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Guest column: Old friends in the kitchen

Kuhn Rikon’s Paul Marchant highlights the kitchen equipment that reminds him of housewares industry friends from a career spanning 30 years.

Having been in this industry nearly 30 years, my kitchen drawers are full of equipment, some battered and many seconds or returns from the shop, damaged before they even reached my kitchen. Our kitchen is a happy place, we both love to cook, and I regard many pieces of my batterie de cuisine as old friends.

I am a sentimental old fool and look back on my cookware years with great affection. Some of these pieces regularly remind me of the people associated with them so I thought I might share a few.

 

Furi Large Santoku Knife – Brian Rogers, Eddingtons

eddingtons

When Eddingtons was a fledgling business, Brian used to schlep up to East Anglia and come to visit me at Marchant’s, pulling behind him a huge suitcase full of samples. I don’t think he had a catalogue at that point.

He would park outside the shop, always in a loading only space. I remember his boundless energy and positivity and he always had lots of unique lines that help to make a cookshop different. Some years later he hosted our little buying group, the Cookshop Club, at Eddington Mill and treated us to an amazing barbeque and a spot of fly fishing.

The knife was a gift but sat in my drawer for several years. I am a Wusthof fan and didn’t think the Furi would be up to much. When I started using it though, I really liked it and I still think of Brian when I use it.

 

Mustard Pot – Richard Plant, KitchenCraft

Kitchencraft

Back in the olden days, KitchenCraft was known as Plumbob and delivered quite a rudimentary range of housewares weekly in its own lorries, things like pudding basins, Lancashire peelers etc. Then came an enormous burst of energy as Richard, Andrew and Peter discovered Chinese manufacturing and set about building what became the largest selection in the business.

They were extremely clever at understanding what retailers needed and delivered at a fair price and with excellent customer service. Richard asked me one day if there was anything that I thought they could add to their range and I came up with a stainless steel mustard pot to go with their current cruet ranges. As requested, I sketched an idea of how it might look and a few months later there it was, almost exactly as I had drawn it. I think it retailed at £3.95. I don’t think it sold well and I guess was never re-ordered when they sold that first batch. So much for my bright ideas.

 

Hard Anodised Baking Sheet – Simon Silverwood, Silverwood

Silverwood

This really is used almost every day in one way or another. Whilst the patina looks grim, it creates an indestructible natural non-stick and is brilliant to use. Of course, it reminds me of Simon – such a gentleman. We got chatting at some trade show or other and Simon talked about his wish to own a piece of woodland. I said that I had heard that there were good tax breaks for woodland and that life is too short not to do these things.

The next time I saw him he came bounding up, all huge smiles – he had bought the wood that he had been eyeing up for some time and that became his peaceful place. I’m quite sure he would have done it without my input, but I like to think that my affirmation made a small difference. Of course, we lost Simon far too early and he is still missed by everyone in the industry that new him, but his products are very much part of his legacy.

 

Duromatic Pressure Cooker – John Margetts, Kuhn Rikon

Kuhn Rikon

John was such a people person and very enthusiastic about his products, pressure cookers in particular. Some of your readers will remember him coming to train in store. He would bring a portable stove and get a pressure cooker ‘under steam’. When it was at full pressure, he would lift it off the portable stove and start running around the store waving it about theatrically to prove just how safe it was; he would have been great in panto.

Beautiful manners and business integrity are what John is remembered for, attributes passed on to his son Edward, who now runs the business. Retailer staff training is still very important to Kuhn Rikon, it makes such a difference to shop floor engagement in the brand. John is enjoying his retirement with Doris and my Duromatic makes great steak and kidney puddings.

 

Conical Kitchen Trolley – Patrick Gardiner, T&G Woodware

TandG

This beautiful piece wasn’t part of the T&G range for long, I don’t suppose it sold in great numbers. Manufactured I think in Italy from beech wood, it is a real piece of craftmanship. A lady came into the shop, asking for just such a thing, she had seen one while living in France. While I recognised the lady, she had not recognised me until I asked her how she was – we had ‘walked out’ for a while many years before.

T&G had discontinued the piece but Patrick agreed to get one for me. The rest for us is history; we have been together again for 20 years now. She is a remarkable lady, and I am too lucky. The trolley has pride of place in our kitchen and always will. Thank you, Patrick.

 

Hahn Wok – David Eggison, Hahn

hahn

David and I both stocked Hahn cookware in our stores. The founder of the business was going to cease trading and we didn’t want to lose such a good ‘independents’ range so we bought the business. Production was in China in a factory that made several other very well-known brands. Quality was excellent and my non-stick wok is still used very regularly despite being at least 20 years old (this one is actually the pre-production sample).

We expanded the range to include ceiling and floor racks, enamelled casseroles and storage. We wanted only exclusive Hahn products and bought nothing off the shelf, so we struggled with economies of scale in manufacturing. I think we were perhaps a bit naïve. The business lasted 15 years or so and in the beginning, David and I travelled quite extensively to factories in the Far East and Turkey in search of the best product at the best price. Sadly, our personal friendship didn’t survive and that’s a shame.

 

Wusthof 23cm Scalloped Carving Knife – Tony Boulton

Wusthof

This knife has been sharpened so much that I have worn the scalloping away, but it still carves beautifully. I absolutely love Wusthof knives, and they were our biggest knife brand at Marchant’s both in volume and value. AJ Boulton was the first UK distributor for Wusthof and did a brilliant job. In the late 90s they were the only one of our suppliers to offer free next day delivery with low carriage paid. It was a game changer and thankfully lots of suppliers now offer this level of service.

Tony disappeared over the pond and set up a successful cookshop in Texas of all places. His son Paul took over the business that became Haus. AJ Boulton and Haus did a brilliant job in establishing a premium brand in the UK, I take my hat off to them.

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