It comes as a surprise to no one that Andrew Zimmern’s home is centered around food: cooking it, eating it, sharing it with others, reading about it, thinking about it. Just like the celebuchef’s life, his recently renovated Twin Cities residence both figuratively and literally revolves around food. To wit: Right when you walk through the front door, there is Zimmern’s stage — a 15-foot shou sugi ban red oak island crafted to his exact specifications that lets guests enjoy the show and him in turn enjoy the company.
What’s pleasantly surprising is just how right-sized the 3,600-square-foot abode is, especially at a time when many Americans are clamoring for more space (see: COVID pandemic). Set on 2+ acres amongst towering pines, a stream and a pond, the clean, modern home is imbued with a subtle Japanese Scandinavian aesthetic. It has everything Zimmern, his partner, Lisa Visser, and their teenage boys need — and nothing that they don’t.
Zimmern’s life philosophy acted as a blueprint of sorts for the renovation, which was masterfully executed by Streeter Custom Builder. Sure, the kitchen is equipped with the kind of state-of-the-art appliances, custom finishes and special touches you’d expect with a professional chef. But just like the house itself, everything is perfectly proportioned.
Take the Gaggenau refrigerator and freezer, for instance. “People often ask me how we can combat food waste in America,” he explains. “The first thing we’ve got to do is shrink the size of our refrigerators. The second is shop more. As I’ve traveled around the world, I’ve realized how much smaller refrigerators are in other countries, like Vietnam, where there’s a premium placed on freshness and a corner market in every neighborhood.”
“If I could wave a magic wand and correct our food system in America, one change I’d make would be smaller refrigerators,” he continues. “Consumer culture has caused them to grow in size every decade, and when you have all this space, you fill it. But then your dinner plans inevitably change, and you wind up with all this food that has to be thrown out at the end of the week. For us, it was very intentional to get a small refrigerator; we specifically chose Gaggenau for its size. Now I’ve taken my own advice and opted for a small refrigerator — so am I cool with going to the supermarket two or three times a week? The answer is a resounding yes.”
These kind of long-held beliefs underscored the remodel of the eighties-era Keith Waters structure, which bears his trademark architectural flair like curved walls, soaring ceilings and plentiful windows. But for all the unique qualities that drew the couple to the property — “It was love at first sight,” Zimmern gushes — the home had its shortcomings: a cramped kitchen, a clunky floor plan and narrow spaces throughout. So they collaborated closely with Streeter COO and Architect Bill Costello to create a modern, comfortable, clean abode with incredible indoor/outdoor flow.
But back to that kitchen. It wasn’t always the first impression upon walking in — that required some strategic floor plan reconfiguration. Now, it’s front and center, doubled in size, and open to the adjacent living area. For Zimmern, a consummate entertainer, it was a no-brainer. “Anyone who has guests over for dinner knows what I’m talking about: You’re busy working in the kitchen when the doorbell rings,” he says. “This way, I can just wave people right in. Plus everyone tends to congregate in the kitchen, so we opened it up to the living room to create one big, lofty space.”
He turned to Gaggenau for the rest of his appliances, including four ovens (a standard combi-convection, a combi-steam, an extra wide and a microwave) and his customized cooking suite: four standard burners, a wok burner, and a large plancha with three controlled zones, all set beneath a powerful Gaggenau hood. For cabinetry, he opted for sleek Scandinavian brand Puustelli for its sustainability and customization, which was key since storage became scarce as kitchen walls came down. “We’re really thrilled with the Puustelli organization system,” he raves. “It’s amazing how it fits all of our stuff.”
As for other special requests in a chef’s dream kitchen? “I’ve kept a running list over the course of my life of what I’d like in my own kitchen if I were to ever build or remodel,” Zimmern explains. For example, that showstopping island by Root River Hardwoods with shou sugi ban detailing by Darril Otto has a custom cutout where his favorite cutting boards slide in seamlessly. It also offers discreet, direct access from the work surface to the garbage for easy, efficient cleanup. And there’s a dedicated drawer for his knife collection, complete with right-sized slots and felt inserts.
The striking 20-foot-tall shou sugi ban fireplace in the living room, for all its beauty, is also a culinary workhorse. The Streeter team outfitted it with a low grate for building a coal bed, a removable grill, and a series of hidden hooks so Zimmern can slow roast meats and vegetables on a string. He also uses this true working hearth to heat the home in winter, thereby reducing energy use.
Zimmern and Visser credit Costello and the Streeter team with pushing them toward creative solutions, like removing a custom hutch that hugged one of the dining room’s curved walls and housed dishes, cutlery and other tableware. Although they initially mourned the loss of such a handy built-in, they’re ultimately thrilled with the result.
“We would much rather have extra seats at our table than a hutch in the dining room,” Zimmern explains, pointing to the 10-foot shou sugi ban table that expands to 14 feet. “My friend José Andrés taught me that the world needs fewer walls and bigger tables. So when it came to remodeling our house, we knocked out walls and built a bigger table. Just like with the kitchen, the dining room reflects my life philosophy.”
Other spaces are designed for easy living, like the screen porch that allows for some forest bathing amongst the towering pines just outside. The lower level, meanwhile, is primed for family recreation, with Zimmern’s guitar room (he collects the musical instruments but declares himself “the worst guitar player of all time”), a wet bar, a Ping-Pong table, and a media area complete with video game setup. And massive Marvin windows throughout the residence virtually eliminate the boundaries between indoors and out, just like they craved.
For bringing their vision to life, Zimmern tips his hat to the partners on the project. “We chose Streeter because they’re the preeminent builder in town, and we wanted their design expertise,” he says. “Bill Costello is supremely talented and also an amazingly good human being, which is important to us. Streeter’s ideas were really inspiring, and everything they came up with created an embarrassment of good choices for us. It’s been a really beautiful experience.”
Costello reciprocates that love. “Andrew and Lisa are both creative forces, and it was a lot of fun to play with them and collaborate with them,” he notes. “There was a lot of exchanging of ideas — wild and crazy, comfortable and safe, and everything in between. It was incredible working with them on their home.”
And while the updated abode is certainly inspiring, so too is the guiding principle behind it: Zimmern’s life philosophy. He is determined to live by his values and recognizes how the choices we make, both inside our homes and out, impact the world around us. For Zimmern, a lifetime of hard-earned lessons has resulted in a right-sized residence that’s everything he’s always wanted — and nothing more.