Successful cooks rely on good, solid equipment — the kind that's designed to last a lifetime. One of the best-loved and most-used tools in my kitchen is an 'East West' Füri knife produced by Füritechnics, a company previously owned by mechanical engineer, Mark J. Henry. As the co-owner of a cookware store and cooking school in a previous lifetime, I sold dozens of Füri knives, and many of my readers will no doubt have seen them used and recommended on television by celebrity chefs around the world. Mine is still as good as the day I bought it, many years ago. So, from my perspective it's good to see that Mark is back on the scene with a new product.
After decades of making knives and equipment for chefs in Australia, the USA, and France, and exporting them all around the world, he is launching his innovative new Australian cast iron Fonte ‘Tough Love’ pans via the crowdfunding site Kickstarter.com. The Fonte pans are unlike any cast iron before them, designed with ‘Love Handles’ (a catchy trademark for their long ergonomic handles with heart-shaped palm pad) and a graceful French-influenced ‘Lyonnaise sauteuse’ pan shape.
'I’ve always wanted to stir up the cookware industry like I did with the knife industry, particularly traditional old cast iron,' Mark explained when we spoke. 'I wanted to retain the best natural properties of cast iron pans, for example: their even heating and high temperature searing ability, and their famous multi-century durability. If you can trust the source of the iron they are also the safest material to cook on, with no non-stick chemicals, just natural oil seasoning. So to keep all that good stuff and improve on their traditional weaknesses.'
Mark says his vision was to update the traditional old American cast iron pan shapes with new French-influenced ‘sauteuse’ shapes. (He notes that it is said those rounded-walled pans best for the sauté toss originated in Lyon, France: French chefs still call this shape ‘Lyonnaise sauteuse’). For food safety, he also wanted clean and trustworthy Australian cast iron. 'And it is about time someone did something about those uncomfortable, hot, stubby little handles on cast iron pans [true!]. Our long and broad 'Love Handles' might be cute, but they aren’t a gimmick; they’re carefully engineered for more comfort, control and less heat transfer up the handle, ensuring high performance for chefs,' he added.
I asked Mark why he's launching his new pans on Kickstarter.com. 'The ‘all or nothing’ Kickstarter.com model only allows a limited time to reach a funding goal for a project,' he explained. 'In the case of the Fonte pans, that would be $30,000 in ‘pledges’ by midnight on 21 September 2014. According to my calculations this funding goal will only get us to break even to cover the expensive moulds and large minimum production run at the contract foundry (necessary to secure the cost savings from automation), not to mention the free shipping of ‘highly transformed’ cast iron across Australia,' he said.
And what happens after 21 September? Mark says he hopes the success on Kickstarter.com will provide his fledgling Australian company, SolidTeknics, with the broad support it needs to make the leap from crowdfunding to shelf space in traditional retail stores after the Kickstarter project closes.
The cost of the Fonte Tough Love pan is $99, which includes shipping within Australia and a $5 donation to the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Foundation. When asked why one would buy one of his pans in preference of a $20 cast iron pan from a camping store, Mark advised: 'It's a personal choice, Liz, but knowing what I know about materials and global manufacturing, I personally wouldn't cook for my family on import iron from questionable sources. I'd pay extra for a trustworthy source of pure, clean heavy-metal-free iron. I'd also pay extra for a well-designed cast iron pan, with a long and comfortable stay-cool handle and a lifetime of significant benefits.'
If you would like to support the Fonte Kickstarter project click here. For further information about SolidTeknics visit here and more about Mark Henry's background can be found here.
Thank you to Mark J. Henry and SoldTeknics for sending me a Fonte 'Tough Love' pan to road test. Watch this space for information and news, as I put this pan through it's paces in the Good Things kitchen.
Now tell me, dear readers, what do you look for when purchasing tools and equipment for your kitchen?
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