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Sur la Table: Prime Kitchen Gear Seller Turns Forty (and is Just Getting Started)

Red Timer

The kitchen has always been a fun place for me. Part of the enjoyment comes from using interesting gadgets and doohickeys while making a great meal. Having a good set of basic tools, like pots, pans and the like, is essential as well, but not as cool as some widget that makes food preparation interesting or much easier.

One kitchen hardware shop I visit with alarming frequency, according to my spouse is Sur la Table. This outlet first opened in 1972 in Seattle, founded by Shirley Collins. Today Sur la Table has 2,300 employees and nearly 100 stores across the USA. Their goal is to create and maintain the best places for cooks to shop. When Shirley started out, it was notoriously difficult to find many of the clever and premium-quality tools and supplies that we’ve come to expect these days. Since then, cooking has exploded onto the scene as more than an everyday task for housewives; indeed, it’s a massive industry, with its own rock stars and groupies (I’m in one of those two groups, naturally), television and publishing, and lots and lots of equipment vendors.

I dare say, Sur la Table stands in the very top of the culinary tools vending pyramid. And they’ve got something for everyone…

Yes, it’s possible to waltz into any of Sur la Table’s outlets and drop the price of a good used car in less than an hour. What might you get for that? Some really, really high-quality and high-end goodies. Kramer stainless Damascus knives, for instance. Beautiful works of art that work well for any knife skills you wish to practice. Add in a Nespresso Gran Maestria coffee machine, to supply necessary nutrients like caffeine and do so in style. How ‘bout a nice set of Demeyere Industry5 pots and pans? All-clad, high-tech utensils for the discerning home chef, and more than tough enough for decades of service. Or you can add Le Creuset gear, a Vitamix juicer and a KitchenAid Artisan stand mixer.

I could go on and on, but I’m already hyperventilating as I plan the next 40 years of Christmas gifts. (For me, I mean.)

So what if you’re not in the market for large collections? Or, maybe you’re a cook of, shall we say, more modest means? No no, don’t walk on by! Step right in, there’s plenty to see and consider.

Lots and oodles of items for $10-30. Whisks to glassware, cake-making kits, pie pans (metal & ceramic), doughnut hole pans, batter dispensers and ceramic paring knives, olive oil pourers and snap-top storage bowls. Everywhere you look there are colorful, well-made tools and items to attract and interest you. Including cookbooks full of ideas and beautiful pictures.

I have purchased ceramic knives, canning equipment (funnels, tongs, lid-lifting magnet, etc.), a few ceramic soufflés and ramekins, and so on. I’ve not blown up my budget (yet), and I’ve always been pleased with my finds. Everything I’ve purchased at Sur la Table has been well-made and durable, regardless of price.

I’ve also enjoyed my shopping experience at Sur la Table. The ladies in my local outlet (and yes, they’re all ladies) have been helpful, patient and informative. I haven’t ever felt pressured to buy something, or buy something more, or even to trade up to a more expensive version of whatever I’m considering. Often the shop folks engage me in discussions of what I’m considering cooking, and how I like to cook. They’ve even chatted about recipes, foodie websites and more. They’re more than simply shop-keepers, they’re involved in the culinary industry at large and have a much wider view than “typical” sales people anywhere. I enjoy that, and it’s part of what keeps me coming back.

The Sur la Table fall catalog is out now, and no, you can’t borrow mine. (You wouldn’t want to, until the drool dries.) You can request a copy on their website, and while you’re there you can shop until your mouse drops through their great collection. If you’re a foodie who appreciates gadgets and novelty tools, or high-quality culinary equipment of any sort, Sur la Table is the place for you…

Put the (Great Gadgets & More) Heat On!


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