Elise Bauer may have started SimplyRecipes.com in 2003 as an easy way to keep track of her family’s recipes, but it quickly metamorphosed into one of the most popular and well-known food blogs around. (With recipes like Dad's Favorite Fudge and Mom's Perfect Pork Chops, why wouldn’t it?) Almost ten years and thousands of recipes later, her site reels in about six million unique global visitors per month and Elise now creates inventive, tradition-worthy recipes of her own. She has also created a family of fans on her site who are passionate about trying her recipes—and adding their own unique twists.
Simply Recipes, which Elise describes as a “virtual box of recipe cards,” is changing the way people approach home cooking, inviting people to celebrate their family’s passed-down dishes and introducing new recipes to add to their journey. The coolest part? While her following has grown to exorbitant numbers, the way she maintains Simply Recipes remains small and homegrown, just like her cooking. With only one part-time kitchen helper and her parents as recipe critics by her side, Elise spends her days testing new dishes, photographing the results, and answering reader questions.
Lucky for us, she took time away from the stove to share her secrets for creating the perfect home cook’s kitchen. We took note. After all, it clearly worked for her.
CULTIVATE: You clearly spend a lot of time in your kitchen. What does it look like?
ELISE BAUER: It’s white with a gray island, and it’s spacious enough without being huge. I have light yellow walls and plastic-coated particle board cabinets, which aren't ideal but are easy to wipe down. I recently removed the doors of three cabinets to create open shelving. I use one as a small bookshelf where I keep my most used cookbooks. It really livens up the kitchen, making it warmer and more like a living space. I got the idea from my father!
CULTIVATE: What tricks have you learned to make your kitchen function more efficiently?
ELISE BAUER: You don’t want a kitchen to look busy, but you should keep items frequently used out in the open. For me, that’s serving bowls, mixing bowls, and prep bowls. I also think it’s important to have ovens (two!) on a wall—ergonomically it’s better. I’m also an advocate of two separate sinks to create multiple work zones.
CULTIVATE: How has your kitchen evolved as you started to cook more?
ELISE BAUER: I used to have checkered curtains that blocked sunlight, but I took them down to create a happier space. I also added little details, like a soft-close drawer for trash and recycling, to help when cooking flow. I keep all my small appliances in a cabinet-turned-appliance garage. I have separate stashing of knives in my two main work zones, and I admittedly couldn’t function without my induction burner.
CULTIVATE: There are a lot of trends happening in the cooking world right now. How do they relate to kitchen design?
ELISE BAUER: More men are cooking—and they’re younger. The kitchen used to be the woman’s domain. (My mom used to say, “I’m the mistress of the kitchen and your father is the master of the house.”) With more people cooking today, people are designing kitchens to fit multiple cooks, which means more work zones and smarter layouts. In general, the kitchen has evolved from a place where food is simply prepared to a place where people sit down and eat.
CULTIVATE: How much should people consider their cooking style when renovating?
ELISE BAUER: If they like to cook, then a lot! Do your research and keep important tidbits in mind, like the fact that you can't use cast iron on most glass tops. It may scratch or even shatter the glass. Although I love my wood floors, they're not the best flooring option—wood warps when it gets wet. My parents put in linoleum, a natural, wood-based product, which is easier to maintain and just as gentle to stand on as wood. Designing a kitchen is like building a house in one room—there are a lot of decisions to make!
CULTIVATE: If you could splurge on one thing in your kitchen, what would it be?
ELISE BAUER: A great hood—one that looks good in a low ceiling. Right now, I only have a very strong fan, which is not ideal and can cause ventilation problems. I’d also have a grill in the middle of four gas burners and an induction stovetop. Oh, and a bigger spice drawer. My kitchen is clearly one that gets cooked in a lot.
Elise's Southern Cornbread recipe