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Omaha Magazine

A Masterpiece for a Master Chef

Dec 30, 2021 11:37AM ● By Megan Bartholomew
grey tiled kitchen with indoor grill and large hood

Photo by Thomas Grady

Grilling is a year-round pastime for homeowner John Shramek. It’s something he was determined to enjoy even through Omaha’s often-inclement weather, including windy days, bitter cold snaps, and rainstorms. That is, until one particularly miserable evening.

“It was dark, I was freezing, I was frustrated,” said John, who's also general contractor for luxury homebuilder Arjay Builders. It was enough to spark an idea: a covered grill station. 

“The one thing I noticed in all our houses is the grill area is always tucked away,” John said of his company’s custom home projects. He workshopped ways to bring the grill area closer to the house and make it an all-season room. 

When he and wife Tammy built their current lakefront home at Newport Landing in Bennington in 2017, John incorporated all his experience and ideas, developing the prototype in his own backyard. Small improvements slowly developed into big changes.

“It’s turned into a full-scale kitchen,” John said.

His grill room vents with industrial efficiency and is equipped with a Memphis smoker and searing combination grill, a 36-inch Evo hibachi grill, and high BTU Wolf cooktop. The high-end appliances are supported by a full-sized fridge, easy-to-clean granite countertops, and an extra-deep, extra-large sink to handle big cleaning jobs. 

“It’s great because your mess is confined there,” John said, “and you don’t have to go in and out (of the house) so much.”

The room is connected to the garage, deck, and the main kitchen through several points of entry. In poor weather and snow, there is no need to go outside at all. During pleasant weather, the glass doors can be opened onto the low-maintenance concrete deck where a two-sided masonry fireplace overlooks Bennington Lake. 

The extra fridge and counter space make serving food and drink while entertaining a breeze. The countertop also suits guests watching Shramek cook with flair at the hibachi grill (often found at
Japanese steakhouses).

“People like to come and watch it,” John said. “It’s like a whole different style of food. What’s neat is you can incorporate it all—chicken, shrimp, vegetables, and steak.” 

The addition of the teppanyaki-style grill (often used interchangeably with hibachi in the United States) was John’s idea. Personal touches and custom appliance packages make each grill room Arjay Builders has done unique.

“The function is the function, but as far as the look, I had it match the rest of the home,” said Tammy, who owns the design firm Classic Interiors in Omaha.

Tammy acted as interior designer for the Shramek’s Bennington home and chose the colors, materials, and decor style of the room to sync with the main home, creating a seamless second kitchen. The backsplash of soft gray-and-white tiles in a herringbone pattern match the grill room’s flooring, reflecting the same tones in the granite countertops. Fresh herbs, waiting to be plucked, add an organic touch to the geometric space. Stainless steel touches give the room a modern industrial edge, while the appliances’ neutral appearance make them easy to weave into any existing design. 

Of course, the practicality of the room is its best feature, John thinks. “I like to grill 12 months out of the year,” he said, “and this is the nicest way to do it.” 

This article originally appeared in the January/February 2022 issue of Omaha Home. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.