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Interview at Marigolds: A Working Cook’s Kitchen

IMG_3245Recently I had the opportunity to sit down with friend and restaurant owner, Mary Cummins, to discuss the opening of her new restaurant, Marigolds.  When you step into Marigolds you instantly feel enveloped in this warm, cheerful space.  Mary works hard to make her guests feel welcome as she greets everyone with a warm smile and a hearty “hello!”   Marigolds is a cozy, local restaurant in downtown Summit, New Jersey where the food is made fresh daily in the small kitchen behind the curtain.

Mary is the busy mom of five and an avid cook, who is no stranger to preparing meals for a crowd.  Several years ago she realized that busy families were often struggling to put healthy meals on the table each night, so she began preparing delicious homemade dinners to go from her home kitchen.  As her client following grew and her business began to take off, Mary took the next step and opened Marigolds.

Mary set out to design a working cook’s kitchen, using stainless steel as the primary finish on both the appliances and work surfaces.  Careful attention was paid when selecting appliances that would be both powerful and dependable.  What resulted is an efficient space that can handle the demands of its busy occupants. In addition to serving a light breakfast and a lunch menu of homemade soups, salads and paninis, Mary continues to spend most of her time on her labor of love:  her evening meals to go.  Out of that small kitchen, Marigolds prepares meals that feed five hundred people each week.  That’s no small feat!


1.    What inspires your cooking?

I want Marigolds to be known for serving food that’s fresh and delicious, and not complicated or fancy.  I am inspired by Ina Garten, the BarefootContessa, and her desire to use fresh, simple ingredients to prepare traditional recipes with a twist.

2.  What’s the most memorable meal you’ve ever cooked in this kitchen?

We were catering a large party and preparing the food on what we thought would be a slow Saturday afternoon (but what turned out to be a busy lunch rush).  We were making pulled pork sliders and all different kinds of appetizers and fussy things. We had to deliver the meal by 4:00pm and we were struggling for time.   My brother came to visit that morning and I made him put on an apron and get to work.  He stayed for seven hours!  When it was all done and delivered, we felt really great that we could do it.

3.  What’s the biggest challenge for cooking in your kitchen?

The space.  It’s small and we don’t  have much storage. We would also like more refrigeration, but there’s simply no room.  We don’t have space for a freezer, so everything is made fresh.  Luckily, we get fresh bread and produce delivered daily, but when it’s gone it’s gone.  What it means for us is more frequent trips to the store to get everything else.

4.  How would you describe your cooking style?

I’m not classily trained, but I’m always learning and I love to try different things.  It’s important because keeping the menu seasonal and fresh is a challenge.  I’m not at all fancy, but that said, I’m pretty strict about what leaves the kitchen because ultimately it’s got my name on it.  My goal is to prepare homemade meals with carefully selected ingredients…so it’s a mesclun mix (not a bagged salad) with a homemade dressing, and a homemade dip with the crudités.

5.  What’s the best cooking advice you ever received?

Trust your own palette and don’t be afraid to stray from a recipe to discover something new.

I hope that you have enjoyed this peek into Mary’s kitchen as much as I did.   Thank you, Mary, for sharing some of your precious time with me for this article — as I have often said, you must have a 25th hour in your day to accomplish so much!  I believe that inspiration can be found in many places if you look closely enough.  Mary continues to inspire me in so many ways:

  • As a small business owner who saw a need and came up with a great business plan
  • As a person who makes everyone who enters her restaurant feel welcome with her enthusiasm and her cheerful disposition
  • As a cook who is always trying to come up with ideas for delicious meals to serve made from simple, fresh ingredients
  • As a mom of a large family who is teaching her kids about having a strong work ethic

Maybe you’ll be inspired to cook a delicious meal tonight — or if you’re in NJ, hopefully you can stop by Marigolds and stay for lunch or order dinner to go…you won’t be disappointed!






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Have you Ever Considered a Banquette?


There’s something about banquette seating in a kitchen that’s just so inviting.  A banquette carved into a cozy nook under a window is a place that I would want to spend a Sunday morning with a cup of coffee and the paper.  Add some bookshelves, as in the picture above featured in Better Homes and Gardens, and I’d never leave!  Creating cozy spaces where people can sit and eat comfortably encourages people to linger long after a meal is through.  I don’t think my guests would ever leave if I had a banquette such as the one below designed by Jeffrey Bilhuber.  The tufted back cushion and an assortment of beautiful fabrics would be perfect for an elegant space.

A banquette is often employed as a space-saving option, as they are usually tucked away out of the flow of traffic.  Whatever your reason for building a banquette, the sky is the limit when it comes to your style options, since you and your architect and/or builder will likely collaborate on its design.  When building a banquette keep the following guidelines in mind:

  • The height of the bench ideally should be 18″ off the floor (make sure to factor in the thickness of the cushion)
  • Consider a cushion thickness of 4-5″ for maximum comfort
  • Plan for a minimum seating width of 21″ per person
  • Plan for a seating depth of 18″
  • An angled back will make leaning back more comfortable
  • Consider a pedestal table to maximize leg room

When designing your banquette be sure to keep in mind how you plan to use the space.  Will it be for casual meals for adults and/or children?  Will it be a homework station where papers will likely be spread out?  Whether you decide on a banquette with a bench that’s straight, curved or L-shaped, or one where the table is between two benches like a booth, a banquette is a great option which you can design to best accommodate your family’s needs.


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