I recently had the pleasure of interviewing chef, restaurateur, TV host and entrepreneur Curtis Stone. Curtis, in conjunction with Target Australia (“Target”), has just launched a new affordable range of kitchen cookware and tableware available exclusively at Target. It’s part of Target’s “Designers For Target” programme, which has included collaborations with Stella McCartney, Dita Von Tesse, Roberto Cavalli and more in recent years.
The Curtis Stone Collection for Target features 80 pieces of cookware and tableware ranging from a $4.00 side plate to a $119.00 3 piece hard anodised cook set.
I sat down with Curtis to discuss his collaboration with Target, get some tips and tricks for the home chef and hear his thoughts on food both in Australian and in the USA.
What Was The Inspiration Behind The Range?
I’ve been cooking for a long time in a professional kitchen, but when I did a show cooking in people’s homes I was blown away by how difficult it was to cook at home. Cooking at home should be a pleasure, but it’s not all the time. We’re under a lot of time pressure with our busy lives these days, and anything that can make the cooking process more efficient helps make it more fun.
Which Product Are You Most Proud Of?
My wife is a scotch drinker, and I recently developed this round ice ball with her in mind. You fill it with water and put the lid on it and squeeze a bit of water out. Once it’s frozen, you open the enclosure and you have a perfectly round, large ice ball. It’s pretty rad, just like you find at a craft cocktail bar back at home. That’s my favourite, but the one I’m most proud of is the cookware. We’re the first in Australia to use 5 layers of a material called QuanTanium (a multi-coat non-stick material with a unique mix of titanium particles blended into each coat). It takes non-stick cookware from being a product you need to treat super carefully to something that you can really beat up without a worry. You can even use stainless steel utensils on it. I took some of the stuff into my restaurant’s kitchen once and told the team to try their best to destroy it and it really did stand up to a lot of punishment.
What Do You Think Are The Biggest Differences Between The Food Scenes In Australia and The USA?
It’s always difficult to talk about “America” with a blanket statement. Australia is Australia – there’s slight differences between the states but the biggest difference is rural versus cosmopolitan, country versus city but overall it’s pretty much the same. If you go to a pub in Queensland it’s the same kind of stuff you’ll find in a pub in New South Wales. In the US though, it’s vastly different. You can go to Louisiana for example and they eat Creole, things like gumbo, red beans and rice, and étouffée – stuff that’s really specific to that area. It’s not just eating out either – the home cooks cook all of this food. You then go over to the West Coast and it’s pretty generic. A lot of Latin influences mean that things like quesadillas and tacos are a part of everyone’s repertoire where I live (Los Angeles). Up in Seattle they eat a lot of seafood, in the Midwest is’s steak and potatoes, pot roasts and spaghetti and meatballs. As a country it’s quite varied.
If you were to talk about things on a general level, Americans are huge on comfort food, where in Australia we’re a bit more aspirational with our home cooking. Australia is such a multicultural country and we adopt cuisines and sort of take them as our own. For example people cook a lot of stir fry at home, and good Italian food and good Greek food can almost be considered Australian.
That’s Interesting. I Knew That Food Was Quite Regional In The US But I Didn’t Realise That Their Home Cooking Was Also So Regional
Oh yeah, in the South especially, every house will cook shrimp and grits as much as we would cook spaghetti and bolognaise. In LA, no-one cooks shrimp and grits. Fried chicken is a massive thing in America, but they never cook fish and chips.
Speaking Of Fried Chicken, We’re In The Midst Of An American Food Trend In Australia And Regional American Food Is Starting To Be Explored Here
I find that in Australia the trends are more dynamic then they are in the US. 10 years ago no-one had heard of Mexican food in Australia or if you had it was poorly done versions of nachos and other Tex Mex dishes. Now it’s a rage. When a trend comes, we get on it in a big way. I don’t find that food is as trend focused in the US.
What’s The Attraction For You In Partnering With A Well Known Brand Like Target?
Harry (Curtis’friend and business partner Harry Pourounidis) and I started this business 10 years ago and we’ve tried to develop good cookware for different parts of the world. We’ve sold in America, Australia, South Africa, Singapore – all kinds of different places with different partners. In Australia, I feel like the answer to the question “Where do I go to buy good cookware?” isn’t easily answered. Some people will say Myer or David Jones, some will say Target or Big W, so for us it was really about finding a partner that stood behind good quality, but also spoke to a lot of people.
