Not everyone has access to a sprawling, East Hampton kitchen filled with high-end appliances like Ina Garten.
Boston chef Stephanie Cmar, who can be seen on this season of Bravo’s “Top Chef: All-Stars,” is showing the world what she’s working with at home, and it’s not pretty. Through her new online cooking show, which she so lovingly named “My (Expletive) Little Kitchen,” she’s been teaching people how preparing delicious food is still possible even with shoddy amenities.
“My husband and I moved to this apartment like 5 years ago,” Cmar said. “We were both in restaurants full-time, so we were home for sleep, plus maybe like 10 hours a week. So it was like, ‘Whatever, we have professional kitchens to cook in … If I can open a bottle of wine in there, it’s served its purpose.’”
However, her home’s subpar setup quickly became an inconvenience when she stepped out of the daily restaurant grind and became a private chef.
“It wasn’t until I left SRV, where I was making the pastas, that I started to be like, ‘I can’t do anything in here,’ ” Cmar said, adding that it was during that time when she gave her kitchen its nickname and planned on someday starting this e-series as a passion project.
“Imagine if people knew what — as a professional chef, as someone who’s been on a reality cooking show — I was really dealing with,” she said. “I wanted people to know that there’s nothing much different between a professional chef and a home chef when they’re in their home kitchens.”
Over the past few years, Cmar has learned to cope with her dated, impractical space. She understands its limits, and now hopes to show people that cooking in tight quarters can still be possible with the right knowledge and technique.
“Being a private chef obviously means that I do all the dishes, so basically every recipe teaches you how to use the least amount of dishes so you don’t make a huge mess,” Cmar said. “Because I also don’t own a dishwasher.”
“Our counter space is probably a little over a foot-and-a-half and part of it is taken up by the coffee machine, and we can’t move that,” she added. “We have a big sink, so I went on Amazon and ordered an extra-large cutting board and I set that up over the sink.”
“Our microwave is on a barstool because there’s no space to put it,” she continued. “If you want to charge the computer, you have to unplug the microwave and if you want to turn on the light, you have to unplug both. But it’s funny.”
Cmar is certain that she and her husband, David, will someday outgrow their 700-square-foot digs: It’s short on storage space, with two fully exposed wall shelves serving as a pantry; she practically plays Tetris when trying to stock the fridge; and her appliances, like her blender, stand mixer and air fryer, are all kept in the same closet as her formal clothing. But she also knows that taking a more minimalist approach helps for the time being.
“It’s all about not making excuses for the fact that there isn’t space,” Cmar said. “Figure out what you really need. We use every single square inch. But also, you start to realize that you don’t need 14 spatulas. You don’t.”
“It’s all about being like, ‘Do I need this gadget?’” she added. “Can you picture yourself using it almost every day? Like the KitchenAid mixer can make pizza dough or choux dough, or the blender can make smoothies or soups. Those are really crucial. But do we need the juicer? I’m going to go hard no.”
“We’ve got one, though,” she added, laughing.