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Fueled in part by the explosion of TV cooking shows that make it all look easy, cooking has regained popularity with an emphasis on good food and having fun with family and friends.

"People are spending more time in the kitchen," says designer Linda Eberle at Dream Kitchens in Madison, Wis. "They're entertaining more, they're cooking more and they are requiring kitchens that perform at a professional level."

Manufacturers have responded to the demand for efficient, professional-style kitchens previously only available to professional restaurateurs.

While each home cook's needs are slightly different, the best professional-style consumer kitchens include many of the following features.

Built to last

For kitchen sinks, refrigerators and ranges, stainless steel is the first choice of many professionals. It resists nicks and scratches and is easy to maintain. Consumers also love the clean look of stainless steel, although they are careful not to take the high-tech style to extremes.

Different materials and textures can warm up the look of a stainless steel kitchen, says Eberle. Wood cabinets provide complementary contrast and add a warm, organic element, and cast iron sinks can add rich color without sacrificing durability. Granite and quartz work well for countertops, especially for pastry chefs seeking an expansive workspace and a cool surface for rolling out dough.

People are spending more time in the kitchen ... and they are requiring kitchens that perform at a professional level.

Sinks in

Gourmet chefs and home cooks alike often have at least three tasks going at once as they prepare a complicated meal. Two or more deep bowls can reduce steps shuffling pots and pans, and simplifies the process, saving time and energy.

More and more home cooks are inviting friends and family members to pitch in—making cooking a truly social experience. Sinks in more than one location make these culinary collaborations more convenient—and productive—for everyone.

Consider adding a trough sink to the counter near your cooktop for extra efficiency and convenience. Other secondary sinks—also known as bar sinks—come in a wide range of shapes and sizes, and work great for dedicated tasks such as rinsing glasses and icing bottles or hors d'oeuvres.

Easy does it

Look for a sink that offers plenty of accessories to complement your cooking style. Moveable cutting boards, rinsing baskets and various trays and receptacles make prep tasks easier and more fun. Chef-inspired Stages™ sinks feature accessories tailored to each stage of the cooking process.

Sinks with an integrated wet surface increase available workspace and simplify prep tasks and cleanup. When you're done, the stainless steel wet surface is easy to clean and drains right into your sink.

Swing-away spouts can move out of your way as you put larger pots in the sink. Sidesprays are excellent for washing fruits and vegetables as you prepare them. And pot fillers – a real chef-worthy amenity -- serve as extendible faucets, and can be installed next to your stovetop or prep sink for easy water access.

Clean up with ease

After a great meal, you want cleanup to be quick so you can get out of the kitchen and back to your guests. High-arching, swing-away spouts and pull-down spray faucets let you get close to your work by targeting the spray exactly where you need it. Smart Divide® sinks lower the divider between sink bowls and make it easier to clean large, bulky items.

The right kitchen layout, appliances and fixtures can help bring family and friends together for great times in their pursuit of the perfect meal.

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