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 this important living space. 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.
As it happens, a high-performance and timeless-aesthetic approach to stoves was adopted in the factories of Lacanche, a tiny village in the hills above Beaune, where the famous stoves bearing the village's name are manufactured. The factory site dates back to an 18th century Burgundian gentleman by the name of Richard de Curtil, who decided to put the iron contained in his subsoil to good use by creating an iron 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 manufacturing 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 corporate subsidiary of the Valéo Company. When Valéo withdrew in 1981, the 228 factory workers found themselves without an employer.
Against all odds, the stoves of Lacanche were to take on a new lease on 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.
This family and community philosophy is reflected in the very concept of Lacanche stoves, all closely identified with the reality of local life and proudly bearing such regional village names such as Cormatin, Cluny, Chambertin, Beaune, etc. There is an unmistakable sense of joy in the company, exemplified by the Augagneur family who champion "the human touch and a happy working atmosphere" in a manufacturing-based business.
The human touch, indeed, figures prominently in the manufacturing process, which incorporates the skills of craftsmen as well as the high-tech programming of modern industrial machinery. At 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: powerful burners, warming cupboard, storage cupboard, French hot plate, and gas or electric ovens, for example.
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 will also be able to adapt designs to accommodate the needs of upcoming culinarians".