Developing your Kitchen Designs using the Food Flow Theory will provide your client with a very functional Kitchen that is easy to work in.

I was introduced to this theory early on in my Kitchen Design career and have used it successfully in all of my Kitchen Design projects.

I know that the use of the Food Flow Theory contributed to my very first Kitchen Design Award win.

That winning Kitchen’s design brief described the layout of the kitchen pointing out how the placement of the Food Flow Zones made that kitchen functional not just beautiful.

This early win helped to solidify my mantra of “form follows function” and I continue to employ Food Flow Kitchen Design Theory in my designs to great success.

Food Flow Theory in Kitchen Design

The Food Flow Theory for Kitchen Design

The Food Flow Kitchen Design Theory places 5 essential Zones within the Kitchen layout.

  • The Food Storage Zone
  • The Prep Zone
  • The Cooking Zone
  • The Serving Zone
  • The Clean-up Zone

For an overview of the Food Flow Theory you can check out my blog Why To Include Kitchen Zones in Your Kitchen Designs.

You may also want to check out Everything You Need to Know About the Food Storage Zone which was covered in an earlier blog post.

The Prep Zone

The Prep Zone is where the main preparation of food occurs in the Kitchen.

It is where meals are prepped and combined prior to being cooked.

The majority of a cook’s time in the kitchen is spent in the Prep Zone.

It is important to get this zone right!

Countertop Space

The most important element of the Prep Zone is its countertop space.

An efficient Prep Zone needs a minimum of 36″ to 48″ of uninterrupted countertop frontage.

This will allow the cook to spread out efficiently while prepping food.

If there is more than one cook regularly working in the kitchen, two separate runs of prep countertop space should be planned within the layout.

Another consideration is preparation countertop height.

Standard countertop height in a Kitchen is 36″ high.

If the main cook is 5’2″ or smaller you may want to consider lowering a portion of the preparation countertop.

If the cook is 6′ tall or taller, increasing the height of a portion of the prep countertop by and inch or two could make it more comfortable for them to work at.

Get creative when doing this!

Cabinet Storage

The Prep Zone needs to contain all the items used to prep ingredients prior to cooking or serving them.

Things used for mashing, chopping, cutting, pealing and opening are the items needed to be stored in this zone.

Think cutting boards, knives, scissors, can opener, peelers, garlic crusher, graters, zesters, food processor and the spiralizer.

Mixing also occurs in this zone so provide storage for mixing bowls, mixing spoons, measuring cups, measuring spoons, utensils and some small appliances.

Additional items such as the colander, salad spinner and kitchen scale should be housed in the Prep Zone.

To accommodate the removal of packaging, a recycle bin is a welcome addition as is a bin for compost.

Water Source

Having a water source close by can really increase the efficiency of the Prep Zone.

Since most raw foods need to be cleaned prior to being prepped, placing the Prep Zone in close proximity to the main sink is desirable.

Another option is to include a designated prep sink to the Prep Zone.

This is ideal in the two-cook Kitchen since each cook can then have access to a separate water source.

By including a faucet with a sprayer and a food waste disposer your client will be able to wash produce and easily dispose of raw food scraps.

Prep Zone Solutions

There are many options for the placement of the Prep Zone within your Kitchen Designs.

Below are a variety of solutions to inspire you!

One of the most popular areas to place the Prep Zone is on the Kitchen Island.

An island can be an ideal place to do Kitchen food preparation work because it is a comfortable place to be.

There is no overhead cabinets to impede the cooks vision and it is often a very social place to prep food.

Adding a prep sink will add functionality to your client’s Kitchen island.

Even a small Kitchen island can be functional as a Prep Zone.

Repurposing a piece of furniture can provide a Prep Zone in a small kitchen and produce an unique element in the space.

If clearances are too tight for a permanent island, consider one on casters that will allow the cook to move the Prep Zone to where they need it.

The popularity of the Kitchen Island allows the Kitchen Designer to get creative when meeting the needs of their clients.

In the first example above, the Prep Zone includes a sit down area on the island.

In the second example a trough sink was chosen to run down the middle of the island to provide Prep Zone space on both sides of the Kitchen.

With the majority of the work in the kitchen happening in this area you may want to place the Prep Zone under a window.

There is no law that says the main clean-up sink must be under the window.

I will often relocate the clean-up sink in a kitchen to place the main Prep Zone in an area where natural daylight streams in.

The addition of a prep sink in that space is a bonus for the cook!

As mentioned above, when discussing the countertop needs for the Prep Zone, you may want to consider a lower counter in this area.

Since some prep activities like mixing or rolling out dough are more comfortably preformed at a lower height, including one can customize the Kitchen.

By combining a standard height counter and a pull out lower counter you could achieve the minimum 36″ of prep counter space in a small kitchen.

I will often place a lower counter at the end of an island to extend the prep area and introduce Universal Design to the Kitchen.

With the whole family pitching in with meal preparation, it may make sense to include a higher counter for the taller cooks in the family.

In this example a round maple butcher block was placed at the end of the kitchen island providing lots of room for the cook to spread out and a designated area to chop vegetables for the tall chef in the home.

As the Kitchen Designer, it will be your responsibility to ensure the Prep Zone is well planned out and meets all of your client’s needs.

I hope I have inspired you to come up with some creative ideas for this very important zone.

I’d love to hear how you approach the design of the Prep Zone in your Kitchen Designs. Please leave me a comment below.

The VESTA Blog is produced every week and can be delivered to your inbox by subscribing here:

Stay tuned for more info in the coming weeks on the Cooking Zone, the Serving Zone and the Clean-up Zone.

Jan Rutgers B.Sc. H.Ec.

Jan Rutgers has been designing kitchens and products for over 25 years and is a recipient of Kitchen & Bath Design News’ Top Innovators in 2020 for the Kitchen & Bath Industry. She has designed more than 1000 kitchens learning valuable skills with each one! Her experience in Kitchen Design, Millwork Manufacturing and Product Development has led her to create VESTABUL SCHOOL OF DESIGN where she educates and mentors people passionate about the Kitchen Design Industry.

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