Outdoor Kitchens: Q&A with K.O.G. RUSS FAULK

With Memorial Day behind us, dock's in, and shoulders aglow, the long-awaited summer has arrived.  As we inevitably head straight to the grill, we decided to take some time to connect with the celebrated, Russ Faulk, at Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet to talk all about outdoor kitchens.  Faulk, chief designer and head of product for Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet, lets us in on some exciting new developments in outdoor kitchens drawing international attention for their superb kitchen designs and dream products.  Wolfgang Puck declares, "An backyard chef would be lucky."  Larry Olmstead, for Fobes.com asserts about the Kalamazoo Gourmet kitchen, "It does everything better."  If you love cooking, grilling and dining outdoors, proceed with caution, Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet is HOT!

You may be wondering, what does interior design have to do with outdoor living?  Though it may seem like a catch-22, outdoor living actually has everything to do with interior design, warranting an entire blog post of it's own.  In brief,

Outdoor living as an extension of indoor living, means there are a host of overlapping design relationships.

 From space planning, lighting layouts, and home automation integration, to material, furniture and finish selections, and in this case, the ultimate in kitchen equipment and accessory options, the seams between indoor and outdoor design are intentionally and virtually invisible.  The two industries heavily influence the other, meaning outdoor-grade materials sometimes make their way indoors, and indoor-like comforts are treading all over outdoor territory.

Back to outdoor kitchens.  Meet Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet:


Jennifer: What are people asking for when they're ready to begin an outdoor project?

Russ Faulk, Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet: "After the homeowner has established their aspirations for the outdoor kitchen, they can begin to define the space. What equipment is part of the outdoor cooking and entertaining they desire to undertake? How much space will they need in and around the kitchen?

I think we are consistently seeing a more refined and thoughtful approach when it comes to the beginning stages of designing an outdoor kitchen. Recently, they’ve reached the point where their design is less likely to be an afterthought. Today’s designs, whether part of the original construction or a remodel, are more likely than ever to be complementary to the architecture and environment."

Jennifer: What’s the biggest area of interest and/or hot item for people investing in outdoor kitchens?


"Right now, the biggest cooking trends we see are all about authenticity.

Whether you’re looking at the popularity of artisan pizzas or gourmet barbecue, Kalamazoo is often working on new products to help clients enjoy their love of food. Our Gaucho Grill is a prime example of our innovative approach to authentic cooking techniques and tools. We’ve taken the essence of an Argentinian-style wood-fired grill, added a motorized rotisserie spit for more versatility and a powerful gas starter for convenience. We’ve also made it a distinctive design statement.

In terms of design trends for 2016, the styles for outdoor kitchen have never been stronger or more diverse. In the beginning, it was all about stone and rusticism. Then we saw a more modern aesthetic gain a sure foothold. Now, there is a full array of design languages being exercised. We love seeing concrete forms combined with our sleek stainless steel cabinetry. J&M Lifestyles in New Jersey has been doing some innovative work with concrete. We’re also seeing some fantastic new materials, particularly for countertops, such as Neolith, Dekton and Lapitec."


Jennifer: What’s a common mistake that people make when planning outdoor space?

Russ: "One key area we stress to clients to avoid is cutting back on the grill. It’s important for two reasons.

First, the grill is the heart of the outdoor kitchen. It can make or break the client’s satisfaction with their project.

Second, there is no standard in grill dimensions across manufacturers, so upgrading the grill to another brand a few years down the line may be rather impractical. The grill you really want might not fit in the cutout of the grill you settled for. We encourage people to do their research and get the grill that best suits their needs while fitting within the budget.

Jennifer: What’s next at Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet?

Russ: We’re always innovating and working to enhance the outdoor cooking experience. Just in time for grilling season, we’re really excited about our new Smoker Pellet Grill Inserts and Premium Wood Pellets for our Hybrid Fire Grill. The grill inserts support the use of our new Premium Wood Pellets inside the Hybrid Fire Grilling Drawer for easy and reliable smoking inside our most popular line of grills. 

We’ll be releasing our new Smoker Cabinet this summer as well. It is an exciting way to bring the capabilities of a dedicated smoker into an outdoor kitchen design. It looks just like our cabinetry and under-counter refrigeration, but behind the doors is a real American barbecue cooker fueled by a charcoal fire.

Clients crave authentic cooking techniques and the specialty tools to pursue their passion.

Our new smoker delivers the real goods without looking like a traditional smoker.  It blends into the design of the kitchen as an under-counter unit, or as a cart on wheels, topped with coordinating countertop materials. 

Finally, we’ve expanded our Artisan Fire Pizza Oven collection with a freestanding model and redesigned our Gaucho Grill for 2016.