An image of the Lee Initiative kitchen.

The test kitchen at the Lee Initiative house combines chic design with sparkling Monogram appliances. It is a carefully curated setting for flawless meals and festive gatherings.

By Christine Fellingham | Photos by Kylene White

Right about now, many Louisvilians are either finishing home renovations or wishing they’d done a few. The endless opportunities for entertainment in a post-pandemic Derby season tend to expose any inefficiencies in kitchen design or aging appliances. It’s when ice makers seem too slow, freezers too small, ovens too finicky and counter space too skimpy.

And while some of us may fret that our footprint or budget are too small to make a dream kitchen a reality, a tour of the covetable cooking space that is the Lee Initiative test kitchen proves that this thinking is as outdated as an overmount sink. This compact, cleverly outfitted chef’s kitchen showcases smart features and high-tech upgrades that fit neatly into a 150-square foot kitchen that packs more culinary power than spaces three times its size. 

Julie Burns, executive director of Monogram and Chef Ed Lee, who were both instrumental in creating this enviable kitchen, took us on a tour. We discovered features that could instantly elevate your entertaining game — possibly before your next party.

An image of the Lee Initiative kitchen range stove and oven.

According to Julie, the centerpiece of the kitchen is the new Monogram Professional Range – a near-perfect fusion of futuristic function and aesthetic drama. “This range is meticulously designed and engineered to be the ultimate centerpiece of high-end kitchen design,” says Julie. “It has luxury details like solid brass accents, smooth glide racks and soft close doors combined with incredible cooking performance. [It] includes an industry-exclusive TrueTemp gas burner that can be set to hold an exact temperature for perfect results.”

An image collage of the the Lee Initiative kitchen ice maker and glass door fridge.

Other kitchen highlights include integrated glass door refrigerators with LED interior lighting that elevate ingredients to a piece of art and a built-in Advantium speed cooking oven that can be used as a convection oven, toaster oven, warming/proofing oven, precision cook oven and microwave.

An image of the Lee Initiative kitchen dining space.

Ed Lee agrees that the range is a game-changer. “The Monogram range has a dual oven and one of them is a small highly efficient one that allows me to cook so fast and use less gas. When I’m cooking for a group, I like to use the big oven, but when I’m just doing a demo or cooking for myself, it’s such an energy saver to use the smaller oven, and it performs like crazy. I’m also using the LCD cook features more than I ever have in my life. It’s nice to just use the pre-programmed settings for fish or roast chicken and not have to worry about it. It’s like having a precise sous chef inside my oven display.”

Other more visible features actually make meal prep more collaborative and engaging. “You don’t often find a flat top griddle on a home oven and this one is heavy duty. It stays super-hot when you are cooking on it. It’s the one thing on the oven that chefs seem to play around with the most. It’s so amazing to be able to make six grilled cheeses at once.”

It’s a space where the Lee Initiative team of women chefs likes to linger, bonding over food and their shared culinary passion. “Everything is really elegant and every time I host an event, everyone crowds around the kitchen,” says Lee. “It’s a happy place and it’s where all the fun happens. The appliances are not only high performance, but they are visually beautiful, so your guests feel like they’re hanging out in a special setting.”

An image of the Lee Initiative kitchen dining space.

It’s a space where the Lee Initiative team of women chefs likes to linger, bonding over food and their shared culinary passion.