requirements for the gases emitted by gas grill burners. Our emissions are well below their standards. For charcoal grills and our hybrid grills, there are even some boutique charcoals available that burn extremely cleanly and are made from bamboo, one of the most prolific and fastest-growing plants on the planet.

Stainless steel is manufactured mainly from recycled stainless and carbon steels. The use of recycled raw materials reduces emissions, waste and the energy consumed by the manufacturing process.

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