Cookware King

Founded some 90 years ago, the allure of Le Creuset, arguably the world’s most iconic cookware brand, remains untarnished in a sector where competition to be top of the pots is hot.

Known for its exemplary design ethos, outstanding functionality and rainbow of colors – think: Cherry, Caribbean, Palm, Cassis and its signature Flame with its orange-to-red gradient – the brand acquires loyal fans with each successive decade.

And like couture collectors – who avidly follow the latest trends in color, silhouette and style – Le Creuset devotees acquire and covet pieces for similar reasons: as statement pieces, as the perfect expressions of form and function, but principally because the cookware does what it says on the box.

Unsurprisingly, Cayman has its own legion of Le Creuset collectors. A gathering of the faithful was staged recently by Bon Vivant, the brand’s local dealer, to celebrate Le Creuset’s 90th anniversary with a series of events designed to tap into the feel-good factor that is so much a part of the brand’s appeal.

Indestructible work horses in the kitchen while elegant enough to grace any dining table, Le Creuset builds on its winning formula whilst launching new ranges and lines, colors and limited editions to keep their brand relevant rather than simply coasting along as heritage products. Seen by some collectors as investment pieces to eventually be passed on to friends and family, Le Creuset has long since earned its place as a super brand in this modern age of throwaway consumerism.

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JODIE EHRHART

A trained pastry chef with stints at 10 Downing Street and on the Orient Express under her belt, Jodie Ehrhart traveled the globe with her profession before finally making Cayman her home in 1998. These days, though no longer working in hospitality, she and husband, Jay, are avid foodies. When not eating out at one of the islands’ many restaurants they enjoy cooking for friends.

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The purchasing and logistics manager says, “Jay always helps in the kitchen. He’s brilliant at entertaining, making drinks and washing up!”

“My favorite is the stoneware Camembert baker. It’s so easy. We throw in some delicious toppings like sundried tomatoes and basil and bake the cheese in the oven for 10 minutes. Delicious.

She became a Le Creuset fan in her twenties and now considers them as stylish investment pieces that last decades, have timeless appeal and require little to no extra care.

“My first Le Creuset was a gift for my first bedsit in London,” she recalls.

jodie3“It was a Flame fondue set… I loved the way it heated so fast and evenly. I bought a few large cast iron cooking pans and Dutch ovens over the years, but they’re still at my mother’s house in the U.K.”

As the cookware is known for being a shade heavy, Jodie decided to leave her collection in England and is now assiduously amassing another one here.

Her most used items are her small ceramics. “They are great and so colorful when entertaining. We use them for appetizers like olives, dips, Boursin cheese, pâté, and chips,” she says. “But my favorite is the stoneware Camembert baker. It’s so easy. We throw in some delicious toppings like sundried tomatoes and basil and bake the cheese in the oven for 10 minutes. Delicious.”

Looking ahead to when they move into their new house, Jodie says she’ll probably add some saucepans or sauteuse pans in Marseille Blue. The latter are often used to braise or sauté and are handy for whipping up casseroles and pasta dishes. She also covets a Le Creuset French coffee press.

All in all, Jodie finds that though pricey, buying the brand has, over time, proved to be money well spent, as it is so durable.

Photos by Pinnacle Media Group Ltd.

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SHARON GALLOWAY

For Sharon Galloway, a former physiotherapist and stay-at-home-mother, life is all about timing. The mother-of-four has three children studying abroad, one at home and a full schedule of commitments with husband Andrew, including looking after the family’s horse Jakob.

sharon2“Though I’m not a foodie and don’t particularly go for complex recipes, I’ve always enjoyed pottering around in the kitchen,” Sharon says. “With our eldest away, over the years cooking has become a way of celebrating shared times.”

You could say, Le Creuset runs in the family. Sharon’s mother has some cherished pieces, which where even taken to her father’s postings in Africa, while her 84-year-old mother-in-law is a fan and has gone so far as to get a few of her oldest pieces resurfaced. So, when it came to setting up a home with Andrew, Le Creuset seemed the obvious choice.

With most of the children at boarding school, family holidays are generally a great opportunity for all of them to break bread and catch up over home-cooked meals. With the family’s three Cayman mutts, Mango, Milo and Beans, and cats, Charlie and Roofus, never far from the table when scraps are in the offing, mealtimes maybe a trifle busy but are all the more cherished for that.

Rather than intimate dinner parties, Sharon prefers these long and leisurely meals all the more so since the children look forward to her whipping up their personal favorites and now offer to set the table and clear up.

sharon3In her mind, creating such meals from scratch is always easier when she has “the right tools.” Sharon highly rates her cast iron dishes as ideal oven-to-table bakeware for the lasagnas, beef bourguignon and the baked dishes she turns out. Her collection also includes numerous saucepans, ramekins for her crowd-pleasing chocolate mousse, and a recently acquired enameled cast iron crêpe pan for making the pancakes which the children adore.

