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Culinary Kitchen

By Meagan Russell
In Bayou Profile
Aug 1st, 2022
0 Comments
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ARTICLE BY VANELIS RIVERA     PHOTOGRAPHY BY KELLY MOORE CLARK

How does a chef of Cory Bahr’s caliber, one that has been in 
hundreds of commercial kitchens all over the country, 
narrow down selections for a home kitchen? Bahr’s response 
is refreshing–simplicity and cabinet space. 

Cory Bahr is a busy man. He is the owner and founder of Parish Restaurant, Standard Coffee Co., and Heritage Catering in Monroe. He is a Culinary Ambassador for the state of Louisiana, on the Board of Directors for the Louisiana Travel Promotion Association, and a member of the Audubon Nature Institute’s Gulf United for Lasting Fisheries Chef Council. Adding to the whirlwind that has been his life, he and wife Whitney Bahr welcomed their first child, Oliver, into the world last year. Around the same time, the couple decided to renovate a part of their home, creating a kitchen and dining area that better suited their new lifestyle. But how does a chef of Bahr’s caliber, one that has been in hundreds of commercial kitchens all over the country, narrow down selections for a home kitchen? Bahr’s response is refreshing–simplicity and cabinet space. 

Bahr has been living in his craftsman bungalow for about fifteen years. “I love my house,” he says, explaining that the recent renovations were an attempt to “breathe new life into it.” Growing up, Bahr spent a majority of his time in the kitchen with his family, so he wanted to create a kitchen that would be centered around gathering with loved ones. Having almost doubled the square footage of his home after the renovations, the kitchen area is the most open space, connecting to the dining area and the family room. “We wanted to make it user-friendly and have some simplicity to it,” he says. Keeping the space minimal was paramount to preserving the character of the home but also curating an area that would allow for movement, especially considering that little Oliver enjoys his walker. “I feel like usability and having ample space to prep is the most important thing. A lot of times, people put things in their kitchens that they never use,” he says, emphasizing the importance of flow in an area that involves the preparation and sharing of food. Bahr credits his wife with overseeing most of the project. She picked all the finishes and customized the cabinets, fleshing out and bringing life to their shared vision. 

The kitchen is divided into three sections–the stove and adjoining counters and ceiling-high cabinets, an immense island with hidden storage and a built-in stone farm sink, and an additional window-view counter with a built-in microwave. The creamy, milk-white of the counters juxtaposes the black granite tops, which stand at about 44 inches, two inches more than standard length, making it easier to cook without having to stoop over. “It’s just an openness,” says Bahr, enthused over the ample space he has to prep, be it a quick lunch before he heads to work or larger-scale operations like Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. “And I’m not cramped,” he says. “I don’t have a bunch of things to walk around.” 

When asked about his favorite appliance, he didn’t skip a beat. “If I’m going to be honest with you, our over-the-top microwave,” he laughs. The high-end Sharp Microwave drawer cooks to a capacity of 950 cooking watts, has 11 power levels, and has the ability to sensor cook. In short, it makes Bahr’s life easier. A lot of times, he gets home from the restaurant hours after his wife has made dinner. His handy Sharp warms it up to perfection. Another of his favorite devices is one he also has at Parish. His Hoshizaki ice-maker allows the family to have at their disposal dense, top-hat-shaped ice. Regular ice melts quickly, but the specialty cube made in this machine keeps drinks cold without melting too quickly. “I love that thing,” he enthuses. 

As new parents, the item the Bahrs need most is probably coffee. But most will be surprised at how this chef is getting his caffeine fix post-baby Oliver. “When we were dating it was all Chemex all the time,” he says with a hearty laugh. Those familiar with the pour-over style glass coffeemaker know that the process requires some waiting. When Whitney was pregnant, time was becoming of the essence so they got a drip coffee pot in order to prep the coffee at night and set the timer for the morning. This was working fine until Oliver was born. Eight months into parenthood, Bahr received a Nespresso machine for Father’s Day. It was just the remedy they both needed, especially since there have been times they have forgotten to set the drip coffee or it’s too late at night to grind coffee beans because Oliver is asleep. “Yeah, there’s been a few compromises. But hey, it makes good coffee and it gets the job done,” he says, adding, “As long as the family’s happy and healthy and things are good, that’s fine with me.” 

