Le Creuset over 85 years of luxury in the kitchen
One gray morning, I rush into the St-Paul metro station heading for the Gare du Nord. I am on my way to St-Quentin, northeast of Paris, and I have arrived at the metro early to allow enough time to get my bearings and buy a ticket for the 8:07 train. It takes me a few minutes to read all the panels and locate the right ticket booth, but with ticket in hand, I have time to enjoy my first crème of the day (a typically Parisian café au lait). The train is on time, and nearly 2 hours later, l disembark at St-Quentin, where the friendly Le Creuset chauffeur, Meziane, is waiting to take me to Fresnoy-Le Grand, a little village of 3,000 souls, just 20 minutes away.
The Le Creuset factory has been located there for over 85 years. To my surprise, the first thing I see is a construction site at the edge of the old factory. The driver believes that this expansion will create more than 500 new jobs in the coming months. Good news in these times of austerity. But how can we account for Le Creuset's continuing success? There are several factors, but we can definitely say that the popularity of chefs around the world and their cooking programs watched by millions of viewers have made a significant contribution to that success.
I am surprised by the simplicity of the plant that has preserved its artisanal character. It takes more than 30 different people handling each Le Creuset piece from the start of production to packaging. There are three quality controls, and I can see that many pieces are set aside and recast, because they have minimal defects, or a small white dot was not covered with enamel, or the famous graduated colour was not uniform.
The quality control requirements are at the highest level to meet the standards of the Japanese market. "A Japanese buyer can spend more than two hours selecting a pot in the store. And that's not all. After examining the object from every angle to ensure its perfection, the box receives the same treatment and must be perfect, unmarked and undented," explains Sonia Dubois, who works in the Le Creuset marketing department. I don't know if you are aware of the weight of some of the casseroles, but developing that famous orange box took years of research.
The quality of Le Creuset is unparalleled, and their craftsmanship, based on more than 80 years of experience, allows for this perfection in creating the enamelled cast iron casseroles so familiar to all of us. Their technique of sand casting is so advanced that, while still heavy, these famous metal casseroles are the lightest and thinnest on the market. It is actually forbidden to photograph this part of the manufacturing process in the factory.
But Le Creuset is also synonymous with colour. I had the opportunity to visit a showroom and a small museum that tells you a lot about the choice of colours, including the fact that colours that appeal to North Americans are not those sold in France or Japan. North American consumers prefer bright colours, while in France, white, beige, and metallic gray are more popular. The Japanese favour pastel pink and blue. In terms of global sales, the most popular colours are cherry, that lovely red unique to Le Creuset, followed by flame, the iconic orange that was the brand's very first colour, representing cast metal in fusion.
You could study long enough to write a doctoral thesis on the influence and significance of colour at Le Creuset and in the world of cooking. But it remains without a doubt one of the brand's most fascinating aspects, and a key factor in its continued success.