All About Spice, Fry, Wok, Butler Kitchens

Vancouver is known for a few things, notably for their exorbitant housing prices and the impressive panoply of international cuisines. Whether you are craving the chewy but fluffy blistered pizza from Rome (flour is flown in from Italy!),traditional dim sum, or aburi pressed sushi, Vancouver is the place to dine.

With that in mind, it has been a trend on the West coast to build secondary kitchens, otherwise known as spice kitchens, wok kitchens, fry kitchens, or even butler kitchens. Whatever you call it, it typically involves a small kitchen inside your main open concept kitchen. The purpose? It is to keep strong odours and cooking mess concealed away from the main “show kitchen”. It’s a great way to deep fry, slow boil soups, or even keep the big chunky appliances within arm’s reach without making the main kitchen looked cluttered.


When we started the building process, I thought this was a frivolous feature to have. Not only did it take up valuable square footage, but it meant there was more kitchen to clean. I wasn’t a fan of this, but my husband insisted so I caved and let him have his cake. Marriage is about choosing your battles, and I let him win this one.

We had a pocket of space (11′ x 5.5′) just off the side of the main kitchen where we dreamed of putting a laundry  or mud room, but the secondary kitchen won. In this cozy space, we decided to house a microwave (we don’t have a microwave, we opted for a steam oven which will be a separate post) and dishwasher –  two appliances I was happy to hide. We were also able to have this kitchen completely different from the main kitchen. It’s meant for messes so we decided on tile flooring and a simple, easy to clean backsplash.


The verdict?

I love the secondary kitchen! We had a large gathering last weekend at our home and I was pleasantly surprised how I was able to keep the dirty dishes and cooking mess hidden in our secondary kitchen and allow our island space host the food. It allowed me to free up the island as prep space, keeping it clean and presentable during the entire evening. I also cook in this space for weekday casual dinners because I never like to worry about making a mess in my white kitchen.


So the next question is, do you need it? Obviously I don’t think anyone really “needs” a second kitchen but I do find it handy.  If you’re on the fence with building a secondary kitchen, here are my thoughts.


  • Hide your ugly appliances and I’m not just referring to your giant radiation emitting contraption which likes to unevenly heat and dry your food out aka microwave. You now have a space for your rice cooker, Instant Pot, coffee machine, compost bin, oh and that handy spice rack that you reach for frequently
  • Have you tried making Asian soups that are simmered at low heat for an entire day? If you have then you would love a secondary kitchen.While that fish papaya soup is extremely tasty, the lingering odour isn’t so great on your clothes.
  • Awesome for parties, especially if you cater. Freeing up your island for entertaining is a great feeling to have
  • Two sinks! We have a sink in the main kitchen and another one in the secondary kitchen. It comes in very handy when you entertain or kids who insist on washing their hands in the kitchen (you know, so they can continue watching TV without missing anything. sigh)
  • From a frivolous perspective, you can basically create two completely different kitchens of your dreams
  • In Vancouver, it increases the value of your home giving the seller more bargaining power at the table


  • Space consuming. It takes away precious real estate on your main floor which can be used for a laundry room, mud room, or even a walk in pantry. If those rooms are more important to you, then I would opt out
  • A secondary kitchen means you need secondary appliances which bring you over budget. You likely will end up with 2 or 3 ovens, and two stoves and hood fans. Do you really need it all? You are the only one who can answer that.
  • This is obviously a real first world problem, but deciding which kitchen to cook in can be frustrating because it means you need to bring your condiments and cooking utensils from one spot to another.
  • Unless you are building a mansion, typically these secondary kitchens are small and can feel like you’re cooking in a cave. Because it’s enclosed, you also are away from the hustle bustle in the house. As a mom of two, it can be bliss for me, but at times it can be tricky when you have to be referee.


If you decide with going for a secondary kitchen, here a few things to consider.

  • Sinks, both of them, need garburators. I decided to just put one in my secondary kitchen and i can’t tell you how I wish i put a garburator in my main kitchen as well.
  • Consider adding a small fridge in your secondary kitchen, even if it’s just a small under the cabinet beverage fridge or a drawer fridge.  It comes in handy to store sauces and condiments when you are cooking without dashing to the main fridge if you forget.
  • Spice racks. I have two spice racks in my main kitchen and none for the secondary kitchen. I would add it to both.


I love my secondary kitchen frankly because coming home to a clean main kitchen makes me happy.  What kitchen features make you happy?

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