As told to Jacqueline Tsang Illustration The XSS
WHO: Catherine Cheung
Design director of The XSS
Catherine Cheung studied architecture in New York and returned to Hong Kong to set up her own design house, THE XSS. In addition to the company's extensive portfolio in Hong Kong, Cheung has also worked on projects in Malaysia, Thailand, Taiwan and on the mainland.She firmly believes in balancing aesthetics and functionality, and she applies this design philosophy to all her works.
While it used to be the height of luxury to have a private chef in one's employ, in today's DIY world it's all about being the perfect host - and that means keeping your guests comfortable and entertained in your three-star Michelin-worthy kitchen, while you whip up a delicious and decadent dinner.
"[A modern kitchen] should function as the focal point for the interior space, a stage where the chef can perform in front of their closest friends and family," Cheung says. The designer's vision of a dream kitchen offers everything a chef could hope for, from a wood-fired pizza oven to a seafood tank.
The biggest wow factor, however, comes from the innovative rotating design.
The ergonomic kitchen is designed in two concentric circles. The three worktops - traditional, bakery and vegetarian - form the outer circle, while the stove, fridge, ovens and rotisserie are stationed in the middle. The units are designed to rotate, Cheung says, which "allows the chef to prepare ingredients, wash them, bake, grill and plate while standing [at the same spot]".
She adds that even with all the necessary appliances and storage spaces, a kitchen can still be awkward and uncomfortable to use if the chef has to manoeuvre back and forth through tight spaces to prepare a simple meal.
"For years, kitchen manufacturers have worked with the best designers and included the most up-to-date technology into their products … but it's still not easy to find convenient spatial solutions for the at-home chef who wants to have all the best appliances necessary to prepare a wide range of dishes at home," she says, adding that it's important that the modern kitchen follow the ergonomic triangle of "storage-preparation-cooking". This is certainly a kitchen of tomorrow, and Cheung has included only top-of-the-line appliances, including a rotisserie and Table de Cuisson Grand Palais 1800mm stove from La Cornue, a 76cm wall oven from Dacor, wood-fired pizza oven from Mugnaini and side-by-side fridge from Sub Zero.
For avid seafood fans, the designer also suggests a stunning seafood tank that stretches across one entire wall, which doubles as an aquarium for the guests' viewing pleasure, and a way to keep their dinner as fresh as possible prior to cooking.
That slightly macabre feature aside, the designer does also take sustainability and green living into account.
In addition to having a distinct worktop station designated for vegetarian cooking - so that vegetarians can rest easy knowing that their meal has not come into contact with meat products - the kitchen also opens onto an outdoor terrace with a herb and vegetable garden.
"Modern homeowners are quite cosmopolitan nowadays - they enjoy a sophisticated and healthy lifestyle. One of the most crucial elements for cooking would be to have fresh, organic products," Cheung says. "We believe that the perfect kitchen should have direct access to an organic garden where the chef can harvest the fresh ingredients themselves."
The kitchen itself is surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows to maximise the natural light and minimise the boundaries between the outdoor and indoor areas, allowing the greenery of the herb garden to become a spectacular backdrop for the space.
There are also wine and cheese cellars so guests are well fed and hydrated as they relax around the bar table, which is conveniently situated between the worktops and terrace. "Guests can watch the chefs as they cook", Cheung says. The wine cellar is positioned above the kitchen, accessed by a curving, floating staircase.