Homeowner and mason team up to render the ultimate outdoor dream kitchen
It is said that too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the broth, but when building a dream outdoor kitchen, it takes many hands to create a culinary masterpiece, as was the case with this spacious outdoor kitchen in Falmouth.
Situated under a large pergola, this multi-station, three-season kitchen features a fireplace and a pizza oven (each with its own wood storage bin), two high-powered burners with a gooseneck hose handy for filling lobster and corn pots, a large grill, a sauté station, two refrigerators (all of the appliances are heavy-duty Lynx), and a wet bar with a small countertop gas fire pit, a liquor cabinet, and a kegerator. Built into the cabinetry are various storage drawers, trash bins, and plate shelves. Just a few steps away is a large circular fire pit surrounded by granite seating. This is a kitchen ready to host large fundraising celebrations, block party guests, and intimate dinners for family and friends.
A former executive chef, the project’s mastermind plotted his kitchen very thoughtfully, if unconventionally. “I designed it using a business card and the top of a baking soda can,” he explains. “I drew it to scale using tick marks.” He also prepared a PowerPoint with images to help potential contractors understand his vision. Being a former military man who had served on submarines, he was clear on the mission and how he wanted it executed.
There is another saying that three times is a charm, and in the case of this project, that proved to be true. It was the third masonry contractor, Greg Myette, owner of Barnstable-based Myette Masonry and Design, who proved to be as fastidious and as much of a perfectionist as his client, and who understood the vision and the timeline for the kitchen’s realization. “The homeowner had done the layout and had chosen the appliances. We took it to final design and engineered it,” Myette says. He and his crew were responsible for the painstaking placement of all of the Vineyard Granite ledgestone, a native New England stone chosen by the homeowner’s wife after a diligent search. Her overarching concern was that the kitchen blend into its natural context. They constructed the chimneys, all of the cabinetry, the walls, and laid the Phoenician Buff patio floor, a stone chosen for its color. “It is imported from India,” Myette explains, “and has a unique look in the granite realm. You can only get that sort of color out of the eastern region of the world. And it’s more durable than bluestone or limestone.”
It took some creative design and engineering to accommodate all of the kitchen’s elements. There was, for example, the planning and trenching for all of the electrical requirements and four gas features (the large gas fire pit alone requires 40,000 BTUs). Then the matter of the pergola had to be figured out. It would not be ready for the kitchen’s first party, so its foundation and post footings had to be poured, covered, and reopened when the actual structure could be installed. The fact that the pergola had to have weight-bearing I-beams, yet have no posts in the middle of the kitchen, added another layer of complexity. Also challenging was the configuration of the chimney and pizza ovens. Myette recalls, “It was like threading a needle to kitty corner them and then combine them and make them all work.”
The homeowner was all about the details, and in Myette, he met his match. Given that each mason has a signature style, Myette would have his workers switch their area every four hours as a way to ensure uniformity.
The homeowner himself tried his hand at stonecutting. Having decided that the iconic shape of Cape Cod should be inlaid into the fireplace chimney, he took two pieces of the Phoenician Buff stone used for the patio, thinking he would cut one for practice and perfect the image on the second. He downloaded an image of the peninsula from the Internet, blew it up, and transferred it to cardboard to act as a cutout and went to work.
“If I screwed it up,” he says, “it was okay. No one expected me to be able to do it.” It turns out he did not need the second piece of stone. He got it right the first time, but the price he paid was a gouged finger, which served, he decided, as a rite of passage: “I took a picture of it and sent it to Greg and said, ‘Can I now have a company T-shirt?’” Having helped out by mapping and counting out stone configurations and now actually cutting stone, he was beginning to think of himself as an honorary employee of sorts.
While most aspects of the kitchen were carefully designed in advance, some continued to evolve or be honed during construction. What if the meal du jour was a clambake—would there be room on the stove for large lobster pots? This late concern was addressed only after the crew spent a day dismantling a cabinet, dropping the counter down, and recessing the cooktop. Thinking further ahead, the homeowner envisioned a time when it might be too hard to lift a loaded lobster pot off the stove to drain the boiling water, so not only can he slide the pots off the lowered counter, he had them outfitted with spigots and had a floor drain installed… Problem solved. Some design choices were a “happy accident,” Myette says, like when they found a curbing material in Phoenician Buff and realized it would make an ideal footrest for the bar.
