At Home with Hugh Acheson
I doodle. The doodles help me articulate my thoughts to the people who can turn ideas into reality. Restaurant layouts, plating ideas, garden designs. Most things I do start with a sketch on a paper napkin. Luckily, many of the sketches get tossed in the trash; otherwise I might be living in the woods, in a five-story hut, one with a fire pole running through each floor. But when a good doodle gets into the hands of the right folks, things happen. I have, so far, a good doodling track record.
My family (wife Mary and daughters Beatrice and Clementine) and I lived next door to the house we call our home [in Athens, Georgia] for about five years and watched as the uninhabited 100-year-old beauty slowly weathered until it finally went on the market. It had been meticulously taken apart on the inside with plans to rebuild it better than ever when the owner ran out of money.
After we bought the house, we decided that increased floor space would be a good idea. Unless we could stop the kids from growing, they would need more room. I got out my napkins and colored pencils and went to work.
In the original floor plan, the kitchen was at the back of the house. I moved it to the center and designed it as a huge room, inclusive of the dining room. Like most families, we spend the majority of our waking hours in the kitchen. It is where we eat meals and finish homework, where I work on cookbooks and recipe testing, where we entertain, and where we imbibe and celebrate.
People assume that because I'm a chef I want the bells and whistles of a pro kitchen in my home kitchen. Truth is, the food I cook at home is much simpler and straight-forward than what we cook in the restaurants. Instead, my priority with this kitchen was to make cooking easy and enjoyable for all who might cook in our kitchen, most of all my two daughters. I think that well-worn and well-used kitchens show kids that making food from scratch is part of living a good and healthy life.
Hugh's 5 Tips for Organizing Like a Pro
1. Pots, Pans, and Skillets: Deep drawers between the stove and fridge house Hugh's colorful favorite pots: "All-Clad, Le Creuset, and lots of Lodge cast iron." Hand-painted Talavera Mexican tile forms the backsplash throughout the kitchen. "It's forgiving," says Hugh. "It doesn't show stains and grime."
2. Savvy Spice Storage: "I buy my spices from bulk but in small quantities. This helps to maintain freshness," Hugh says. Use simple half-pint containers. Label each container with painter's tape or masking tape, write the name of the spice on the tape with a Sharpie, and date it. "It's not fancy, but it's efficient," he says.
3. A Hub of Activity: "The center island anchors the space and allows for movement on all sides. In today's foodie culture, people gravitate to the kitchen. There is plenty of room for guests to mingle, and it has ample space for prep and for laying out a spread of snacks."
4. A Southern Star: "Our large appliances—fridge, range, hood, and dishwasher—are Viking. I have gotten to know the fine people who own and run the company in Greenwood, Mississippi, a small town that Viking has been instrumental in revitalizing. Owning high-quality products made in the South gives me a proud sense of place."
5. His and Her China: Everyday dishes aren't far from the special-occasion dinnerware. Hugh and his wife, Mary, combined handed-down China, some from Hugh's mother's side ("the persnickety English pattern," Hugh says) and some Japanese dishes from Mary's mother's side.