Outdoor kitchens used to be rather exclusive and were usually only seen in New Zealand’s more high-end homes. But following international trends, Kiwis of all income-brackets are now investing in outdoor kitchens as part of their exterior entertainment areas. This worldwide phenomenon has led to new research being carried out to explain the hype surrounding alfresco kitchens. After all, we know outdoor kitchens are hot right now – but why is that so?
An American advertising agency has been busy asking hundreds of homeowners why they’ve invested in their outdoor kitchen and their responses make illuminating reading. They might help us understand New Zealand’s current obsession.
Their research indicated that consumers treat indoor kitchens and outdoor kitchens as if they’re two very different things. Sure, kitchens are where you cook and prepare food but the survey’s respondents were quite clear that they viewed the outdoor kitchen as being all about fun, whereas the indoor kitchen has a higher focus on functionality.
This finding might not be too surprising when we reflect on New Zealand’s outdoor cooking experiences of the last 50 years or so. Yes, we’re talking about the old-fashioned Kiwi barbecue, said by many women as being the only time when New Zealand men actually cooked. It was a thing of legend for all the men to gather around the barbecue while one of them burnt something on it. It was the focal point of the backyard gathering, and an outdoor kitchen, while much grander than the humble barbecue, could well be a throwback to those halcyon days. It’s the centrepiece of the outdoor cooking party in the way the barbecue used to be, and as such, it is seen as a place of enjoyment.
To be fair, the modern male does far more of the cooking than their counterparts from half a century ago used to. There are all sorts of reasons for that, but to see a man doing the cooking in an outdoor kitchen (as well as the indoor one) is no longer a novel sight.
The American study also revealed that most of the people who own one need their outdoor kitchen to be much more than a place to cook. They want the space to be “unique, fun, and memorable” and have added items like fountains, fireplaces, and pizza ovens. Many of those who had already built their space also expressed regret about not including more features. A built-in pizza oven was at the top of their list of much-missed kitchen features followed by a stove, a built-in grill, and a stand-alone grill.
New Zealand homeowners already have a healthy appetite for outdoor kitchens. How they perceive their alfresco kitchens in comparison to their indoor kitchens will be interesting to observe. But if outdoor Kiwi kitchens follow American trends we can expect to see every bell and whistle included, including restaurant-quality gas cookers. Little wonder there’s been an upsurge on search engines looking for a “gas fitter near me.” This Auckland gas fitter is already busy connecting high-end gas cookers in outdoor kitchens, which is an indication that New Zealanders are taking this fun outdoor area very seriously indeed.