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Can a Joyful Kitchen Make a Joyful Life?

These nine items are almost guaranteed to improve your space (and mood), according to people who actually use them.

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In the past year, we’ve gone from shiny cocktail events to cookie-eating parties for one. We might be dreaming of more than sugarplums this holiday season (like friends, family, mistletoe kisses, and hand-holding), but there’s still plenty of room for celebration in the kitchen — especially if you get the right gear.

The fact is, 2020 has raised the bar for at-home routines, quality housewares, and spaces that spark more joy than our old norm. So how does your kitchen space stack up? Are you playing ambiance music from your phone or an aesthetically stunning bluetooth speaker? Are you digging for dented coffee pods or brewing fresh espresso and iced coffee with a De’Longhi Dinamica with LatteCrema™? If you’ve yet to create a meal-time space that inspires and delights, then this is your year of opportunity. We don’t make the rules.

Not sure where to start? Have no fear — we asked a few food-loving friends to narrow down their top three must-haves in the kitchen. Read on to see what they absolutely can’t cook without and what’s been bringing more joy into their year.

Vianney Rodriguez, cookbook author, recipe developer, and food blogger

Kitchen non-negotiables: Storage space for bulk-buys

On family routines: Coffee has always had a major role in my life. Every morning growing up, the smell of a freshly brewed pot of coffee wafted from my mami’s kitchen. As she made breakfast, I would fill my papi’s coffee thermos for his day at work. Being a mother, espresso-filled weekends have fueled our weekends, full of art classes and soccer games. My family lives in a small rural Texas farming town, so we always focus on having quality coffee/espresso at home. It’s a wonderful start to our days.

On recipe stress: Cooking should be fun, so don’t be intimidated by a new recipe — what’s the worst that can happen? The more you cook, the more confident you’ll become, and that’s part of the joy of it all. Start small with easier recipes and work your way up to more extensive ones. Cook the recipes you grew up cooking (comfort food, anyone?), or ask friends for their beloved family recipes and try those. I believe cooking generational recipes fills your kitchen with special memories and leaves room for you to create your own.

Totally Bamboo 6-Piece Utensil Set

Being a full-time recipe developer, I use wooden utensils every day. Since my pots and pans get a daily work-out, my collection of wooden spoons helps to keep them in great shape without any damage.
Price: $6.99

De’Longhi Dinamica with LatteCrema™ Automatic Coffee + Espresso Machine

Dinamica, thank you for keeping this mami sane — having an at-home, state-of-the-art machine that does all of the work for you is the ultimate treat (and time saver) each morning. It’s easy to clean and makes a perfect iced latte that's customized to my tastes. Plus, the automatic frother means I can enjoy rich, creamy espresso-based drinks without ever leaving home.
Price: $1,199.95 MSRP

Princess House 13" Comal

We use this daily for recipe prep, to heat tortillas, toast chilis, warm veggies, and more. I absolutely love this piece — it heats evenly and looks lovely on my stovetop.
Price: $169.95

Andre Fowles, chef and television personality

Kitchen non-negotiables: Quality appliances and lots of prep space

On getting started: Keep it simple as much as possible — this applies to meal planning and kitchen layout. I hate clutter. A clean, organized kitchen is an invitation to get it messy with your cooking. Then, make sure to use the correct tool for the job — having the appropriate tool for a kitchen task takes away stress and saves you precious time (thus, more joy). A few of my favorites: food processor, spatula, micro zester, and a whisk.

On scent memories: In Jamaica, I grew up drinking coffee at a young age. Today, it’s a vital part of my routine and one of the first things I smell and taste in the morning. The aroma always triggers a nostalgic memory of being in my grandmother’s kitchen. Coffee and cooking: they bring people together. They always have and always will.

Sugimoto Carbon Steel Chinese Cleaver

This is the perfect heavy-duty yet versatile kitchen accessory. With an easy-to-grip handle and finely thin blade, it's a must-have in a kitchen or on a deserted island — your choice.
Price: $420.00

Microplane® Rasp Grater

I use my micro zester daily, whether for fruit, cheese, or spices. It's a game changer for little hints of flavor in any meal.
Price: $14.95

Bose Home Speaker 300

Music is always welcome in my kitchen and instantly helps set the mood, no matter who I'm hosting or what I'm cooking. A good speaker goes a long way.
Price: $199.95

Lani Halliday, chef and specialty bakery owner

Kitchen non-negotiables: Art, color, and organization

On treating yourself: In my space, I don’t just require things to function well; they should also be beautiful. I don’t underestimate the power of beauty. My favorite pot is a giant pink cast-iron dutch oven that I use for a million different things, and it lives cheerfully on the stovetop bringing brightness and joy to the space.

On quality over everything: When I was 31 and living in England, I bought my then-husband a cute, inexpensive espresso machine for his birthday. I wasn’t even a coffee drinker at the time, but the instant coffee it provided had next to no appeal, anyway. When I started drinking coffee, I had a revelation about what quality and consistency bring to the table. I’ve prioritized it ever since.

On cooking for friends and family: My favorite part is the ritual, the togetherness — the Scandinavians call it “hygge.” I live for the feeling of hearth, home, and relaxation. Don’t you?

Beaded Bud Vase

In my home, fresh flowers are a 100% must. I love this bright, fresh vase to bring instant warmth and cheer to a space.
Price: $69.00

De'Longhi Cappuccino Glasses

Being able to make a beautiful cup of coffee in my own kitchen really makes my house feel like home. Sharing a lush cup with a friend in a cozy space is a real treat with these glasses. The double wall allows you to hold the glass comfortably in your hand, and since they are thermal, they keep your beverage hot.
Price: $19.95

The Duchess by Great Jones

THIS. A good dutch oven will never disappoint, but investing in this beauty means you get a quality homeware and a decorative piece in one.
Price: $155.00

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