PBS chef Christy Rost designed her dream kitchen for her historic Breckenridge home
So much of the magic of the holidays revolves around food. We all have fond memories of friends and family brought together by delicious dishes passed on through generations. While the dining room may be the place that everyone sits down to finally tuck in, it’s the kitchen where all the action happens. The kitchen hosts the sweet smells and stolen tastes of family tradition in the making.
The Breckenridge kitchen of Christy Rost is the epitome of this. It has been the background of many of Rost’s cooking shows for PBS, including the Thanksgiving special, which airs every year and features the kitchen’s origins, from design to reality. Recently, Rost gave us a tour of her kitchen and revealed a handful of the secrets that she uses to transform it every season.
DESIGNING THE DREAM
Christy Rost and her husband Randy purchased the historic Swan’s Nest house in 2007. The home was built in 1898 by Ben Stanley Revett, a local mining baron, as a lavish present for his wife. The historic aspects were a large part of what drew the Rosts to the building in the first place. They undertook it as a large renovation project, working to restore the interior to its former glory while simultaneously updating its electricity, insulation and heating.
Rost’s show kitchen is the only modern addition to the house. She and her husband worked on the design to make sure it fit the look and feel of the rest of the house, while still hitting every item on the ‘dream kitchen’ checklist.
It was Rost’s first time designing a kitchen, she says, but she knew exactly what she wanted. It took time to do her research — about nine months of planning went into the kitchen, and construction began in 2008. She designed it with the intention of using it mainly as a show kitchen, for filming and cooking classes. The house had a kitchen already, of course, which Rost takes advantage of for everyday use, but the show kitchen often calls to her anyway, and sometimes she finds herself using it unofficially as well. It is her dream kitchen, after all.
“This kitchen has me in every corner, because I designed it,” she said.
Probably the first thing one notices about the kitchen right away is its size. At 650 square feet, the room is large and open, with a dining table and chairs to the right and the heart of the kitchen — countertops, cabinets, etc. — to the left.
The table serves as a reminder of the house’s history, made out of an old chopping block that was used in the kitchen in Revett’s day. Large windows open out onto a sweeping view of the Tenmile Range.
The ceilings reach a lofty 13.5 feet in height, making it easy for film and photography crews to get Rost at work from nearly every angle. A 9-by-5-foot island serves as Rost’s staging area, topped with a five-burner gas cooktop stove. At the press of a button, the oven draft vent rises out of the countertop, then recesses back in when not needed. Rost said she chose this feature partly for convenience, and partly to eliminate the issue of an overhead vent blocking the camera’s view.
The island and surrounding countertops are all dark, and made of quartz.
“It stays cool like granite, but it does not stain,” she said of her choice of stone. The quartz isn’t as porous as granite, which makes it better for food preparation. It also doesn’t require any special polishing.
Having the stovetop set in the island, instead of the counter behind, “allows me to interact with my guests while I’m working,” Rost said. That includes both talking to the camera, and talking to friends, guests and reporters who happen to be nearby.
She has two sinks, two dishwashers, a large stainless steel refrigerator, a microwave recessed into a cubby hole on the far side of the island and dual confection ovens with steam technology.
More than 30 cabinets line the walls, or sit below the countertops and around the island. Recessed lighting above the cabinets gives a gentle glowing ambiance, while pendant lights above the sinks offer more direct assistance.
Rost’s favorite part of the kitchen, however, is the wall farthest from the entrance, which features a fireplace and two plush armchairs. It’s the perfect place to sit with her husband, sipping coffee in the morning or wine in the evening, and chat. It’s particularly cozy in the wintertime.
“That’s where we connect,” she said.
Each year, Rost chooses a theme to bring her kitchen to life for the holidays. This year it’s snowflakes. Evergreen garlands grace the tops of the cabinets, mixed in with white lights and sparkly silver snowflakes. Candles wreathed with evergreen sit at various places on the countertop, along with a small lit-up Christmas tree.
Though the theme changes year to year, there’s always one decoration that Rost puts up without fail — her Santa figurine collection. She collected her first one at the age of 8 and now has at least 20.
The dining table features stuffed teddy bears in a sleigh, which her children had when they were young.
“Each one brings back memories, which is fun,” she said of using mementos in her decorating.
While some people might focus on decorating other parts of the house, rather than the kitchen, for Rost it’s essential.
“I always have a Christmas tree in every kitchen,” she said, because she spends so much time there during the holidays.
“It keeps me company while I’m still baking when everyone else has gone to bed,” she added with a laugh.
Though Rost designed her second kitchen with the showcase in mind, it doesn’t come off as a cold, professional space. It’s comfortable and cozy, despite its size, and her holiday touches give it a particular warmth during the winter season.
“The kitchen is the heart of the home, that’s true,” Rost said, bringing up an old cliché. For her it’s more than a space to work, but a place to honor family traditions and create new ones.
“I just think that probably is the epitome of why a kitchen is so important to me,” she said.
And there’s no better place to enjoy them than in the warmth of her own dream kitchen.
CHRISTMAS SPICE CAKE (HIGH-ALTITUDE VERSION)
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
3 cups flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ teaspoons Saigon cinnamon
¾ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon vanilla
Adjust the oven rack to the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Add vinegar to the milk, stir, and set it aside to sour.
In the large bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until the mixture is light, about 8 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves. Gradually beat the flour mixture, alternately with the sour milk, into the creamed mixture. Stir in the vanilla.
Line two 9-inch round cake pans with parchment paper, then spray the pans and the paper with nonstick cooking spray with flour. Pour the cake batter evenly into the pans and bake 28 to 33 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Cool the cakes on a wire rack 30 minutes, remove them from the pans, and cool completely. Frost with cream cheese frosting.
CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
3 ounces cream cheese, softened
7 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
4 to 5 tablespoons milk
dash of salt
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla
In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and cream cheese until they are well blended. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar, alternately with the milk, and the salt, beating until the frosting is thick and fluffy. Stir in the vanilla. Frost and decorate the cake as desired.
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