New Year, New Kitchen—How to Reorganize Your Space Like a Chef

Give your pantry some TLC.

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So you made a New Year’s resolution to cook more. You could start by buying a new cookbook or scrolling through Pinterest for recipe inspiration, but the best—and easiest—place to start is in your own kitchen. A little bit of reorganization will make that meal prep or fancy dinner way easier to whip up—and no one has better methods for keeping this space tidy and organized than chefs.

As people who spend time in kitchens and around food all the time, they know exactly what they need to do to remotivate and inspire themselves for all the cooking that will undoubtedly be happening in the year ahead. After the chaos of the holidays has abated, they give their kitchens some TLC by reorganizing their spice racks in unexpected ways, digging up long-lost cookbooks, and so much more, all of which is easy for anyone to do. Use their ideas to kick-start your own kitchen adventures in 2020. 

Empty Out Your Pantry

“Every year, I spend a day going through my house and reorganizing,” says Maiko Kyogoku, chef and owner of Bessou in New York City. “I go through the pantry and throw away anything that is expired. It helps me realize the need to buy fewer things and work with less.” She also uses the new year as an opportunity to KonMari her space, donating or tossing anything that no longer sparks joy. 

Sort Your Spices

“I was keeping all of my spices in these cute jars out on a shelf, but unfortunately the light was aging them really fast,” says Carissa Waechter, owner of Carissa’s in the Hamptons. To prevent that from happening this year, she’s transferring all her spices to darker, smaller containers, which she says should help them last far longer. 

Rearrange Your Cookbooks

Waechter is also ditching her pared-down ways. “I’m a super-minimalist but do have a huge cookbook collection, so I’ve moved the books I’d like to open more often front and center,” she says. 

Make Ingredients Easy to Reach

Camille Becerra, chef and food stylist, is also reorganizing her ingredients so that they’re easier to see and, therefore, more likely to be used. Right now she’s focused on incorporating more dried flowers (in everything from desserts to teas), chilis, and all kinds of powders (from hibiscus to mushroom) into her cooking. She’s devoting individual rolling racks to each so they’re always readily available.  

Toss the Plastic

“At home, I recently purchased beeswax paper to wrap leftovers and cheeses to store in the refrigerator,” says Kyogoku. “After seeing the amount of plastic containers even our small restaurant goes through on a daily basis, I hope I can make a little bit of a difference with less plastic use at home.” Ditto for Waechter, who is using the fresh start as an opportunity to finally invest in reusable shopping bags and coffee cups. 

Buy a Compost Bin

Amanda Wilson, culinary operations manager of Daily Provisions, wants to use the new year to finally start composting, and she is employing a simple hack that will keep her apartment from smelling. “I just got a little black basket that fits perfectly in my freezer,” she explains. “Every time I have food waste, it goes in the freezer basket, and then I take the waste once a week to a local compost station.”