In 2020, I went from writing cookbooks and food articles to making cooking videos. I’ve since hosted four cooking shows, doing everything from Punjabi chole to Raj kachoris, chaats in waffle cones, even laborious nalli nihari – all under the hawkish eye of the camera.
Even as I taught viewers how to make these recipes, I was constantly picking up tips and tricks from the set. For example, it blew my mind to see food programmers using everything from glue in ice cream commercials to plastic ice cubes for refrigerated colas and motor oil on pancakes in place of real honey (oops – did I give it away?). But I also noted the little things our kitchen stylists did to make the space look pretty between shots – giving the kitchen a quick facelift, if you will. It continues to be endlessly fascinating to me to watch a stationary kitchen go from looking like a hurricane one minute to being completely calm and clean the next.
So here are nine handy tips to use in your kitchen when you want to spruce it up quickly (like that surprise family visit).
Marie Kondo the mess
Any room that needs an instant lift should start by getting rid of clutter. The clutter on the kitchen counter always makes it difficult for me to enjoy the cooking process – I work effortlessly when the space has only the equipment and ingredients needed for every shot. I’m not kidding when I say: get inspired by Paris Hilton in “Cooking With Paris” because she cleans up after every dish.
At home, one way to quickly get rid of clutter is to use the cabinet right under the sink (goodbye unwashed dishes). At the studio, we use sturdy laundry baskets to store excess and turn them around, we need things.
Store the supplies
No one needs to see your kitchen soap, detergent, stain remover, sink scrub and cleaning mitts, so hide them under the sink inside a cabinet, in a tidy basket lined with a kitchen towel – you know, in case someone stumbles upon them. Store items such as pantry items and other boxes and bags in their rightful homes. Dishes left to dry should also be wiped down and put away. We use everything from our empty dishwasher to our oven, even our refrigerator for this! I’m pretty sure this is heavily inspired by Carrie Bradshaw using her oven to put away her sweaters in “Sex And The City”.
It’s nearly impossible to clean up a messy space without feeling really overwhelmed. So once you’ve decluttered and tidied things up, it’ll be much easier to quickly clean your counters and floor (and no, you can’t avoid doing that).
Just add greens
Whether at home or on the shelf, potted plants can camouflage everything from food stains to cracks in walls. They’re a great decor item and, according to our stylist, “give the illusion of freshness – food and flavor.” Some of my favorite plants are snakes, succulents, English ivy, and of course grasses. Simply transfer them from the balcony to the corners of your kitchen.
Make it smell good
The bridge between a kitchen that’s not ready for guests and one that’s got it all is a great scent: citrus, floral, and spice notes are the best bets. You can do this by using a diffuser or starting a simmer pot. Closed kitchen spaces, studio and real, retain cooking odors. When you’re done cooking, start a pot and keep it on low until your last guest has entered.
Keep a cookbook (or several) handy
I’ve never seen a better trick in the book (pun intended) than stacks and stacks of cookbooks. Pepper Teigen, author of “The Pepper Thai Cookbook” defends this one. Use cookbooks not only for cooking, but also to tidy up open shelves or to hide grease stains on the kitchen counter or wall. All you have to do is stack them. Our Stylist says, “Plus, adding lots of cookbooks to your kitchen shelf will suggest you’re a knowledgeable host or cook.”
Use the cotton call trick
When we prepare large meals, kitchen waste is inevitable. On set, since so many things are being made simultaneously, there’s always a looming concern about odors emanating from the trash can. The niftiest trick is to simply dip a cotton ball in your favorite essential oil, drop it in the bottom of your trash can under the liner, and voila! It will release its aroma each time you open the lid.
Does not leave fingerprints
Since it’s impossible to empty all open cabinets and shelves and give them a thorough cleaning minutes before your guests arrive (or before you start filming), here’s what to do. Cheat to clean open shelves by spraying your favorite glass cleaner or all-purpose cleaner on old newspapers (or use mild soap and water and a soft cloth) and quickly cleaning all visible objects. If you have 30 seconds to spare, wipe fingerprints off stainless steel appliances using white vinegar and a soft, damp cloth. All of this will create the illusion of a sparkling clean kitchen.
Set the accents in your kitchen
If you don’t have time to polish the handles and various other metal accents in your kitchen, the best way to hide rust, stains or grease is to throw a few dishcloths over your drawer and oven handles. “We choose bold prints and bright colors to distract the viewer from any issues,” a stylist once told me.
But finally. . . A well-worn kitchen is the best kind
With over four million subscribers on YouTube, chef Ranveer Brar knows all about attractive cooking studios. Brar says perfection is overrated and the best way to showcase your kitchen to a guest (or onlooker) is to embrace it with all of its irregularities and messes. “Make your kitchen feel like a frequently used space,” he says. He also says it’s important to showcase things like personal art and random but meaningful objects. “These symbolize experience and warmth.”