High-end outdoor kitchens and living areas are a hot trend among Baton Rouge homeowners.
(Photo by Charlene Guilliams)
Like July temperatures in south Louisiana, it takes but one word to describe the phenomenon that is the Baton Rouge outdoor kitchen craze: hot.
Homeowners are taking the traditional backyard barbecue and kicking it up a notch. Demand is soaring for full-blown outdoor cooking spaces, complete with grills, stove tops, beverage coolers, decor, televisions and dining areas. On second thought, it’s not just outdoor cooking, it’s outdoor living—done right.
“The outdoor kitchen trend is booming,” says Stephen Smith, co-founder of FLO Grills, a luxury outdoor grill maker in Baton Rouge. “In the last 10 years, we’ve seen a huge spike in requests for outdoor kitchens. They’ve been around long enough that every new house wants them. It’s not just a fad. It’s as common as a patio now.”
Entertaining family and friends typically centers around a home-cooked meal in Louisiana, and it’s become increasingly popular to take the party, and the cooking, outside. As homeowners upgrade their outdoor spaces for this purpose, Smith says, they’re opting to enjoy more time at home—or “staycation,” if you will—rather than go out.
Check out these four outdoor kitchens
FLO Grills, launched in 2007, builds about 100 outdoor kitchens each year in the Capital Region and offers custom kitchen designs with a variety of options for outdoor appliances and amenities, from gas or charcoal grills to wine coolers and fire pits.
“A lot of people are entertaining outside more than inside now,” says Tracie Boyd Comeaux, co-owner of Goodwood Hardware & Outdoors. “It’s been a huge trend. For football season, graduation parties, couples showers—people congregate around the grill.”
Today’s hottest trend in outdoor kitchens, says Comeaux, are kamado grills, known by most as the ceramic Big Green Egg-style cookers. Kamados are versatile charcoal-fueled devices, shaped liked an egg and used for grilling, smoking, roasting and even pizza baking.
Other popular trends include food-prep areas, misting fans, surround-sound systems and, of course, any amenity to meet your alcoholic beverage needs, such as beer taps and kegerators. Homeowners are even looking for decorative trash cans to complement their luxury outdoor spaces. Dealers say they’re also seeing a rise in built-in outdoor fireplaces.
“Everyone building an outdoor kitchen is getting a fireplace,” says Mike Hackley, CEO of ShoppersChoice.com, which specializes in outdoor cooking products. “It makes it more of a social space.”
Building one of your own?
5 questions to ask your builder
• Do you install safety shut-off timers?
• Do you build cross ventilation into the cabinets?
• What are the cabinets made of; is that material combustible?
• How does the predominant wind affect the grill?
• Does the outdoor kitchen come with a lifetime warranty against fire, rust and corrosion?
The popularity of residential outdoor kitchens is carving out a new, niche market for businesses in the cooking and food-service industry. Rudy Ourso, co-owner of Cayards, a restaurant and food-service equipment dealer, says his company has gotten involved in selling and installing appliances for individual outdoor kitchens, particularly grills and overhead sheet metal hoods.
“The outdoor kitchen trend has been a nice little shot in the arm for our business,” Ourso says. “With basically any new or renovated home, outdoor kitchens are in the design plans.”
The only downside to the rising phenomenon, Smith says, is that a lot of “fly-by-night contractors” will try to get in on the boom with little or no experience in building outdoor kitchens. And if an outdoor kitchen is built incorrectly or with inferior materials, it can be dangerous.
“Some people make the kitchen out of wood—that’s going to catch on fire,” he says.