by Lee Graves
For many executives, bringing work home cuts into their leisure time. But for Phil Cornett, bringing a freshly cut steak home to his custom-built kitchen is more play than work.
Cornett, owner of Hooter’s, Topeka’s Steakhouse ’n Saloon and Max & Erma’s restaurants in Richmond, uses the expansive kitchen in his West End home like many folks — for family meals, entertaining and just hanging out.
Unlike many foodies, though, he and his wife, Stacie, have an agenda: They test recipes that have the potential to join items such as Baby Oh Baby Back Ribs and Nut Crusted Mahi on Topeka’s menu. “We work things out here, really,” says Phil, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America.
Designing the kitchen was a collaborative effort that required substantial reconfiguring of space in the home, which dates to 1908, says Stacie Cornett. To pull off a French Old World feel similar to that of their previous home in western Henrico County, she relied on color — pale blue Florida slate flooring, alabaster cabinets with dark bead insets, brown counters of Italian giallo granite and a shade of muted salmon above the cabinets. Specialists at Custom Kitchens Inc. in Richmond coordinated the design in both homes. The new space required modifications, but the purpose was unchanged.
“We had to provide for one or two cooks at any given time in a small work triangle in a large kitchen,” says Marie “Mint” Schlief, a certified designer with Custom Kitchens.
A six-burner Wolf Pro Range and accompanying convection oven dominate one wall. A central island affords additional work space with a small sink and plenty of elbow room.
The kitchen has a spacious elegance, thanks to recessed lighting and applied wood fronts that conceal the Sub-Zero stacked refrigerator-freezer. Features like the “appliance garage,” where the toaster, knives and knickknacks are stored, enhance the clean lines.
The Cornetts’ passion for fine wine shows in the two-zone Sub-Zero storage unit, and details such as glass insets in the Sonoma ceramic tile splashes and slanted spice trays in the island’s drawers add character to the design of the kitchen.
While the kitchen serves multiple purposes, it retains a central function — as home base for the Cornetts. “We’ve always lived in the kitchen,” says Phil Cornett. “It’s the primary social part of the house for us.”