The sleek ingredients of a Richmond-designed outdoor kitchen, sprinkled with a dash of ingenuity and blended with the skill of gracious entertainers, make a recipe for success in Virginia Beach.
The Voogt family often throws impromptu dinner parties outside, something they say they never would have been able to do without the help of various designers and contractors including KDW Home (formerly Kitchen DesignWorks) of Richmond. Since completing their outdoor kitchen in 2005, the Voogts have really taken to al fresco entertaining, and their enthusiasm for the space continues to grow.
The new outdoor kitchen provides a sense of serenity for a young family on the run. Dr. Bob Voogt frequently travels for his work as an international brain-injury specialist, and his wife, Karen, recently received her doctorate in physical therapy from the School of Allied Health Professions at Virginia Commonwealth University. When they're not mired in the medical world, the couple teams up to cater to family, neighbors and friends of their children, Gerrit, 12, and Gabrielle,10.
Karen Voogt says the new space allows her to entertain easily. "Even in the fall or winter, the fireplace adds warmth and a central focus," she says. But it's not the fireplace that is the central perk of the kitchen — it's the pizza oven.
Bob relishes feeding friends and family — he baked 75 pizzas in the outdoor pizza oven for a recent neighborhood party. "If we have our choice, we would much prefer friends to come over here for dinner," says Bob, who also tends an herb and vegetable garden from which many of his dishes benefit. "Sometimes I pick up steaks or fish on the weekends, or we just buy dough at a local pizza place." While we visited, he had his oven mitts back on while preparing a smaller order — his children's favorite pizza, made with four cheeses, garlic and fresh spinach.
The Voogts complement healthy doses of Southern hospitality with a touch of Louisiana-style cooking. Bob and Karen met in New Orleans, and during their time there they developed a love for good food and casual entertaining. They later moved to Virginia Beach to be closer to Karen's family, but they still pepper many of their dishes with flavors from the French Quarter.
Having the right setup to throw spontaneous, gatherings makes all the difference, say the Voogts. Bob's luxe grill is a 53-inch-wide stainless-steel Viking with three 25,000-Btu burners, one of which is a dual-purpose griller/smoker. The kitchen's accoutrements go way beyond the grill, though, incorporating many items traditionally found in an indoor kitchen. There are three distinct workstations with views of Linkhorn Bay as the picture-perfect backdrop. The space even includes a wok burner, an icemaker, a rotisserie and a wet bar. "I am self-sufficient outside," notes Bob, who visited outdoor kitchens in California before building his own. Having everything at his disposal means no more traipsing inside to fix a drink or retrieve the salad dressing. "I really like the Trusear [an infrared griller] feature, too," Bob says. "I can do a filet in two or three minutes a side." This searing method creates a crusty exterior that locks in the juices just like professional chefs do at the finest restaurants.
But impressive cuisine doesn't mean intimidating guests. Karen likes to use attractive plastic ware when dining outside, a choice that's practical because of the kitchen's proximity to the pool. "But I often use paper plates for the kids," she says. "Who wants to be washing dishes all the time?" And of course, that's the point. For most people, cooking outside is easy, informal and a surefire way to entertain friends and family.
No Detail Spared
The Voogts' outdoor kitchen is a culinary oasis. They carefully planned every aspect of the space with help from KDW staff, who designed it, and Virginia Beach-based contractor Bill Boyd of Monarch Construction, who built it. The Voogts also employed the help of Richmond-based interior designer Martin Rubenstein, who created extras such as the back-splash and bluestone patio. Special exterior lighting, from task lighting such as the lamp over the grill for cooking at night to the mood lighting that's used to dramatically illuminate the fountain in the evening, significantly adds to the enjoyment of the finished project.
Another bonus is the outdoor sound system. Karen says she loves having access to satellite radio outdoors. "If we are just working in the garden, we have music piped in and speakers that look like rocks," she says. "We saw them at a hotel once and we really liked the way they were integrated into the landscape." The Voogts also turn on the music while hosting charity events. (They even built a workstation for bartenders and caterers working such gatherings.)
"It's all about lifestyle," says Marvin Daniel, co-owner of KDW Home. "The Voogts are following the growing trend of people that want to be outdoors. It's another way to stay at home and entertain."
The Voogts meticulously planned their outdoor kitchen, and the result is a space for entertaining that seamlessly fits their lifestyle. It has become, says Karen, "our own party central."
Crafting Outdoor Kitchens
In addition to Richmond-based KDW Home and other kitchen design/build firms, Joey and Mary Hopcroft, the brother-and-sister owners of Bon Air Better Living, also work with many clients on outdoor kitchen projects. "Our midpoint is $25,000 to $30,000 for a typical job, though some customers spend much more than that," says Joey. KDW has finished jobs that cost between $60,000 to $80,000, says KDW vice president Brian Pilgrim. Another option is an all-in-one modular unit. Paul Pietrowski and his wife, Sara, spent a combined 30 years in retailing with Circuit City and CarMax before they brought the concept of one-stop-shopping to the business of outdoor entertaining, selling pre-fabricated outdoor kitchen islands. They opened their business, Outdoor Kitchen Creations, at Stony Point Fashion Park this April. A modular unit costs an average of $8,000.