Trying to anticipate every need and future event became something of a game with his client, Myette recalls. “He and I were trying to one up each other as to who was paying more attention to detail. It became a running joke. He would bring something up, and then he would say, ‘But I guess you already thought of that.’”
While the homeowner and Myette did think ahead and designed the Colombo Juparana granite counter to have a two-degree pitch to aid rain runoff, the equally conscientious granite contractor, who completed the installation of all of the counters in one marathon day, proudly announced when he was done: “The counters were a little uneven, so I flattened them out.”
Though an exacting project, it was one that fostered camaraderie, and at its finish, the homeowners threw a party for Myette and his crew, along with the plumbers, electricians, subcontractors, suppliers, and their spouses. Having cooked for the workers on Fridays during the project, he had already learned their preferences, so for the culminating dinner, he cooked 27 pounds of tenderloin, 18 racks of ribs, pan-seared scallops, and corn on the cob. He also stocked the pizza station so that everyone could create his or her own pie. He hired a local band, The Silent Trees, and at his wife’s insistence, arranged for a car to drive everyone home at night’s end.
Shortly after this party, the homeowner had his kitchen tested by another professional chef, Sean Dailey—proprietor of Falmouth-based Eat Your Heart Out Catering—whom he had consulted during the kitchen’s design phase. The Johnson and Wales-trained chef used every station to prepare gourmet offerings, from Cape Bay scallop pizza with béchamel sauce and duck salami, to butternut ginger bisque with toasted pistachio crème fraiche. He also prepared entrées like braised cider pork belly with sweet corn polenta, foraged wild mushrooms, and fried leeks, and Wagyu beef Tawny Port with crispy potato skins. The experience, he says, “was magnificent. There was so much counter space, and [the homeowner] thought of everything, from the water placement to the placement of refrigerator drawers.” Just as Myette has become a friend of his client, so too have Dailey and his wife. Dailey jokes that through his work and his friendships, “We’re invited to the best parties!”
And that is what this three-season kitchen is for: easily and graciously hosting groups large and small, with everyone gathered at the table under the pergola, with its nautical lights, cooling fans, and plenty of room for those who want to help in the kitchen. Afterwards, if it’s a small gathering and the skies are clear, the blue LED lights imbedded in the counters are switched off, the fire is stoked, and hanging chairs and daybeds are slung from the pergola rafters, so guests can lie back and gaze up at the stars—a cosmic ending for a happy human gathering.
A resident of Barnstable village, Laurel Kornhiser is a former Cape Cod HOME editor and a frequent contributor.
She is also an English professor at Quincy College.
Check out these awesome recipes courtesy of Chef Sean Dailey from Eat Your Heart Out Catering!
Bruschetta Pizza with Goat Cheese & Toasted Pine Nuts
1 pound pizza dough ball
1 vine ripe red tomato, diced
1 vine ripe yellow tomato, diced
up roasted red peppers, diced
ed onion, diced
4 tablespoons garlic, chopped
8 fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 ounce olive oil, plus more to sauté
Salt & pepper to taste
4 ounces goat cheese
Toasted pine nuts
On a floured surface, roll pizza dough out to approximately 8 x 10 inches. Brush each side with olive oil so it does not stick to the grill. Grill both sides over medium heat.
In a bowl, combine the tomatoes and roasted red peppers.
In a little olive oil, sauté the onion and garlic until translucent. Set aside to cool. When cool, add to the tomatoes and roasted red peppers. Mix in the basil, salt & pepper, balsamic glaze and 1 ounce of olive oil.
Top the pizza with the vegetables and goat cheese. Garnish with toasted pine nuts.
Butternut Ginger Bisque with Toasted Pistachio
2 pounds butternut squash, peeled
4 ounces pickled ginger
4 cups chicken stock
1 gallon water
Salt & pepper to taste
1 cup half & half
Peel and cut up the squash. Place in a pot with chicken stock, water, and pickled ginger. Boil until soft. Strain squash and reserve the stock.
In blender, puree squash, pickled ginger, and salt & pepper. Add half & half to puree until smooth. Add stock as needed to achieve desired consistency.
Garnish with pistachios and a dollop of crème fraiche before serving.
Recipes courtesy of Sean Dailey
Eat Your Heart Out Catering
508-548-0250 • eatyourheartoutcaterers.com