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Gia Global Honoree 2024: Divertimenti

Divertimenti on London’s famous Brompton Road is not only well known by passionate cooks across the United Kingdom and beyond, but also to many a celebrity chef who had their big break cooking up a storm for customers and staff there over six decades.  

As they say, the kitchen is the heart of the home. In the case of London’s original cookshop Divertimenti, its famous cookery school is at the heart of a thriving business that is celebrating 60 years in the retail business.

The renowned kitchenware store opened in Marylebone in the 1960s, at a time when London’s culinary scene was positively exploding. The UK’s capital had become a happening, fun and globally alluring hub of creativity and serious business. There was a huge growth in fashionable restaurants across London and simultaneously there was a massive number of young people flocking to the city – a direct result of the baby boom in the 1950s. Add to this the economic boom that saw Londoners spending money on their homes, entertaining, and their lifestyles in general, and the scene was well and truly set for Divertimenti’s grand opening.

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Fast forward 60 years and today Divertimenti is home to more than 6,500 products arranged across its 500-square meters spread over two floors, making it a veritable haven for chefs and people passionate about cooking.

This year Divertimenti was a firm favourite of the expert jury in the 2024 Global Innovation Awards (gia) held in Chicago, where it became one of the top five stores in the world.

“Divertimenti has a long history, focusing on quality, with a reputation as a leader in culinary exploration,” the judges noted. “It is truly the original show kitchen hosting star chefs, and there is a strong dedication to colour composition and colour direction in the storytelling, making for excellent visual merchandising.”

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At the gia awards, Ben Phillips, the managing director of Divertimenti was at first speechless when the store was chosen as one of the five global honorees, yet he has always known how the store holds a special place in the fabric of the UK’s culinary scene, and in the hearts of so many customers.

“Divertimenti started out before awards were even a thing, and it has created its own special path since,” he says. “Becoming a gia winner felt like being that film director who’s never even been nominated suddenly winning an Oscar for Best Picture. It wasn’t expected, but we do know how worthy the store is. When I chronicled what Divertimenti had achieved for the awards application, and where it had led the way and developed over the years, there was so much to be proud of. It’s a solid heritage brand.”

A light and entertaining distraction

Pleasing its many loyal customers is at the heart of what Divertimenti strives to do every day, and part of this is keeping them inspired and up to date with cooking trends, products and advice from those at the pinnacle of the industry – be that suppliers, staff, local cooks or famous chefs. The store is also a source of entertainment, with something always going on for customers to enjoy. In fact, the word Divertimenti is an Italian musical term for a “light and entertaining distraction.”

“We hope that people feel excited and inspired when they step into our store,” says Ben. “In a homogenised retail world, we hope people will find that Divertimenti is a breath of fresh air.”

There are many stories of now-famous chefs who were given their first teaching platform at Divertimenti, long before they were famous. One of the most well-known is Gordon Ramsay, who is still a customer today.

Ben says there are too many magical things that have happened at Divertimenti over the last six decades to list, but one of his favourites was hosting two of the UK’s top restaurateurs – with 10 Michelin stars between them – where they cooked dinner for 50 guests in the store’s cookery school.

“They took some time out to see who could slice through the most water bottles with a single swing of a Japanese Yaxell knife,” says Ben. “I can confirm that the Divertimenti world record is currently 22 bottles in one hit.”

It’s not just celebrity chefs that go above and beyond to educate, inspire and entertain customers. “Divertimenti’s employees are really the owners of the business, so they are on every level motivated to go the extra mile,” says Ben.

All in it together

Having been around for 60 years, Divertimenti and its staff have continued to evolve, adapting to the many highs and lows that the passing of time and trends creates. The global pandemic was one period in time that changed the trajectory of the business, in a good way.

“The pandemic created an astonishing time,” Ben says. “On different days it was beyond scary, but there was also an astounding amount of optimism around. The world changed many times over during that time and whilst not forgetting the incredible suffering and loss that many people endured, from a housewares retailer’s perspective – a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity presented itself.

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“Having all of our customers housebound, cooking for themselves and discovering the dark arts of pizza, pasta and breadmaking was an opportunity not to be missed,” says Ben. “We went into this period well prepared, with a great online store and service our customers could depend on, and we were ready for coming out the other side as well. That period changed the business in a fundamental and positive way.”

After the pandemic, people sought personal contact again, and Divertimenti, having kept up with its customers’ online, was ready and waiting to inspire and entertain once more.

“I think that bricks and mortar stores will come back to life and remain,” Ben says. “Online shopping is incredible in so many ways, but people are social creatures and if stores become more engaging, unique and experiential, then that, for me, is the future. Where would you rather spend your weekend?”

 

To learn more about Divertimenti, visit www.divertimenti.co.uk.

Sponsored and organised by The Inspired Home Show and the International Housewares Association (IHA), gia (IHA Global Innovation Awards) is the world’s leading awards program honoring overall excellence, business innovation and creative merchandising in homegoods retailing. For more information about the gia retail program, the co-sponsors or participating in 2024-2025, contact Piritta Törrö at piritta.torro@inspiredconnection.fi. Additional information on gia is also available online at TheInspiredHomeShow.com/Awards/gia-Retailing.

 For more information about The Inspired Home Show and to pre-register for the 2025 Show, taking place in Chicago on 2-4 March 2025, please visit TheInspiredHomeShow.com.

 

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