Sparking the debate on cooking appliances

Sparking the debate on cooking appliances


Encouraged and electrified in turn by The Great British Bake-Off or the impossibly perfect standards of Masterchef, our ideal kitchen would reflect our cooking methods as much as the food we put on the table.

Guild Anderson’s viewpoint on kitchen appliances is an interesting one. Aesthetics and layout of course play a large part but Nick Anderson feels strongly that helping clients to select appropriate appliances comes a close second as a service, to creating a fabulous design for a new kitchen.

Nick’s very practical philosophy means an early debrief with a client to investigate their cooking needs and approach. He sees this triangle of cooking style, family life and entertaining as the core starting point to developing the right plan.

Architects, builders and interior designers will mainly leave the choice of appliances up to the client. Since investment in kitchen hardware can in some cases be equivalent to the cost of a new car, though, most clients appreciate neutral advise from a source other than the manufacturer.

Average spend on new appliances during an average Guild Anderson project is between £14,000-£15,000 – most likely including an Aga – and in one instance, an impressive £38,000 on hardware, which encompassed two ranges for a private house catering for large parties. Many clients cope with running a significant building project in parallel with the demands of a young family. Nick’s experience and guidance at a time of great stress can be an enjoyable respite from the onslaught of decision-making.

The choice between a heat-storage range and an electric cooker is very personal. Interestingly, over the past 10 years, customer choice splits fairly evenly between Aga, Everhot and electric ovens. Aga-love is very strong, while Nick professes to being quite a fan of Everhot, with its flexibility and bridge between Aga and state-of-the-art electric appliances.

However, Aga’s two recent launches in answer to the demand for a more eco-friendly solution and interactive cooking approach are impressive. The ‘Dual Control Aga’ has timing and temperature controls for flexibility and energy efficiency, unlike the traditional Aga model, which is either on all the time or off, with minimal sensitivity.

Until now, Nick perceived little real difference between Everhot and Aga, other than perhaps brand awareness. An Everhot costs not much less than an Aga and the company never run special offers, while Aga offer discounts and a trade-in price for a replacement.

Everhot have up to now led the way in innovation in the cast iron stove market. With a hotplate under one lid and a 3-zone induction hob, each section of an Everhot can be programmed individually via an electric control panel. Particularly in summer, the ability to specify hot plates, which oven and at what temperature – and including a grill in one oven – gives Everhot a cooking flexibility totally missing in the original Aga.

Aga’s newest stove, the ‘Total Control’, goes a step further than this by combining similar modern technology with the benefits of an original Aga. The iTotal Control provides individual control over each oven and hotplate by text message and app.

Nick sees an increasing number of projects involving radical renovations, extensions and new builds impacting on kitchen design. Ideally, Guild Anderson would be involved early in the planning for input on practical details such as windows, sockets, plumbing and electrics in a kitchen or laundry room. A new build specification should retain as much heat as possible with excellent wall and window insulation, but will also often include underfloor heating – as well as an Aga! Many Aga clients confess to never having used their floor heating and it is often too late to influence this part of build specification. A good builder or architect should really query if a client is considering an Aga and the implications for very good, controllable underfloor heating.

These innovations to improve Aga’s environmental credentials are welcome. From a design perspective, a rural kitchen without an Aga can lack a centerpiece or heart. Nick finds solutions around this, using an island instead as the focus of a kitchen layout. The Aga remains unsurprisingly the popular choice for Guild Anderson’s country house customers, providing the comfort, warmth and solidity of Mrs Patmore’s Downton kitchen.

Practising what he preaches, Nick and Hannah have attended Aga, Everhot and Miele cooking courses to better understand the pro’s and con’s of the different models. Nick’s enthusiasm for a sophisticated electric oven, and Miele in particular, is infectious. A ‘reasonable’ cook when time allows, Nick’s signature dish is sea bream on fennel, cooked ideally in a Miele steam oven.

Miele and Fisher and Paykel remain firm appliance favourites for Guild Anderson clients.

Miele in particular has proved its worth, living up to its brilliant reputation for reliability and relative gimmick free developments. Miele really is German efficiency at its best: where a lesser company might rush an idea into production and launch when not fully tested, Miele products seem outstandingly well researched and developed so that when an innovation is introduced, it invariably works perfectly.

The electric oven has seen enormous changes since the modern, post-war ‘gadget’ kitchen, with a ream of freestanding, integrated, double or single ovens and microwaves. Recently, Nick has seen a popular revival of the 1950’s warming drawers – although preference is for not one but two in today’s kitchen.

Led by Miele, innovation continues apace with examples such as touch-swipe screen displays for time and temperature, steam injection ovens and the wireless food probe (which monitors the core temperature of foods and adjusts the ovens temperature automatically), all giving us a control over our cooking that we never even knew we needed.

Fisher and Paykel, a New Zealand brand, have also brought out some interesting kitchen appliances. Cheaper and a more limited range compared to Miele, they have nevertheless developed some unique products such as DishDrawers (a dishwasher in a drawer), installed by several Guild Anderson clients as a convenient, compact, instant washing-up unit. Similarly, their CoolDrawer is a thoughtful innovation: an impressively wide temperature ranging fridge-or-freezer in a drawer. Fisher and Paykel were the first to introduce the double door fridge freezer and these remain in steady demand in Guild Anderson kitchens, installing approximately 10 each year.

Customer support is also an important consideration. Miele’s customer service has been consistently high. For multiple appliance purchases (x8), the company offers a one to one appointment at home to discuss the specifications needed. Miele’s good customer communication and excellent after care extends to free cooking courses – ‘Let’s do Lunch’ – for clients to get the maximum out of Miele appliances. This level of care clearly pays off: Miele customers get used to the level of quality and will return, despite the premium prices.

A good working relationship and on-going communication is important for Guild Anderson to remain up to date with product changes and reliability. Over the past ten years, Guild Anderson has been a conduit for feedback from clients on product performance and customer service across the major appliance brands. Post-project snagging can root out early issues: Nick estimates up to 5% of premium brand appliances arrive faulty.

Although clients are being increasingly more adventurous in their choices, sometimes a lower spec is all that is needed. It is just not worth the extra cost and complication of the most sophisticated oven just for the sake of it. With the newest cooking innovations, there is no option but to read the manual – or ask an expert.

In the 1950’s, kitchens were often a showcase for the neighbours. Today, whether the final decision is a stainless steel, uber-cool modern oven or a classic range cooker, the choice of appliance is clearly both wide-ranging and personal.

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