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Home Magazine, Summer, 2003

Scans from the magazine: Pages 90-91, 92-93, 94-95, 119Floor Plan

Primetime Kitchen
Lights, camera, cooking! Every few weeks this real-life kitchen becomes a TV studio for host and chef Alton Brown's Good Eats show on the Food Network

By Willis Barton
Photographed by Lance Davies
Styled by Sonya Thorne-Zegel

Location: Atlanta, GA

Prime time Kitchen - Caption 1
Cleverly disguised as a mild-mannered home kitchen, this part-time studio is equipped with Canac semi-custom cabinets and professional-style Viking appliances.

For most of us, creating a new kitchen that is both good-looking and functional, that meets our basic needs for style, food, and maybe socializing, is enough of an accomplishment. Now imagine that you are a TV producer, designing a home kitchen that needs to double as a working studio. Your laundry list of requirements quickly grows exponentially. Factors such as counter space, floor area, ceiling height, lighting, cabinets, appliances, and just plain elbow room all become critically important, and the task of putting them all together efficiently can be akin to solving a Chinese puzzle.

The kitchen that Dana Popoff and Marion Laney created for their new home in the Atlanta suburb of Buckhead manages to do just that. It is designed to deliver elegant, everyday use 85 percent of the time and then shift effortlessly into a chaos-filled TV production studio packed with a dozen or so hardworking bodies. The two, who are, respectively, line producer and director of photography for the weekly Good Eats show on the Food Network, starring Chef Alton Brown, have pulled it off magnificently.

"Our first requirement," says Popoff, "was that we wanted several areas to shoot in. We wanted a sitting area and a fireplace that would be separate, but could also be a part of the kitchen. We also liked the idea of a banquette, and we wanted to make the whole space as open as possible so we could move around and have a variety of backgrounds."

Prime time Kitchen - Caption 2
Good Eats star Alton Brown warms up for the camera.

Not wanting to wait until everything in the house was in finished condition, Popoff and Laney started shooting there weeks before they occupied the house. So even before they moved in, the kitchen became a TV star, providing a stylish backdrop for Alton's cooking lessons for most of the past year.

Fortunately, many of the features that accommodate the TV show easily play into the more relaxed pace of the couple's home life. A 7-foot section of the work island, for example, is built on wheels. "Having the island roll," notes Popoff, "allows us to move it into various positions for shooting purposes, or to just move it out of the way so we can set up different shooting angles on the cooktop." It also works wonderfully, however, as a mobile serving area, when they are entertaining privately, she adds. The rolling section was custom built to match the Canac semi-custom cabinets used throughout the kitchen by a team of craftsmen who had formerly worked for the cabinet manufacturer.

The most visible concession to the hidden life of this otherwise graceful kitchen is the 12-foot-square grid of pipe suspended from the ceiling, designed to accommodate lights and microphones during production. Though stylishly sculptural in its own way, the grid can be removed if the house is sold in the future. "The vertical pipes that anchor it to the ceiling can simply be unscrewed and the holes replastered," explains Popoff.

Prime time Kitchen - Caption 3
The busy TV crew transforms the space.

Prime time Kitchen - Caption 4
The fireplace is flanked by custom storage units built to resemble the Canac cabinets.

Very little else about the kitchen speaks of its on-camera life. The long swath of windows that opens onto the deck is there for all of the obvious, everyday reasons, but it provides an added bonus of bathing the TV scenes in abundant natural light.

With the exception of the butcher-block top on the rolling island, the countertops are all greenstone. The backsplash is a trompe l'oeil painting on wood, created to match the stone, while accommodating electrical outlets. "We love the color and the texture of the soapstone," says Popoff, "but almost anything will scratch it. You can oil it so the scratches don't show, or you can lightly sand it. We try to keep it well oiled."

The banquette against the windows serves mainly as a spot for private dining, but it also works well when the crew needs a place to set up a tight shot of a delectable dish (or, afterwards when they sit down to devour the remains of one). Lunch is never dull on this set. "We have fun cooking in this kitchen," says Popoff, "that's for sure."

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Last Edited on 08/27/2010