HEAT, FIRE AND VERY LITTLE SMOKE
While the U.S. has stalwart ovens and cooking systems, ones that have warmed the kitchen and cooked the food of thousands of homes for the past seven decades, our stove tradition is predominantly democratic. Thus, Viking, the US Stove Company and General Electric offer stoves that are solid, reliable, efficient and increasingly good-looking. These companies make heat available for everyone, as good heating should be. In France, a republic since just after the birth of our nation, tradition has not been so democratic, but instead has been royal with its collapsed (well, executed) monarchy and intricate system of nobility. From this tradition came the belief that cooking is an art, and stoves have long been objects of beauty, elegance and tradition. Put another way, the French create icons when it comes to stoves.
This is why the prestige of La Cornue’s ovens has yet to cool. Founded in 1908 by Albert Dupuy, who took advantage of the recent dissemination of gas lighting in street lamps in Paris, La Cornue used the revolutionary technology of pumping hot air repeatedly through an enclosed oven to heat food consistently yet thoroughly. The stove obliterated the need for an open fire, and a new way to bake, roast and braise was born.
As a company, La Cornue has less than seventy employees and a third generation Dupuy still helps manage the business. The company is best known for its massive “Chateau” line which are made to measure ranges for restaurants, hotels and, yes, the lucky Chateau owners among us. However, the company has recently expanded its “range of ranges” to include the compact CornuFé line, and its small home or even apartment friendly Albertine oven. Coated in beautiful colors and borrowing the style of vintage motorbike gears to shape the oven handles and knobs, all of La Cornue’s cookers radiate heat but also the refined sense of French taste.
While the company claims the line was named after founder Albert Dupuy and his wife, Alexandrine, we cannot help but note “Albertine” is also the name of Marcel Proust’s sought after love in that most French of novels, In Search of Lost Time.
In recent years, La Cornue has been introduced on a wider scale to American kitchens, due to an agreement with Williams Sonoma. The Albertine “edition” makes a Cornue somewhat easier to obtain. Until you do, you can simply visit a shop to dream and learn about how a stove can suddenly become an object of adoration.