A Tale of Two Kitchens

This year, amongst the places I’ve eaten, two stand out for their kitchens. We’ve the impression - from the occasional glimpse through those swinging doors, or from Gordon Ramsay and his like on TV, that kitchens are noisy, busy, chaotic places, but these two restaurants (and I’m sure many others) prove that it doesn’t have to be so.

Kitchen at Incanto Incanto is on the Amstel, in Amsterdam. The light, airy restaurant is on the first floor: the kitchen is actually above, rather than below. The building is a corner property - in fact, at an intersection in the old town that means that the kitchen gets light from three sides. This, with the high ceilings, makes it feel very different from the dark and noisy interiors of many restaurant kitchens. The area is one of the centres of Amsterdam’s historic diamond trade: I like to think that in their previous life the rooms bathed in light were used to inspect gemstones from around the world.


Kitchen at 2121221212 in Edinburgh is Paul Kitching’s new restaurant. (Kitching has a Michelin star for his previous venture, Juniper - in Altrincham, of all places - it can’t be long before 21212 repeats the accolade). As in many new restaurants, the kitchen is visible from the dining room: a full-height glass partition, nicely stencilled, makes an effective screen. Again, the room is light and airy (and again, high-ceilinged, in a gorgeous 19th century town house). As in Incanto, there’s a single large range in the centre of the room, rather than a number of stations arranged in rows: It wasn’t ucommon to see all the chefs standing together around one corner of the range, heads together, working on a presentation. What’s particularly unusual here is the fact that it’s an induction range, not gas (sure there are others, but this is the first one I’ve seen in a restaurant kitchen at this level, with the sole and notable exception of the Villa P). So no flame, much less wasted heat (and therefore a cooler kitchen), no burning oil, charred cloth, singed eyebrows: the kitchen is a place of calm concentration, with the layout and nature of the equipment supporting the team’s practice of all contributing to the cooking and assembling of a single dish.

Needless to say, the food in both places was sensational.

Looking at the way these kitchens overcame some of my preconceptions on how restaurant kitchens “need” to work made me wonder again about the way we organise the physical environment for software development. There are still too many places that play with agile, but don’t move the furniture. Giving teams control over their work and practices makes little sense if they don’t have control over their physical environment. Big companies seem to find this particularly difficult.

One Response to “A Tale of Two Kitchens”

  • Tobias responded:

    > Giving teams control over their work and practices makes little sense if they don’t have control over their physical environment.

    So true. This has been one of the biggest frustrations for me over the years I have been working in the software world. It is so hard for people to change their work habits if they are stuck in the same old physical environment. I honestly think it is the inability/unwillingness to change the environment that causes more organizations to fail with Agile than any other single factor.

    Thanks for bringing this to our attention.

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