This week, Italian kitchen appliance manufacturer Bertazzoni introduced its new line of built-in ovens designed for the U.S. market and unveiled its newest cooktops as well. We sat down with Paolo Bertazzoni, the company's CEO and a fifth-generation Bertazzoni family leader, and his daughter Valentina Bertazzoni, an architect by training and the company's U.S. brand manager, at the Purcell Murray showroom in Brisbane, California, just south of San Francisco and the Dwell headquarters. Here, they share their thoughts on the differences between the Italian and American markets, how they arrived at these new designs, and how the built-in ovens' interfaces can help you make the perfect meal (and then do it again later).
What differences between the Italian kitchen and the American kitchen did you have to consider when you launched Bertazzoni in the U.S. in 2005?
Paolo: We had the choice to adapt 100 percent to the American market or keep the Italian-made process and European soul of the company intact. We went with our gut and chose the latter. We knew we had to do modifications so we went into U.S. showrooms and even into their employees' homes to see what was different. In Europe, we live one on top of another so we have smaller houses and smaller appliances. In the U.S., everything is larger.
Was it just size or were there any other unique features about the U.S. market to consider?
Paolo: We found that Americans really value their kitchen appliances, more than we expected, so we were able to give them more features, make the products more robust. We’ve actually taken some of that robustness back to the European market.
You’ve just launched the Bertazzoni built-in ovens in the U.S. How did you get to the final looks of the Professional and Design series?
Valentina: We wanted to have a very Bertazzoni product and a very Italian product. As the brand manager, I oversaw how the brand values fit into the products from design to launch. We put together a group who created models, and then we filled one big table with all these different styles for different types of end users. We decided in the end to limit it to two lines that can blend together to serve all clients.
You worked with Italian designer Stefano Giovannoni. Why did you select him?
Valentina: I met eight designers, and he was the one with the same philosophy and same values of innovation, balance, and timelessness that Bertazzoni has. The design shouldn’t tell if it’s from the 80s or 90s or 2000s; it should be timeless.
Tell us about the interface design of these ovens.
Valentina: When we were designing the screen and software, which is all proprietary to Bertazzoni, it (1) had to be user-friendly (we didn’t want the customer to have to read some big manual to use it) and (2) had to have a modern look. Everyone knows what an iPod is and how to use it, and we wanted this to be very simple and very 2011 in a similar way; it’s very intuitive. We met with suppliers who showed us different systems. One had a USB connector so you could display your photos on the screen. Why do you need to look at photos while you’re cooking?! We develop ovens for cooking. In two clicks—by selecting the mode and the temperature—you’re making a meal.
What if you want to get a little fancy, are there functions for that?
Valentina: We’d seen systems that had 50 recipes and 75 recipes so we asked Italian chef Roberto Carcangiu, who we worked with, to develop 100 recipes for our interface. He objected, saying that cooks go by food category and desired results and that a list of recipes wouldn't be helpful. So, as a result, you can go to the Assistant feature and pick, let’s say, meat. You can select how to cook it—roasting, braising, oven frying—and then you pick the quantity of meat you’re making, the tenderness of the cut, and the desired doneness. It starts preheating and you put the food probe in and put the meat in the oven and then the oven takes over and let’s you know when it’s finished. If you want to cook manually, though, and say you make a really great roast or a cake everyone talks about, you can save the last cooking sequence and name it for later so you don’t have to remember exactly what settings you used.