Take a look inside a professional chef’s home kitchen, designed for family-style cooking and relaxed chats
When executive chef Ian Curley comes home, he shifts gears from managing five restaurants, a few bars, a racing club, and other projects, into family mode with his partner Dr. Simone Bamford and their three girls, Cooper, 8, Cassidy, 6, and 10-month-old Cameron. The couple had their kitchen renovated to transform an awkward beige space into a clean and well-organised room, with easy-to-clean surfaces and reliable appliances.
Here, Curley shares the materials and design choices that make a home kitchen comfortable and functional for a professional chef, and shows us how he uses the space to get creative with food.
Creative Space at a Glance:
Name: Ian Curley
Occupation: Executive Chef at European, City Wine Shop, The Melbourne Supper Club, Siglo Rooftop Bar, French Saloon and Kirk’s Wine Bar, as well as Consulting Chef to Melbourne Racing Club
Location: Brighton, Victoria
What’s made here: Beautiful meals for friends and family
Ian Curley stands in front of a wall of artworks created by his daughters, Cooper and Cassidy. The framed paintings are his favourite design feature in the kitchen.In his hand, he holds a singed, battered towel that is a signature tool; “In a commercial kitchen you hold it like a glove, because you are constantly being passed something,” he says. “An oven mitt is a distinct giveaway between a person who cooks in a commercial kitchen and a person who cooks at home.”
Curley is adamant about having pots out in the open and within reach, instead of hiding them behind cupboard doors. He likes collecting and trying out new quirky shapes in his pots and pans.“I love this space because I have worked in commercial kitchens my whole life, and this is the first home kitchen that I have designed from the ground up,” says Curley. He worked with architect Michael Welgus of Finnis Architects and builder, Greg Blackman of Melbourne Builders Services to create his ideal space.
Curley’s advice for kitchen renovating is “Use quality kitchen appliances and products – I fell in love with Dekton and V-ZUG products after I did a cooking demonstration at their showrooms, and now I wouldn’t use anything else.”
Curley finds gas stovetops always look greasy and take longer to clean. He liked the idea of an induction top with a smooth surface that can be wiped down with one swipe. He wanted to be able to make one phone call for maintenance on his appliances, instead of dealing with four different companies. He chose V-ZUG, a Swiss company, for his stovetop, range hood, oven, washing machine, and dryer.
How does an executive chef from Coventry in London manage five plus Melbourne restaurants successfully and create a beautiful family life? He has good people working for him. “I am successful in my career because I learned to delegate, not because I became a better chef,” he explains.
The top shelf of his pot rack displays the copper pots Curley brought with him from the UK. Retired from use after the introduction of the induction stovetop, the heavy copper pots are polished once a year and function as art. He likes having them close to remind him of his history in kitchens.
As a father, Curley has long since had the vision of his family all eating dinner together. Here they can cook together, then sit at the benchtop and chat until dinner is served. “I don’t have a lot of time at home, but when I do, I want it to be quality time,” he says. The KitchenAid mixer is a treasured appliance, “because they last,” according to the chef. For other bits and pieces, Curley’s favourite kitchen supply stores in Melbourne include Chef’s Hat, and the Essential Ingredient.
Curley is a traditionalist and loves his Messermeister knives. He has used them his entire life, since he was a young man learning his trade and his craft. He has fancier Japanese knives, but these are the ones he reaches for most often; they have handles made from American Oak and are perfectly weighted.
The island is a new addition to the kitchen’s configuration. A 20-millimetre-thick slab of Dekton engineered stone in ‘Zenith’ makes up both Curley’s benchtops and splashbacks. This is an ultra-compact slab material that is resistant to scratches, impact, and heat, making it perfect for a busy family kitchen.
Once he had kids, Curley’s focus and practises changed dramatically. He went from spending all of his time in the kitchen on the stoves, cooking and shouting at his staff, to taking a step back, teaching techniques and delegating tasks rather than doing everything himself. “At work everyone says ‘Yes!’. They rely on you to set the direction. At home, I am the fifth wheel, it is Simone and the kids, and then I’m at the end, so I can relax. At home I don’t need to be in charge, that works for me, when I do come home it is my sanctuary.”
Curley’s portrait hanging on the wall was captured by photographer Julian Kingma, from where he featured in an article for The Age about high-flying and influential men. His own favourite chef is Fergus Henderson from St. John restaurant in London.
Curley appreciates the clean lines of white subway tile. He often leaves love letters for his children on the walls written in erasable marker, for them to find when they come downstairs in the morning. Sometimes there are happy birthday notes, and sometimes there are lists of fun things to do that day.
Pan-fried gnocchi dell’orto, with torn mozzarella carefully placed with needle-nose tweezers, is served. This dish also features on the dinner menu at the European.
“If I didn’t enjoy cooking, I wouldn’t have survived as long as I have. It is a tough mistress. You have to be prepared to work every night,” Curley says. He loves the difference he can make in people’s lives by offering a joyful dining experience filled with wonderment. “A lot of people save up money to go out for fine dining,” he adds, and it’s important to make the experience worth it for them. He considers himself a chef through and through, and not a front-of-house manager.
Curley is the cook at home too. “Whenever I cook for my girls, it could go any or either way!” he says. They do love flour and mess, and having fun with him in the kitchen. His favourite thing to cook is pancakes on Sunday mornings with his kids.
Dinner parties are held around a renovated barrister’s table in the dining room. The table is made using an 8-millimetre Dekton slab in ‘Kairos’, which is laid into the rustic antique table for a unique look.