I saw a French company at the International Home & Houseware Show in Chicago that makes cookware both elegant in appearance and creatively functional. The meeting with this company was a chance encounter. Once again I discovered a wonderful company at an after hours event. I love the hustle & bustle of a show floor and have spoken to passionate people about their fine products there, but I am learning that these private events can provide many valuable introductions that might not otherwise have happened. At this particular reception, I was drawn to a cool display which contained some lovely cookware from a company called Cristel and as I remarked aloud how I liked the cookware, it turns out I was standing next to a company representative. After a brief chat, I promised I would seek them out the next day on the show floor. Interestingly, the Cristel cookware line that originally drew me to visit them was not what really impressed me. Funny how things turn out.
Cristel Cookware of France
I had never heard of Cristel cookware, but they are a leading cookware manufacturer in France. They haven’t been in the North American market very long but I believe will be a strong competitor that will be impossible to ignore.
They manufacture in a historic location in the Franche-Comté region of France where Japy Brothers Company Inc. began to manufacture cooking utensils and household utensils made of beaten iron in the 19th century. It was on this site in 1849 that the very first French beaten tinplate saucepan was made. In a sense, Cristel rose from these historic ashes in 1983 as a workers cooperative hoping to restore the manufacturing roots of the past.
Under the new management of the Dodane family, in 1987 Cristel launched its “Cook & Serve” concept, a collection of top-of-the-range frying pans and saucepans with removable handles, an original concept designed by Paul Dodane. Mr. Dodane was a concept engineer at the French car manufacturer Peugeot as well as a gifted inventor. In 1986 he designed the concept which would transform a cooking pot into a dual purpose serving plate. “The idea and the concept was an immediate success, and probably helped my wife and I in our decision to take over the company”, says Paul Dodane.
It was the Cook & Serve concept that drew my attention. The idea is simple: by removing the long “traditional” handle, the pan would become in essence a serving piece. While that is interesting, removing the handles also allows for more efficient storage in cabinets. Without the handles attached, pots and pans are able to nest cleanly. I have a galley kitchen so maximizing storage is of the utmost importance; thus this concept speaks to me.
The two lines I liked the most are the L-Line and the Multiply. In these lines, all the pans have “ears” on them which when not supporting a long handle, serve as handles. It also means every pan can be easily lifted and moved, not relying on a single lift point – the long handle – to do so. As we all know, when a solidly built metal pan is full, it is heavy and lifting using a single handle can be awkward.
The removable handles are not specific to any one pan, so you can’t grab the “wrong” one from the cabinet. The versatile handles can also be used to safely lift the lid from a hot pan.
The L-Line is similar in design to some of my favorite cookware, Demeyere, in that it does not have multiple layers of metal running all the way up the side of the pan. The base is where the layered conductive metals reside and the sides are simply heavy duty stainless steel. This lessens the weight while still providing great heat management. The “L” Line has a body made of 18/10 brushed finished stainless steel with a wide, encapsulated 3-layer base.
The pans also come with a flat glass lid with a removable handle which is great both for its space-saving storage as well as its transparency, which allows the cooking process to be easily monitored. The removable handle is made of cast stainless steel with the addition of a silicone button for a more secure grip. Now lest you think the removable handle is not strong enough, I used one handle in the bottom pot of a nested set (like you see in the photo below) and lifted the whole lot. Aside from the heavy weight, the hold while lifting was very secure and safe.
Being constructed entirely of stainless steel, they are dishwasher safe and the base provides the ability to use it on all heat sources including on induction cookers and in the oven. They are available either with all stainless steel interiors or with Whitford’s Excalibur non-stick coating.
The Cristel Cookware Multiply Line is similar to many other cookware pans available on the market today but includes an extra base of aluminum and stainless steel to augment the usual tri-ply construction. The temperature is distributed across the entire surface for even, efficient cooking free of hot spots.
The “ears” on the Multiply cookware line are riveted, which provides for clean, professional styling. The body has a 18/10 polished finish and the multiple layers provide excellent thermal efficiency which uniformly spread heat across the pan. This special design will help maintain the temperature extending warm heat even during table service. There is a wide pouring edge on the pans for mess free transfer of ingredients.
Like the “L” Line, the stainless steel cookware is dishwasher safe and the magnetic base provides the ability to use it on all heat sources. They also are available either with all stainless steel or with the Excalibur non-stick coating.
This cookware is very well made with expert hands-on construction throughout the entire process and is subject to high levels of quality control, an important French hallmark.
I think the elegant, stylish appearance combined with the practical and functional design elements create cookware I would be happy to own and use in my kitchen.
At present, the Cristel cookware is available at Gracious Home in New York, Gallic Tradition in Minnesota and Tarzian West in Brooklyn. They have several retail partnerships in the works that will expand the availability to a national level over the next 10 months culminating with Bloomingdales and Crate & Barrel in early 2013.