Being breakfast and BBQ fans, Sharon finds that the French brand is not only great for high temperature cooking but is sturdy enough to withstand constant use.

“Cameron is the only boy in the family and has recently taken up cooking a meal or two when he’s home for the holidays. Unless his sisters get a move on he’ll probably end up inheriting my entire Le Creuset collection,” she laughs.

When together the Galloways can generally be found either boating or relaxing poolside. Short half-terms are often spent in leafy Wimbledon. Their London pied-à-terre is a great bolt-hole for making the most out of family time in the capital. Having active teenagers and a husband who “enjoys his food” means that cooking is as central there as it is back on island.

“My family all have healthy appetites and so I have to make sure there’s plenty of food on the go,” she says.

Admitting that it’s more a case of luck than design, Sharon says: “There’s a Le Creuset shop just down the road in Wimbledon Village.” Though her Wimbledon cookware collection is still “a work in progress,” she is eager to acquire more and has already stocked up on a few tempting items from the store.

Up until recently she only collected Flame, but she’s just moved onto acquiring Caribbean Blue, a hue that complements the color palette of her ocean-side kitchen.

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ELIZABETH PRICE

A cookery expert, Elizabeth, or Beth as she likes to be known as, has long been a fan of Le Creuset.

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“At the Le Creuset Bon Vivant anniversary event at The Ritz, I purchased an oblong skillet that is the perfect size for our local snapper.”

As director of recipe tasting for the food blog “Leite’s Culinaria,” Beth is a passionate gourmand, whose work and daily home life in the kitchen revolve around using the cookware. With homes in Charleston, South Carolina and Grand Cayman, Beth’s enduring love affair with Le Creuset started straight after college.

She first started collecting the French brand while interning with Nathalie Dupree, the Southern chef, T.V. cook show host and James Beard award-winning cookbook writer.

“[Nathalie] used Le Creuset exclusively and taught me the benefits of their superior heat retention… She started my collection with a Cobalt colored skillet and a fondue saucepan that she used on her show,” recalls the food blogger.

Having got the bug, Beth began collecting Caribbean Blue, and now has 30-plus pieces divided between her two homes. With a mix of enameled cast iron, stoneware, enamel-on-steel and non-stick, Le Creuset cookware is the foundation of her kitchens.

“Over time, I’ve added purchases from Bon Vivant and the Le Creuset store in Charleston,” she says. “I’ve also found some beautiful wood-handled vintage saucepans on eBay and I’m currently bidding on another addition.”

elizabeth3As a food industry expert and a busy wife and mother multitasking is a must and so Beth values Le Creuset’s versatility. Amongst her most prized pieces are a Dutch oven that does double-duty as a bread oven or slow cooker, and a crêpe pan that is perfect for a quick sear on a piece of salmon or a plate of fried eggs.

Indeed, the crêpe pan has sentimental value and reminds the blogger to “follow her dreams.” The pan was purchased during a silent auction at a gala event held by Les Dames D’Escoffier International – an organization of professional women in the food and hospitality industry, which Beth was later invited to join.

Her collection has evolved over the years, expanding to include an ever-deepening appreciation and reliance on the French merchandise. Though when she began collecting Beth focused on Caribbean Blue, drawn by the turquoise shade, as time has gone on she finds that she’s looking further afield.

“I’ve begun to purchase more of the unusual pieces with a view to the functionality rather than the color,” she remarks. “At the Le Creuset Bon Vivant anniversary event at The Ritz, I purchased an oblong skillet that is the perfect size for our local snapper. I also scored a limited-release Flame-colored Raymond Loewy coquelle – which may just be for looks due to its collectability. I may never take it out of the box!”

Her favorite color at the moment is Ocean, an exclusive range from cookware and lifestyle retailer Williams-Sonoma. She likes using it for cooking up meals like spicy tomato and blue cheese soup, Thai basil pork, and lemongrass-and-cilantro-crusted Ehu with black rice and mango.

“To me [Ocean] perfectly captures the shades of the sea,” she enthuses. “Gullah Blue is a lovely shade as well, and plays off historical Charleston, the new headquarters for Le Creuset.”

On her lust list are the Heritage Round Doufeu in Marseilles, the Raymond Loewry skillet in Caribbean Blue and the flower cocotte in Soleil.

Though a diehard Le Creuset collector, Beth is pragmatic enough to own a smattering of other brands like All Clad. But ultimately it’s the near century-old brand that trumps the rest when refining blog recipes in her Leite’s Culinaria test kitchen.