The kitchen has become a workshop for the amateur chef whose tools are a filet knife and a souffle pan. It's the perfect place to try out new skills and recipes, if the kitchen is laid out well. Here are some upgrades (provided by professionals such as Artistic Kitchens Ltd) to consider if your kitchen has become your new culinary playground.

Concrete Countertops

Granite and marble countertops have become popular because of their look, but concrete gives you a material that you can mold into a useful shape for any work surface. It can then be colored, sealed and polished to look like any stone material.

The concrete countertop first starts as a slurry that can be poured into a mold and shaped. Tints can be added to change the color. Add other artistic features such as pieces of glass or metal, small stones and even seashells. When the concrete has dried it can be sealed with a resin and polished to a high gloss or left with a matte finish.

Before the concrete has hardened completely, the contractor can cut holes for drains and for holding knives and other kitchen tools. They can slope the surface toward a sink and raise the edges slightly to prevent food and liquid from rolling off. Your concrete countertop can be customized in ways that marble and granite can't.

Dual-Fuel Stoves

You can have the best of both gas and electric cooking in your kitchen. Duel-fuel stoves take up no more room than a conventional stove and oven combination. With this setup you get a gas stove top and an electric oven. You have better control of the heat using gas to cook on the stove top. The heat is more even so you don't get hot spots on your pans. Electric ovens bake more evenly and self-cleaning is easier to do with electricity.

Organize Your Kitchen for the Way You Work

Kitchen organization tends to fall into two styles: the open kitchen and the hidden kitchen.

In an open kitchen, there are no cabinets or drawers in which to store your kitchen pots, pans and tools. Open wire or wooden racks and shelves are used for large items. Hooks on the walls, on shelves or hanging down from the ceiling over a preparation island are used to hold utensils and small pans. One turn around in the kitchen and you can see all of the tools that you need to prepare your gourmet meals.

The hidden kitchen concept says that everything is tucked away and unseen when not in use. This is similar to the traditional kitchen cabinets and drawer layout, but some people take it to an extreme. Major appliances such as the stove and dishwasher are behind doors that close, turning the kitchen into a gathering place instead of a work area.

When your kitchen is more than just a place to make a sandwich, turn it into the professional food preparation area that you want it to be. You'll enjoy your time in the kitchen more when it matches your style. It will bring out your creativity and give you the confidence to try more difficult dishes as you advance in your role as the household chef.