East End kitchen made for cooking and entertaining
Tim Dudley and Robert Zahn are the men of the Mann House, an 1876 two-story home in Galveston’s East End. They’ve lived there since 2007, and were proud of their careful restoration of the house, which was built for Galveston County Judge George E. Mann and his family.
But a month after they finished the kitchen in 2008, Hurricane Ike delivered more than 2 feet of water into their home, ruining everything downstairs, including their light and bright kitchen. The storm’s damage to the kitchen was a real loss because both men love to cook and entertain, they said.
They lived without a kitchen for several months, giving Dudley and Zahn ample time to select new finishes for the kitchen and nearby butler’s pantry. It took a few months to get what they wanted as each delivery brought with it the wrong color or the wrong fit.
Finally, on the fourth attempt, the correct cabinetry was delivered and installed. Dark wood cupboards, with glass-fronted and lighted doors high up, create a chef’s kitchen with abundant storage and work spaces, making it easier to serve amazing meals and desserts to friends and family, they said.
The stove is the focal point of the kitchen. It’s a big, red six-burner, custom-made ILVE stove from Italy and features 10 brass knobs, two ovens — regular and convection — and rotisserie. It runs on electricity or gas. The stainless steel top coordinates with the hood, while the brass fittings match the other fixtures in the room.
“We just wanted something fun and functional,” Zahn said “But it took three months to get here.”
A large, irregular-shaped Corian island in the middle of the room features its own sink and provides ample workspace and plentiful storage. In fact, it’s where Dudley has given cooking lessons for his famous chicken and dumplings and pie crusts, with students mixing and producing their own doughy creations.
A nearby wall of cookbooks represents only a fraction of the reference books they use on a regular basis, including two copies of “Joy of Cooking” as well as the 1947 “The Wise Encyclopedia of Cookery,” which is Zahn’s favorite, he said. Hurricane Ike destroyed 200 cookbooks Zahn had collected, he said.
Against the back wall is one of the house’s three brick chimneys, which had been covered in turquoise plaster. But Dudley and Zahn restored it, giving the room its backbone. And above the island is a pot rack hanging from the 12.5-foot ceiling and housing a huge tamale pot, large enough to steam 17 dozen tamales. For informal dining, they bought a 1926 enameled art deco table — perfect for morning coffee or casual meals.
Standing water from Ike had ruined the tile floor. Dudley and Zahn had it removed and decided to go with original flooring — 5-inch-wide
tongue-in-groove pine planks — that matched the rest of the house.
The sink still is in the same place it originally had been installed, but the men replaced the flimsy aluminum sliding windows with two double-hung windows from that historical period, removing the old ones that sported a bullet hole. The actual bullet, from 1981, was still embedded in the adjacent cabinet, circled in red and labeled “Bullet Hole.”
“We don’t know the story, but it was still in the cabinet,” Zahn said.
The couple often entertains and in the adjoining formal dining room, the long table can comfortably seat 14, although Dudley noted they’ve had 23 for a sit-down meal by moving another smaller table of the same height into the room.
Zahn’s passion for china dinnerware — he has 10 complete sets plus several more in storage — is matched only by his enormous collection of stemware. Wine glasses, special margarita glasses, Champagne flutes and delicate barware fill several cabinets — shelf after shelf of crystal waiting for a party.
“This kitchen is great to work in — we can both be doing something and not get in each other’s way,” Dudley said. “But when you have a party, everyone is in the kitchen and this one is great for that. Our guests can sit and talk to us while we cook. It really is perfect.”