K+BB Collective | The Designers' Corner

Apr 17 2017

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A Family Legacy

It is rare to find a family-run business that has survived more than a century of change – including two World Wars, the introduction of gas fuel and the rate of innovation seen today. One range-maker has done just that, and I was honored to explore the culture, land and the people who created and sustained the company.

We were first immersed in the region of Emilia-Romagna in Midwestern Italy. The region is known for its Parmesan cheese and prosciutto ham – the making of which can be considered an art form. I first saw the making of Parmesan cheese from beginning to end. I stole up into a centuries-old attic to see barrels of balsamic vinegar, which are aged for more than 20 years. The craftsmanship and care the people put into their products is obvious, and the history is perhaps what makes these companies so genuine.

One of the most prominent manufacturers in the region is Bertazzoni, which started in the late 19th century in a small Italian town called Guastalla, outside of Parma. Francesco Bertazzoni, who made precision-weighing machines for the cheese industry, wondered if the wood-burning stoves being used for heating railcars could be used for an indoor range. By 1907, he and his son Antonio had begun making their own stoves by hand and sending them all over Italy.

19th Century: These precision-measuring instruments were made by Francesco Bertazzoni for local trades, from Parmesan cheesemakers to pharmacists.

Their story progressed over the last century to gas fueling and modern looks, including a collection specifically for the American market. Today Bertazzoni is known as a luxury brand that combines different technologies together – gas, electricity, induction, microwave and steam – with the heart of Italian cooking in mind.
1930s: Stove performance improved with hot gases from the fire forced around the sides of the stove to maximize heating efficiency.

We were invited to experience this first hand by cooking with a local chef in the Bertazzoni kitchen. I love to cook, but Italians cook much differently – and often much better – than we do. I saw how a convection oven could caramelize brown sugar just right on sliced Roma tomatoes and how a proofing option could help a focaccia bread rise perfectly. I really don’t think there is anything better than focaccia bread straight from the oven, drizzled with local olive oil.

 Inside the Bertazzoni kitchen, we learned to make dishes like these lasagna rolls.

After several hours of cooking and chatting, everyone – including the fifth and sixth generations of the Bertazzoni family – sat down together and shared wine, fresh mozzarella cheese and a cake celebrating 135 years of business. We stayed long past sunset, when the chef finally declared that he needed to go home to feed his dog. It’s very Italian to arrive as strangers and leave as family, and that’s what good food, a great kitchen and a lovely place can cook up.

Exploring Parma was magical – it’s like a storybook of quiet streets and charming cafes.

This entry was posted on Monday, April 17th, 2017 at 3:09 PM and is filed under Inspiration, Kitchen Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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