A Connoisseur’s Kitchen

By staff August 1, 2008

Lots of ritzy new condominium kitchens are built for show, not for chefs. But Michael and Terri Klauber’s kitchen in their spacious, contemporary Rivo at Ringling penthouse really sizzles.

Would you expect anything less from one of the area’s most successful restaurateurs and wine connoisseurs, his exuberant, talented wife and their blended family of six youngsters, who—from the oldest at 25 to the youngest at 7—all know their way around a kitchen? Add a big extended family that gathers there for holiday meals and a passel of friends who make it party central every Sunday afternoon during football season, and you have a happily chaotic scene that revolves around cooking and enjoying food.

The Klaubers collaborated with interior designer Anne Folsom Smith and her staff to design their perfect kitchen long before their 3,200-square-foot apartment in the condominium tower was complete. “Michael knows exactly what he wants,” Smith says, “and he wanted it very clean, very contemporary, very livable and childproof, because he has young children who live there plus a new puppy.”

The kitchen is literally and figuratively the center of the home: a wide open floor plan with traditional Shaker-style floor-to-ceiling maple cabinets, black galaxy granite countertops and stainless steel GE Monogram appliances set against creamy yellow walls. An ample center island houses a six-burner Viking induction cooktop—selected for speed in heating up and subtle temperature control, since gas wasn’t an option at Rivo—with plenty of space around it to accommodate the cooking demonstrations Michael does for friends. It faces a family area filled with comfortable couches, a wall of handsome wooden built-in cabinets, an oversized bistro table and banquette that seats 12, and a knockout view up and down Main Street and beyond across Sarasota Bay. (Rumors that they can see right into Herald-Tribune publisher Diane McFarlin’s office are pretty much true.)

“This is where we have the best times,” says Terri. “Everyone cooks together, and they’re all chefs in the making.” Eleven-year-old Max whips up omelets, and seven-year-old Mikayla makes scrambled eggs and pancakes. Together all the kids bake cakes, cupcakes and cookies, and every Sunday night is family dinner with whichever older Klauber offspring are in town. “Max likes to make steaks with his dad, and when the girls prepare, the men in the family clean up,” Terri says with a smile.

Together for five years, Michael and Terri got engaged in 2006 and immediately embarked on the planning process for their 3,200-square-foot new home. They moved in one week after they married in February 2007.  Even though Michael is the founder and indefatigable promoter of the Sarasota Originals association of local restaurateurs, the life of restaurant hopping is not for them. “The fun for me is to get home after the last people are seated [in his Michael’s On East restaurant], around 8:30 or so, and cook with the family,” he says. “Terri’s a great cook, and together we sear the hell out of a veal chop.”  

Entertaining is a part of everyday life for the Klaubers, and creating the right flow for their guests was essential to the design. For parties, they fill the bar sink at one end of the long countertop with ice so that people can grab a drink and come around to find a barstool and talk to Michael and Terri while they cook. “We’re always tasting new wines,” says Michael, since they’re always receiving bottles from wineries that want to be represented at his restaurant and wine shop. “Terri has a great palate; we rarely try the same thing twice.”

That means they haven’t made much of a dent in the excellent collection of wines that Michael has been amassing for 30 years. They’re housed in a 750-bottle wine cellar around the corner from the kitchen, opposite a gallery wall of handsome framed photographs Michael has taken from their travels around the world with the Klauber family of restaurants’ Connoisseur’s Club. (His most prized bottle: a 1988 methuselah of Dalla Valle Vineyards Maya; this was the first vintage of Maya from one of Napa Valley’s most exclusive wineries and Klauber was one of Dalla Valle’s first clients.)

But even in this hub of busy activity, there’s a calming centerpiece. The 300-gallon saltwater fish tank, six feet long and set into a wall of cabinets, is there “to lower our blood pressure,” Terri says. Among its inhabitants: a shark, eel, lion fish, multicolored wrasse and a grouper that “we will not be filleting,” Terri says. Another kitchen centerpiece gets them all revved up again: It’s a Jura Capresso espresso machine that Michael found on eBay.

Was it challenging working with the ultimate foodie couple? Their interior designer is diplomatic. "Michael is so creative in so many ways," says Smith. "As a designer with him you have to be able to give him a lot of territory."

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