The face is familiar. You've seen Laurie Burrows Grad on TV's "Hour Magazine" every week. She exchanges patter with host Gary Collins, then demonstrates a "make-it-easy" recipe. If she teasingly sprays Collins with a seltzer bottle as she whips up cool drinks, all the better entertainment.
With her casual manner and quick wit, Grad is taking the starchiness out of cooking news and making California cuisine simple for an audience that writes thousands of letters to her each week. Her informality is appealing. "To them," she says. "I'm simply Laurie, and that's the way I like it."
Someday, Grad's audience may see her in the locale pictured here, designed to be used on occasion to film or tape a cooking demonstration. It is the Grad family's newly remodeled kitchen.
Grad and her husband, Peter, a television executive, created a kitchen-office-dining-entertaining area where Laurie Grad improvises recipes, works with her secretary and writes.
Her first cookbook, "Make-It-Easy in Your Kitchen," compiled from her most successful television recipes, was a selection of both the Book-of-the-Month Club and the Better Homes and Gardens Book Club. Now there is a sequel in the bookstores, "Make-It-Easy Entertaining," filled with 40 menus and more than 200 recipes.
Peter Grad, senior vice-president for development at 20th Century Fox Television, Laurie and their now-teen-age son, Nicholas, moved to Los Angeles eight years ago. Realizing that they needed a home that would be convenient for everybody's activities, they searched until they found a house in the city. Their next step was to make it over to suit their tastes.
Laurie sketched out the make-over herself, relying on specialists to work out the details that would make it come to life. Kitchen planner Margy Newman collaborated with Laurie, consulting on equipment, proportions, finishes and space and storage. The construction is the work of the Corner Construction Co., City of Industry. For decorating help in choosing furniture, colors, fabrics and accessories, Laurie relied on Jane Mancbach.
The plan consolidates space that in the original floor plan had been devoted to living room, dining room, kitchen and utility room. It is now one large space--divided by two big partitions that house built-in equipment--that supports separate activities.
A wall of windows brings in light and offers cross-city views on one side. The polished oak-plank floor, white-rubbed- fir cabinets, glossy white ceramic-tile counters, French blue accents and white plaster walls are the finish materials and colors.
Two important considerations in the cooking area were storage and the battery of equipment that Laurie uses. When she puts on her working "sweats" (no starched jacket or frilly apron in this cooking theater), she wants counter space for the two food processors and other gadgets.
Storage space includes not only a food pantry but also a large cupboard for bulky pots and pans. Drawers hold the hundreds of gadgets and tools that are subjects of Laurie's reports. Selective and quick to judge, she will toss out one new product as "junk" even as she praises another new item, which she files with her collection.
Unusual built-in equipment selected for this kitchen includes a shallow-tray sink (under the sunny window) for clean-up. A smaller round sink dropped into the food-preparation counter is equipped with not only an ordinary hot-and-cold water faucet, but instant hot water and chilled, filtered-water taps as well.
To back up the four-unit cooktop (which has a ventilator that elevates from the counter when needed), a two-burner commercial Wolf unit is built into the opposite counter. The speed and heat of its gas-fueled burners facilitates wok cooking. Built-in electric ovens are large enough to hold commercial-size pans--a convenience when entertaining.
The office is built around a round table that doubles on occasion as a family breakfast or lunch table. Wall space is filled with shelves and desk surfaces. There are four filing cabinets, three telephones, an electric typewriter and the most recent addition, an IBM personal computer--all work-dedicated.
As Laurie finishes one cookbook, another two are being researched. In addition to her "Hour Magazine" appearances, syndicated by Group W, she appears on "AM Los Angeles" and "AM San Francisco." She also is a contributing food editor for Los Angeles magazine and writes for national magazines.
It's only a step beyond the office to the dining room and the living room, where guests gather to talk and monitor the action in the kitchen.
Though Peter doesn't cook, even recreationally (he prefers to play first base with the Borscht Belters), Nicholas has picked up good techniques from hanging around the kitchen. He likes to stir-fry, fix hamburgers and prepare what his mother describes as "wonderful French toast."
Laurie's food and cooking career has bloomed since she moved to Los Angeles, but it began in New York. Sizing up her future, she realized that her interest in good food held promise that outstripped the potential of a career as a fashion and photographic model.
The foundation for Laurie's cooking career had been built by instinct. She remembers vividly having been taken as a child to fine restaurants by her father, Broadway director Abe Burrows, with whom she enjoyed such foods as frogs' legs and escargots. And when her mother prepared intricate recipes at home, Laurie watched with intense interest. As an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania, Laurie signed up for an extracurricular class in Chinese cooking, given by Grace Zia Chu at the China Institute in Philadelphia. To cap off those food experiences, she spent an entire summer cooking, as an apprentice chef, in a small restaurant outside Paris.
Although there has been a circulating myth that working models cannot eat "normally," Laurie managed to do so. Between assignments in New York, she conducted cooking classes for friends and carved a niche for herself writing food and restaurant reviews for several weekly New York papers.