While the Bahrs do have a few kitchen toys, the couple makes sure to only buy what is absolutely needed. “I can have all the gadgets in the world that I never use,” he says,  but he prefers to have more counter space than accumulate unnecessary built-ins or storage clutter. In this same vein, he considers long-lasting appliances the most under-appreciated aspect of a home kitchen. “Nowadays, so much of our society is a kind of throwaway society in a lot of ways.” When he was a kid, buying an oven meant finding your forever cooking station. “Most people don’t think about things like that anymore.” At the core of his kitchen is a six-burner, heavy-duty Viking convection oven with a hood vent. He was well-versed with the series he’d be getting as he has had a working relationship with the company. The closed burners are similar to restaurant models, maintaining a high output while staying operationally manageable. He appreciates the sensitive controls on the oven, allowing him to cook delicate dishes like stocks and gumbo: “You know, the last thing you want to do is scorch it by trying to simmer it, so the controls are extremely fine.” To top off the finesse of this machinery, the oven is much deeper and wider than the average appliance. “I can fit like three pies and two turkeys in there. Yeah, you can really get it going,” he adds. 

Perhaps the most curious aspect of the Bahr kitchen for us mere mortals is what is stashed in his two-door fridge. “That’s way more interesting,” Bahr laughs, excited to dig into his niche. On his shelves, mostly condiments. One of the first items he mentioned as a favorite is Duke’s Real Mayonnaise, smooth and creamy, made with Eugenia Duke’s original 1917 recipe.

A

 fan of toppings, he keeps a lot of bottles of vinegar and sauces to amplify his meals like Huichol Hot Sauce, a souvenir from his travels to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Another import and favorite is yuzu juice, made from the sour citrus indigenous to some Asian countries. “Obviously, some awesome produce from Current Farms,” he beams, mentioning that he recently ate a tomato from the farmer’s market with some “really good vinegar out of the fridge,” some blue cheese, and some arugula from Current Farms. “That’s what you’ll find in our fridge,” he says, “ingredients to make other things.” 

While a few extravagant items are an arms-reach away from assisting the making of a delectable home meal, some items in the Bahr fridge are much more familiar American and Southern staples. Alongside the miniature bottles of Moët champagne is a line of Abita Root Beer, cans of Flying Tiger Jucee, and Dr. Pepper. HEINZ® Tomato Ketchup and French’s Classic Yellow Mustard have made the condiment cut. And from a bottom shelf, Conecuh Sausage links peek through a clear drawer. In the freezer, Bahr stocks Jimmy Dean’s breakfast sandwiches. “Hey, I’m not always there to make stock,” he explains, referring to another shortcut he keeps around, a jar of Better Than Bouillon. “I use that as a flavor enhancer a lot of times in the house. Because it’s quick and easy. And sometimes you just gotta have quick and easy.”

The Bahr kitchen looks picture perfect. White orchids contrast the hardness of the granite counters, and the sleek matte black bar stools and kitchen chairs complement the gilded light fixtures. It’s a dream kitchen, but not because of how it looks, necessarily. As it goes, there are times when the kitchen is in disarray. It is as much space for cooking and eating as it is a prep station for little Oliver, whose bathtime sometimes occurs in the spacious sink. “We’ve all been in homes that are super beautiful and super fun, and nobody cooks in,” mentions Bahr who values the creation of memories over aesthetics. Of course, it doesn’t hurt when your kitchen looks like a page out of a design magazine, but ultimately the goal was simplicity and space. Parenting is what the Bahrs’ life is really about and their kitchen is where the love of food and family meet.