The return of traditional values is nowhere more apparent than in the realm of cooking. Burgundy is of course no stranger to fine cooking, but not content with demonstrating its attachment to tried and tested gastronomic values, the region also supplies all the equipment required for cooking at its best - starting with the renowned Lacanche stoves, of course!
The heart and soul of any self-respecting kitchen devoted to the culinary arts is without doubt the stove. The stove must of course be aesthetically pleasing and must play its full part in the decoration of a room on which as much care is nowadays lavished as the most intimate of boudoirs! But it must also incorporate the finest cooking qualities so that the cook can express himself or herself with all the brio of a top-class chef.
Lacanche GM Jean Jacques Augagneur muses about the simple pleasures of life in France.
As it happens, this is exactly the approach adopted in the factories of Lacanche, a little village in the hills above Beaune, where the famous stoves bearing the village's name are manufactured. The company is firmly committed to combining the best of modern and traditional methods both in product design and working practice. And it has every reason to be proud of its legacy: the site dates back to the 18th century when a Burgundian gentleman by the name of Richard de Curtil decided to put the iron contained in his subsoil and the timber from his forests to good use by creating a foundry at Lacanche. In 1796, Jacques-Etienne Caumartin took control of the ironworks and the company remained in the hands of the Coste-Caumartin family until 1972.
The Lacanche Ironworks was dedicated to the manufacture of stoves for stately homes and the professional trade. But a period of diversification began in the 1970s with the acquisition of the site by a subsidiary of the Valéo Company. When Valéo withdrew in 1981, the 228 factory workers found themselves without an employer.
And yet against all odds, the stoves of Lacanche were to take on a new lease of life. One day André Augagneur, who had worked in the company in the days when the Coste-Caumartin family owned it, decided to launch an industrial project, which was to save the site and 40 jobs. At the outset, the factory concentrated on sub-contracted work but word of its activity soon spread abroad and professional stoves were in demand once again.
Success was guaranteed with the return to traditional values and the increasing interest shown by members of the general public - keen to use authentic stoves and to emulate the creations of the top chefs! As André Augagneur says, "we have created a new generation of top-of-the-range stoves, combining the aesthetic appeal of the old Lacanche stove with the technological prowess of modern professional appliances".
Thus were born the Lacanche stoves, now to be seen gracing the pages of many a home decoration magazine. The company today employs over 200 persons and the family and rural tradition which characterized the Lacanche factory for more than 200 years is once more in evidence: André Augagneur is ably supported by his wife, his two sons and his son-in-law. Maintaining the activity in a rural environment has become something of a crusade for him. "It is possible to preserve country life", he says "but there is a price to pay. One cannot ask city dwellers to settle in a rural area when there may not be a job for the wife or husband, and if there is no school for the children. The solution is therefore to rely on the local population and to provide the necessary training so that both company and employee flourish".
This philosophy is reflected in the very concept of Lacanche stoves, all closely identified with the reality of local life and proudly bearing such names as Cormatin, Cluny, Chambertin, Châteauneuf, etc. There is an unmistakable sense of joy in the company, exemplified by the Augagneur family which sets great store by "the human touch and a happy working atmosphere".
The human touch, indeed, figures prominently in the manufacturing process, which incorporates the skills of craftsmen as well as industrial techniques. Here in Lacanche, people do not think in terms of productivity per day. The stoves are made to order, the client choosing from among the various accessories available: warming cupboard, storage cupboard, simmer plate, gas or electric oven, etc.
The oven is the heart around which the complete stove is manually assembled, piece-by-piece. From the technological point of view, the entire range is tested in conformity with UL standards in the factory's futuristic laboratory. Speaking of which, Mr. Augagneur, what does the future hold in store for your stoves? "We shall continue to manufacture the models you see today but we are also able to produce other stoves reflecting other styles".
The new Lacanche models, all incorporating enamel, cast iron and brass, are based on the old stoves traditionally manufactured in the factory.
In tune with the times: Company chief André Augagneur's "Stradivarius of the kitchen" epitomizes a return to traditional values.