The new L’Atelier de Le Creuset on the Ashley River is like something out of a chef’s dream.
A brief history
Le Creuset — “the crucible” — started in Fresnoy-le-Grand, France, in 1925, after a casting specialist and enameling expert began coating iron cookware with a porcelain enamel glaze to improve versatility.It began exporting to the U.S. in the 1950s and opened its U.S. distribution center in Hampton County near Yemassee in 1977, citing easy access to the ports of Charleston and Savannah and I-95.In 1995, Le Creuset expanded into new categories: stainless steel, stoneware, silicone, enamel on steel, textiles and forged hard-anodized aluminum. It has operated a retail store on King Street across from Charleston Place for years.
A glass display case holds fondue pots from the 1970s, and other cookware dating back to the 1930s, just a few years after Le Creuset began making its colorful cast-iron containers in northern France.
Across the hall, through more glass, is the atelier, which means workshop in French and here translates into a state-of-the art show kitchen with cameras that will stream cooking demonstrations by Charleston chefs around the world.
Around the corner, a sleek office features racks of prototype spatulas, whisks and pepper grinders. Keep walking and you’ll pass through the window-walled desk farm where the cookware maker’s North American marketing and design employees will work.
And then there’s the river-view deck outside, for relaxation, and the gym upstairs, to work off whatever’s being served from the kitchen.
On Thursday afternoon, for the facility’s grand opening, that was Chef Robert Carter’s peanut butter caramel and red velvet cakes. Carter, who serves Le Creuset-inspired dishes at both of his local restaurants, called the renovated former Landry’s Seafood House a “world-class place for world-class products.”
“It brings validity to Charleston,” he said.
The L’Altelier expansion at 116 Ripley Point Drive is now the company’s North American marketing headquarters and culinary center. It’s been in the works for about two years and under construction for since last spring. The company had outgrown its former digs near the S.C. Aquarium. Le Creuset bought the former Landry’s for $4.15 million in February 2011.
Company officials noted the new facility is the only one in Le Creuset’s inventory that will have both a public component — the kitchen will host students and events — and private offices.
Twenty-four of the company’s 600 North American employees will be based at the new spot, including the Web and product design teams.
Le Creuset’s American CEO Faye Gooding and Charleston Mayor Joe Riley helped cut the orange ribbon on the repurposed building. Both called the culinary company’s continued presence in a food-crazed city like Charleston “the perfect marriage.”
Reach Brendan Kearney at 937-5906 and follow him on Twitter at @kearney_brendan.