Hecks’ kitchen: Outdoor space designed to be used year-round

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Cristy and Wallace Heck enjoy their  their outdoor kitchen almost year-round.
Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Cristy and Wallace Heck enjoy their their outdoor kitchen almost year-round.

Outdoor space designed to be used year-round

Wallace Heck loved his outdoor kitchen so much that in 2008 he tore it down and built one four times bigger.

“We cook in it all the time — with kids, without kids,” he said. “It’s nothing for us to start grilling on a Sunday and have 20 people show up.”

Heck, his wife Cristy and the seven children and five grandchildren from their blended families use the kitchen year-round. It was designed with folding shutters that can be opened on two sides. In cold weather, the Hecks keep the shutters closed and light a fire in the fireplace.

“That generates enough heat to keep the kitchen warm,” Wallace Heck said.

In the summer, they use an air-cooled fan but often close the shutters to block the hot sun.

“The shutters allow us to use the outdoor kitchen full-time,” Cristy Heck said.

Even though the Hecks’ indoor kitchen is state of the art, their outdoor kitchen is finer than many home kitchens. It has a stone floor, two brick walls, antique beams, a large island, granite countertops and a comfortable seating area with a fireplace and television. It is outfitted with top-of-the-line stainless steel appliances, including a Viking stove, two massive hoods, a large refrigerator, a gas grill with infrared heat, a warming drawer and an ice maker.

The Hecks have hosted graduation parties, birthdays, holidays, wedding parties and even a wedding. The outdoor kitchen and the adjoining pool and patio area can easily accommodate 150 people.

“My house has always been the go-to house for parties,” Cristy Heck said. “I enjoy entertaining my family and friends. I’m no guru by any means, but I love doing it.”

When the couple is not using the outdoor area, their children and grandchildren are.

“It’s an oasis,” she said.

The kids enjoy the pool, the outdoor kitchen and a media room with a 110-inch television and poker tables above a garage Wallace Heck built on the site of the earlier outdoor kitchen.

The Hecks, who both work in Wallace Heck’s family concrete business, are looking forward to football season. Before they had the outdoor kitchen, they always went to the games. Now they put something on the grill; light the fireplace if the weather allows; turn on the flat-screen television; and relax in the comfortable seating.

“It used to take us a couple of hours to get home from the game,” Wallace Heck said. “Now we’re already home.”