If I’m being honest, this product started really high end with our range at Williams Sonoma in the US and we’ve made it more affordable over the years. Everybody eats, and I don’t want our cookware to be only for the wealthy – it’s important for everyone to have access to good cookware. I think Target do a great job of taking something that’s super-aspirational and figuring out a way to make it affordable. They have a proven track record doing it with fashion and well known designers and that’s why Harry & I decided to partner with them.
Has The Journey In Developing Cookware Been Similar In Other Countries? Are Consumer Expectations The Same?
Different markets have different levels of expectations for sure. For example some markets are hot on big established brands that have been around forever, while others are more open to new things in the market. Aussies take their food very seriously – just look at the Masterchef phenomenon. Something like “plating up” was never part of the vernacular of the household, and now it is. It’s happened in other parts of the world, but it’s been pretty intense in Australia. Sure they have Masterchef in other countries but it’s never been as big elsewhere as it is here. People just love to cook and are interested in it. My entire career has been based around trying to get people into the kitchen whenever they can and to get people around the table, having a great time through good food. Anyway that I can help that happen I think is awesome.
If You Were Starting Out Now As Opposed To When You Did, How Do You Think Things Would Have Been Different?
Sometimes I pinch myself and ask “how did it all happen, where did it all come from?” I didn’t come into this with some big strategy as to how it would all happen so it’s hard to think back and pinpoint when it did all happen. I’ve always loved when I’ve been given the opportunity to do what I love. The first show I ever did was Surfing The Menu and it was a dream. I was so young and was given the opportunity to get out of the enclosed kitchen to cook and surf around the country. There was nothing else like that on the air back then. We were really lucky because if you were to going to try and come out with a travel cooking show now it’s a hard sell as it’s no longer new.
Do You Think The Whole Food Being Popular Thing Is Here To Stay?
It’s become a big part of our lives for sure. There will always be peaks and troughs, but I think the whole effect of the reality cooking shows is something that’s permanent. It’s been spearheaded by us wanting to learn more about the kitchen. A generation ago we learned to cook from our parents or grandparents and we had the time to do that, but then it stopped. If everyone is working full time jobs, who cooks? I always use the example of my mum’s Christmas cake. Her recipe is amazing, and every year I say I’m going to come and make it with her but I never do. If I don’t learn how to make that Christmas cake however, one day it’s going to be too late and once it’s gone, I can never get that back.
I want my kids to be able to walk into the family home and smell those amazing home recipes. I want them to help set a table, use their table manners and play best and worst at the table. I think that want will always be there.
Is There A Trend Or Development That You Think Will Become Big In The Future?
I predicted that American BBQ was going to be big in Australia before it was so I’m pretty happy that I got that one right! I think that’s going to become more regional. Carolina style BBQ is very different to Texas style BBQ for example. Once you get into understanding the differences and intricacies of the different styles it’s beautiful. I feel like that’s going to carry on in Australia. I also think different cuisines from Central America will take off in the future. The food in Costa Rica and Puerto Rico is something that I’m not super familiar with I’ll admit but for some reason I’ve got a feeling these cuisines will have the spotlight turned on them. I find that food trends tend to follow the travel trends. Costa Rica and Cuba for example are starting to become very popular now and there’s some beautiful food that comes out of those places.
What’s The Most Under-Rated Kitchen Item That Everyone Should Have?
It sound simple and boring, but it’s a sharp knife. I think that what happens is that people buy knives and just use them to the point that they are blunt and almost impossible to sharpen. A good sharp knife is super important – it’s your tool that you use for almost everything in the kitchen. If your knife is blunt you need to use a lot of force which can make things dangerous. It’s a deterrent to cooking because it unnecessarily turns anything that involves cutting with a knife into a chore. If you’ve got a sharp knife, it’s a pleasure to use. Ditch the 12 piece knife set, invest in 1 good knife and learn how to sharpen it.
The Curtis Stone range of kitchen cookware and tableware is available exclusively from Target Australia stores nationwide and online.