Whose idea was this, anyway?

We started Brooklyn Copper Cookware on the heels of two events. The first a revelation, the second the answer to a simple question.

Sustainability: the best is forever.

The revelation occurred in the mountains of Portugal, over the hamlet of Sintra, a village favored by Lisboans for day-trips and which Lord Byron immortalized in his writings as “the most beautiful in the world.” After approaching through a splendid National Park and well-preserved formal garden, my wife Karen and I alighted at the Pena Palace, a fairy-tale confection spread over a mountain top and overlooking the village. Indulgent does not begin to describe the appointments, but what stopped us for a long spell was the kitchen.

Copper cookware collectionsMuch of the copper cookware collection there had been made on the premises over the course of four centuries. The docent commented that the copper pots and pans, rather than preserved as museum pieces, were still used occasionally for festivals and demonstration, even in films, and were easily maintained much as the oldest among them (~500 years) had been over time. “The story about them is still being written,” she allowed.

The take-away: Copper cookware last forever. Pretty much (that and I had to pick up a Cataplana in Lisbon).

Love, love. Win-win.

The Kohlers at homeYou see, we love to cook and we love to eat what we cook. We have a small (“one-ass”) Brooklyn kitchen, so cooking usually heats the place up. Years ago when I bought my first pieces I read that copper cookware is very “thermally efficient” (uses much less energy). Well, to me using less energy was just a bonus because I already loved how much better I could do all my old tricks. And friends loved the results. And I love compliments on my cooking. Win-win.

For our 20th wedding anniversary in ’08, Karen and I ran up to Maine and PEI for a celebratory vacation. As we looked out from Camden over coffee and the sunrise on Penobscot Bay she put the question to me pointedly “What three things are you going to do in the next twenty years?”

I could only think of two, one of which was “cooking.”

I thought about Karen’s question for the rest of the trip as we tucked into lobster on Mount Desert Island, clams and early corn in Calais, kelp chips in St. John, Moule Frites in Charlottetown, and blueberries pretty much with everything. No restaurant, no cookbook, but something to do with cooking…

The next puzzle piece fell into place while walking in Williamsburg (here in Brooklyn) with my friend and co-founder, Lane Goldstone. While loitering outside the original Lorimer Avenue location of Brooklyn Kitchen, we noticed a copper sauté pan hanging on the back wall we did not recognize. Upon inquiring, I learned that the unmarked pan was one an occasional few the shop was having made in Bushwick by an outfit called Hammersmith, which owned the tooling for a full range of copper cookware that used to be produced by the Waldow Company in Brooklyn until the 1970s.

The story picks up from here over at our blog, but suffice it to say that almost immediately, BCC became a much bigger deal that any of us dreamed. Though started with our full commitment, BCC initially lacked the skills a design / manufacturing / retailing outfit might like to have on its bench. We now see that as an advantage – having weathered the Hammersmith phase and with the support of hundreds of customers, family and friends, we have been free to recreate BCC right down to the rivets.

The results are merely the best and most beautiful copper cookware in history.