I've been designing in my mind what I call a pitch-in kitchen. It's a kitchen designed for multiple helpers to pitch in. The kitchen might be used for servicing large parties, or to efficiently feed the homeless, or to simplify food preparation for a collective of neighbors. Today I'm focusing on the design, not the ultimate use of it.

The idea is to make the kitchen so user-friendly that a stranger could walk in and know where everything is and how it works. Perhaps there are tablet computers at each food prep area of a central island that gives instructions for tasks that are auto-assigned to people from a master menu. Anyone can walk in and tap the tablet's "what's next" button and immediately see instructions for washing and prepping the carrots, for example, complete with a picture showing the quantity needed and how they should be sliced. The software would be in charge of sequencing the steps as each volunteer checks in. If a volunteer doesn't feel comfortable with a step that is assigned, he can choose another.

I imagine the plates and cookware are color-coded so anyone can tell which cupboard or drawer holds what. If you can't find a ladle, type its name into the search box on the tablet computer to see a map of the kitchen with an arrow to the correct drawer.

People enjoy helping in the kitchen as long as they know where everything is. Most adults like the feeling of being useful. And food prep can be fun if you get the right group together. The trick is to automate the thinking and planning part of the meal prepping and let the humans do the mindless chopping, stirring, washing, sautéing and other tasks.

The meal organizer would start off by choosing a recipe online. Then the organizer would enter the number of diners to size the ingredients and click one button to order it all for delivery at a set date and time. Another piece of software would send out email invitations for kitchen helpers from the list of your party-invitees or volunteers. As people reply for various kitchen roles, from prepping to cooking to clean-up, the software keeps track and reduces the available openings on the fly. The software then sends out a schedule to each helper telling them exactly when in the process their contributions are needed. Perhaps each helper has a companion app for their phone that buzzes them when it is time for their step. You might be chatting with other party-goers until your phone says, "Time to wash the broccoli."

On a smaller scale, I designed my current kitchen for pitching in. For example, I didn't put the garbage receptacle below the sink because someone is often standing in the way when you want access to it. And I recently added a block of cutting knives on top of the counter because "Where do you keep the knives?" is the first question every kitchen helper always asks. I also plan to standardize the Tupperware-like containers so they all have the same lid no matter their depth.

Had I been cleverer, I would have added a garbage bag storage area inside the garbage/recycling pull-out drawer so any helper could see where the replacement bags are when they help take out the trash.

My favorite kitchen-nerd innovation is the kitchen cart. It's a wheeled metal cart that is tucked under a counter until needed to help clear dishes after a meal. Just wheel the cart around and load the dirty dishes and glasses from every nook and corner of the house after a party. If I had been smarter with the cart idea, it would include an attached garbage bucket so I could scrape food into it as I do the pick-up.

Do you have any kitchen efficiency ideas to add?

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Dec 5, 2013

I've always wanted to get a group organized and cook larger amounts of food together and freeze it for later consumption.
Restaurants in our area struggle to survive and I would support paying for use of their kitchen, off hours, to prepare food for myself and others, efficiently. Can't we get food wholesale if we do that?

Let's prepare 2 weeks of meals I can keep in the freezer. And since it's little effort to cook a little more food, we'll prepare extra for the retirement home or needy family.
Nice way to teach children useful skills too. They will learn way more than just at home with a parent.

Every commercial kitchen I've seen has the equipment and supplies in view.
Where is the big pot? Under that counter right there. The knives are on the magnetic strip right there.
The broccoli is in the refrigerator with the glass front with the other vegetables.
A cross between a grocery store setup and a woodworking shop. All the tools and supplies are on the wall in view.

Separate areas for preparation and cleaning because there is room to do so and several people are not tripping on each other.

I'm very anti-social, but I would participate in group cooking like this.

I love the idea of software to organize and coordinate tasks and timing. Brilliant.

Home kitchen design is often decorative not functional. But one guy I met had part of a wall that folded open exposing all the tools, but could be closed for aesthetics.

I've always wanted to get a group organized and cook larger amounts of food together.
But if you've read any of my other posts, you will see why no one wants to cook with me.

Dec 5, 2013
Does your kitchen cart then detach and become the upper/lower rack of your dishwasher? That would be awesome!

It seems like you like to develop futuristic designs and develop ideas for futuristic societies. You are also a cartoonist and know how to craft jokes, so why don't you make your next endeavor an animated movie about some bumbling person trying to adapt to this invented future. It would seem like the perfect outlet for all of your interests.
Dec 5, 2013
I think you've just described every kitchen in a church or community hall I've ever been in. Plus a digital version of my wife.

Sounds good to me.
Dec 5, 2013
If we're talking pure efficiency, the amount of food that is wasted or thrown away is staggering.

I would add a system where one would input the quantity and type of foods left over, and it would output ways to instantly reuse them - smoothies, gravies, soylent-esque mixtures.(http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/rob-rhinehart-no-longer-requires-food)

This would require better ways to store foods - tupperware is cheap and easy to make, vacuum bags are even better- but we need to discover ways to more optimally preserve - or reuse - leftovers, or devices that automatically change color when the contents have spoiled.
Dec 5, 2013
I've always been perplexed by the kitchen / food-prep psychology in my home. Like... everyone complains about cooking, and nobody wants to do it. But if I do it, I'm surrounded by people and nobody can keep their fingers out of my food prep stuff. "I want to help."

I think you're on to something. There appears to be a social appeal to cooking.
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