For Lisa and Stuart Schabes and their family, Passover is a time to celebrate the tenets of their faith.
It's also a time when Lisa Schabes spends several days preparing festive, sumptuous meals in her spacious kosher kitchen.
These specialty kitchens have layout and design elements that aid Orthodox Jews in upholding traditional dietary laws.
"I've had it about seven or eight years, and it was a long time coming — my husband was very generous to me," said Schabes, a mother of five and educator who resides in the Cheswolde community in Northwest Baltimore. "For many years, I prepared food in a much smaller area, and it was definitely challenging."
In a kosher kitchen, items used for preparing and serving meat and dairy must be separated. For that reason, appliances often come in twos: two refrigerators, two cooking ranges, sinks, dishwashers and so on.
With its cherry wood, black appliances, granite countertops and brushed nickel faucets, the Schabeses'' kitchen has plenty of style.
But it's also practical, says Lisa Schabes, who notes that she must store utensils, cookware, dishes, bowls and the like in separate drawers and cabinets. "Nothing's just for show. We use our kitchen a lot."
The kitchen was a collaborative project that came together thanks to the skill of local decorating and construction professionals, including Owings Brothers Contracting, based in Eldersburg, which focuses on remodeling and custom-built homes.
Michael Owings, who's been in the business for nearly 30 years, said he first worked on a kosher kitchen back in the 1990s after completing an addition at the home of a Jewish client in Pikesville.
"I'm a gentile, but I've done quite a few kosher kitchens now for members of the Orthodox community," says Owings. "Not all of the rules are set in stone. But it's a matter of understanding what things can and can't go together."
Saul Horowitz is the proprietor of Syata Kitchens in Owings Mills. Trained as a second-generation cabinetmaker, he designs all kinds of kitchens. He's done plenty of kosher kitchens, including the one that graces the Schabes home.
"There's a lot more to a kosher kitchen than creating two of everything," he says. "One of the primary things you want to do is ask how the family functions. That will dictate the type of the kitchen they need."
Horowitz lives in Park Heights with his wife and their children. The family enjoys its deluxe kosher kitchen, but he stresses that "kosher" doesn't have to mean elaborate or fancy.
"It's great to have two of everything, but you don't need two. Your space, finances and style will play a role."
The cost of a kosher kitchen varies, depending upon its size, scope and the types of materials used. But Owings says homeowners can expect to pay at least $25,000 for the basics.
"That would be an economy kitchen," he says.
But many folks go all out, says interior designer Alene Workman, owner of an eponymous design firm in Hollywood, Fla., and an expert on specialty kitchens.
Workman, a fellow with the American Society of Interior Designers, is completing a kosher kitchen in a 9,000-square-foot penthouse in the Miami Beach area. With gleaming glass tiles, stainless steel and granite, it boasts features including double refrigerator/freezers, dual wine coolers and spice racks. The cost of such a kitchen can run anywhere from $300,000 to $400,000, she said.
Workman says it's important that interior designers familiarize themselves with various cultures and groups so that they can serve the needs of diverse clients accordingly.
"I did research and I educated myself," she says, before tackling kosher kitchens. "You want to be the best advocate that you can be. And that goes beyond layout, efficiency, beauty and needs. It's also about understanding how each client is unique."
When Pat Caulfield, an associate kitchen and bath designer, created a kosher kitchen in Baltimore County, she kept in mind that her client loved to cook.
"She needed not only to prep and cook, but have the ability to kasher utensils and cookware," Caulfield explains, referring to a process that renders foods or cooking tools kosher.
Caulfield recommended appliances that fit what she describes as the "Sabbath/holiday" mode. It means, for instance, that the refrigerator door can be opened or closed at any time without directly turning on or off any lights, which is not allowed during Sabbath or Passover.
And even the ice maker is disabled. Ice cubes can then be made manually (using a standard tray) as needed for the Sabbath or a Jewish holiday.
Other features included countertops of Silestone, an engineered material comprised of quartz and other materials, which is nonporous. No transference of food residue can be absorbed by this material — yet another nod to kosher traditions.
She also used a Sub-Zero refrigerator and Wolf ovens, both of which are certified kosher.
Two Franke stainless-steel sinks, custom cabinets by Keener Kitchen with a curly maple veneer, and soft gray countertops with flecks of mirror lend high style to the contemporary decor. Caulfield's client, who was preparing for Passover, said she is pleased with the result.
Lisa Schabes also loves her kosher kitchen. "It's a luxury," she says. "The family congregates here, and we enjoy it."
5 elements of a kosher kitchen
Dual appliances: Meat and dairy must be separated as per kosher dietary traditions. That often requires double refrigerators, stoves, sinks, dishwashers. But experts say you can have, say, one microwave, if it's used for just one purpose, such as reheating meat, but is not used for dairy.
Ample storage: Ideally, cookware, utensils, bowls, etc. should be stored separately. Some families color-code or label items used for meat and dairy.
Nonporous countertops: Consider using an engineered material such as Silestone or Caesarstone, which is made of quartz and other materials and does not allow transference of food residue.
Sabbath-friendly: Consider appliances that fit the "Sabbath/holiday" mode. For instance, refrigerators with doors that can be opened or closed without directly turning any lights on or off. Many companies have such models; look for the Star-K Kosher certification. http://www.star-k.org
Blessing: While design experts say a kosher kitchen does not have to be blessed, many families do consult with an Orthodox rabbi to advise on requirements and traditions.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun