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In the Kitchen With Mark Candelaria

The Architect Shares What You Need to Know About What Is Often the Most Popular Gathering Spot in a Home

“I think the kitchen is the most important room that we design, whether it’s a 1,500-square-foot house or a 15,000-square-foot house,” says Mark Candelaria, AIA, principal, and founder of Candelaria Design.

The iconic Valley architect goes on to explain how, often, the kitchen is the most popular room in a home.

“It’s really hard to get people away from gathering around the kitchen,” he notes, quoting—as he says someone else once remarked to him—“the kitchen is like a living room that we eat in.”

Designing a perfect kitchen requires considering many things, Candelaria explains—from the path needed to bring groceries from the garage to the kitchen to how to get from the front door to the kitchen to what design elements and products are most important to the client with whom he is working.

New Features

One new popular trend—or comeback, really, as this layout had been popular in the past—he has been seeing and incorporating the back kitchen, a smaller room off a main kitchen where meal prep and cleanup can happen.

“You have your presentation kitchen, and then you have the back kitchen,” Candelaria explains. “It can have walk-in refrigerators, an area for help to prepare food if you have company, a back door to a grilling area, a sink, and an extra oven to keep things warm. A second dishwasher—with the first in the main kitchen—is also great to have in the back kitchen. If you have a big party, it’s great for overflow.”

While there are also many other new trends and options on the horizon, two newer appliances—which Candelaria, a known cook in his own right, put in his kitchen—are a steam oven and a warming drawer.

Pizza ovens and indoor-outdoor walls with pass-throughs are also big draws.


Candelaria shares that another important element in kitchen design is lighting.

“It’s become such a science,” he says. “I won’t do lighting without a lighting designer in my houses anymore. It’s become so advanced and so particular. We’re doing so much with strip LED lighting under the counter so that when you open a drawer, it is all lit up. And then, of course, you add sound, and we have pop-up TVs, and more. The technology is just incredible.”

Getting It Right

Candelaria emphasizes that it is important to both take the time to perfect a design and use technology to ensure it is right.

“With the technology that we have now, it’s so easy to basically put together in 3D, which enables you to be able to walk through the kitchen. It looks just like it’s real—it’s that good now,” he says.

Take your time on the renderings, walk them through, and think them through, he advises.

Making It Yours

Candelaria points out that while the macro rules of kitchen designs are always the same—such as the "work triangle" between the sink, refrigerator, and oven—there are always things you can do to personalize the space.

“If there’s one room you’re going to spend the most money on, it should be the kitchen. Just go for it," he says. "You’re going to spend time with friends and family there more than anywhere. It’s the kitchen that’s the main space. If you think about it, it appeals to all of your senses—sight, sound, smell. It awakens your spirit.”

Mark Candelaria’s Famous Paella

Not only is Mark Candelaria the architect behind many Valley kitchens, but he’s an architect in the kitchen himself. He loves to cook, and his famous paella is often auctioned during live auctions at local galas—and often goes for thousands of dollars.

Cooking is also a skill he shares with his clients.

“I have an imaginary clause in my contract that says that I get to cook in your kitchen when it’s done,” he shares.

That “clause” is one many of his clients have taken him up on, celebrating not only their home, but also their friendship and good food.

Here, Candelaria shares his paella recipe.

3 chicken legs

3 chicken thighs

1 halibut filet or cod filet

1 Spanish chorizo sausage or 2 andouille sausages

1 teaspoon dried oregano

2 tablespoons paprika

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1/4 cup of extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup arborio rice

4 garlic cloves, diced

1 Spanish onion, diced

1 (16-ounce) can diced tomatoes

1 teaspoon saffron threads

2-3 small cans chicken broth

6 jumbo shrimp, peeled with tails on and deveined

1 lobster tail

6-8 clams, scrubbed

6-8 mussels, scrubbed and debearded

1/4 cup Spanish sherry

1/2 cup sweet peas, frozen and thawed

Fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves for garnish

Lemon wedges for serving

The key to this dish is a great paella pan. Pick one up at William Sonoma—it is an essential piece of equipment. I start with three key components—dark meat chicken, halibut or cod, and chorizo (Spanish if you can find it). If you can’t find chorizo, I use andouille sausage from AJ’s or Safeway.

Make a little mixture of oregano, paprika, salt, and pepper in a bowl, and dredge the chicken and fish in this mixture. Let them sit for about 30 minutes.

Heat olive oil in the paella pan over medium-high heat. Place the chicken, fish and chorizo in the pan, skin-side down, and brown on all sides, turning with tongs when browned. The chorizo will turn the oil a nice red color, which will add to the rice color eventually. Once everything is browned, remove it to a platter lined with paper towels.

Lower the heat on the pan to medium and work on the rice. I like to use arborio rice, an Italian short-grain rice from the Po Valley—generally used for risotto—but great for paella.

I start by using the oil and drippings in the pan by adding garlic, onions, tomatoes, salt, and pepper and cook everything down until the mixture caramelizes and the flavors all blend together.

Next, fold in the rice, stirring to coat the grains. Let the rice heat up and almost fry in the mixture. Add the signature ingredient, saffron strands, by stirring these in.

Now pour in chicken broth and simmer 10 minutes, gently moving the pan around so the rice cooks evenly and absorbs the liquid like in a risotto. (The only difference is you do not want to cover the dish or stir constantly.)

After 10 minutes of cooking the rice down, add the shrimp, lobster, clams, and mussels, and then add the chicken, fish, and chorizo back in the mix. I like to cut the fish and chorizo into small pieces or slices so they get nicely distributed throughout the paella. Tuck in all the pieces and add more broth if you feel the paella is getting too dry—but you don’t want it soupy, either.

I then add a little sprinkle of Spanish sherry for flavor.

Let the whole thing simmer without stirring until the rice is al dente, about 15 to 20 minutes. Scatter frozen peas over the top and continue to cook for 5 more minutes until the paella looks fluffy and moist, the shrimp are nice and pink, and the clams and mussels begin to open. The bottom of the pan might form a toasted rice bottom called a socarrat—it is delicious.

Remove the paella from the heat and let rest 5 minutes.

Garnish with parsley and lemon wedges.

  • Mark and his daughter, Tiffany.
  • Photo by Werner Segarra

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