Big Deal Chef in a Small Kitchen: 10 Questions With Kenji Lopez-Alt

The small apartment rental kitchen of Kenji Lopez-Alt
The small apartment rental kitchen of Kenji Lopez-Alt

Food nerds, you have a new leader, and his name is Kenji Lopez-Alt.

His Food Lab series for SeriousEats.com delves into the science behind popular foods to produce definitive (and sometimes surprising -- steak cooked in a beer cooler?) home-cooking methods for each. And he does it all from a compact New York City apartment kitchen.

Fans who had imagined Lopez-Alt cranking out his culinary creations in a gleaming, stainless-steel dream kitchen got a dose of reality last week, when SeriousEats published a slide show detailing Alt's shockingly humble galley.

The photo tour revealed several surprises, the biggest of which may be the fact that his kitchen looks a lot like yours: cramped, Formica countertops; stingy cabinet space; the ubiquitous microwave/exhaust hood combo that never quite seems to whisk away the stink of sauteed onions.

So how does the chef-slash-writer -- who has spent time in the high-tech halls of M.I.T. and the well-funded workspace of Cook's Illustrated -- manage to put his recipes through their paces (sometimes trying as many as 40 variations!) in such a small and unassuming space?

He does it all with the help of some carefully chosen tools, zealous organization, and the good mojo of a dearly departed cat. Read on to see how Lopez-Alt makes the magic happen in his rental kitchen Food Lab: