Gaggenau sprung into existence in a region where several of today’s innovative companies have their roots. It’s also where the world famous cuckoo clock was invented – which is more than a funny anecdote, according to Sven Baacke, Head of Design Global Brand Gaggenau. “The people of this region have al- ways developed new things in order to improve their living conditions and playfully enhance their daily life, especially when challenged by difficulties.” This company, where Baacke has worked since 2003, seems to be cut from the very same cloth. “At a certain mo- ment, Gaggenau even described itself as a producer of novelties.”

Over its impressive history, the company manufactured everything from nails and weapons – “necessary during those turbulent times”, to cookers (coal, gas-fired, and electric), ventilation systems, bi- cycles (by 1908, Gaggenau had sold 250,000 Badenia bicycles!) and fridges, through to smart, easy-to-use appliances for the kitchen. Gaggenau’s appliances inclulde full-surface induction cooktops, self-cleaning combi-steam ovens, wine storage and temperature control cabinets, energy efficient fridge-freezer combinations, and modular ceiling ventilation systems. The brand has around 500 employees and is represented in more than 50 countries, with flagship showrooms in major cities around the world.

One would think that a lengthy, respectable history might paralyse those who work for the brand, especially when it comes to trying out new things, but according to Baacke the opposite is true: “During its long history, Gaggenau has revolutionised the domestic kitchen over and over again. Its very success is founded on technological innovation and a clear design language, combined with high functionality. So innovation and creativity are at the core of our tradition. This is actually an excellent framework in which to do new things: with respect for tradition, yes, but we always look at the future. By the way, the company has also done a few frivolous projects, like the Gaggenau motorbikes! There are only three left, and I hope to acquire one, one fine day...” According to Baacke, the common denominator in all of Gaggenau’s products is a commitment to innovate and to offer top quality, driven by a very human desire to always do better. This is so deeply embedded in the DNA of the brand that all the employees seem to be fuelled by it. “We are just a small link in this 333-year-old chain, but each of us has a huge responsibility for the future of the brand.”

Stefan Hösle, Head of Communications & PR, fully agrees. “When looking at those 333 years, I find it inspiring how Gaggenau managed to evolve through time. The company learned, adopted, and became stronger. It was Sven Baacke who coined the descriptor 'Traditional-Avant-garde': always ahead when it comes to technology, but rooted in tradition.” Today, the Gaggenau team is working on products for 2025. What are the challenges of this 'Traditional Avantgarde' approach in a fast changing world? Isabel Stetter, Head of User Experience responds, “We are certainly looking into the future but we’re not just jumping on changes. We only go for what we think are longlasting trends. To find out what is feasible and really worthwhile, we do a lot of research, regularly checking studies, and are also in close contact with chefs and architects worldwide. Additionally, we pay close attention to habits: how people live, how they cook, what’s relevant to them.” What does this mean to Gaggenau, a brand known for its durable products – how can a kitchen appliance carefully designed to last 20 years not become out-dated after 5? “The design often remains reduced, nearly invisible; and if it is prominent, it’s made of timeless materials like stainless steel. Ourmodular system allows individual appliances – from cookers to wine fridges, from cooktops to steam ovens – to be combined in whichever way people want. Our idea is not to be too trendy – there has to be a soul too”, says Hösle.

2016 The EB 333 oven, embodying Gaggenau’s design philosophy of Traditional Avant-garde: always ahead in technology

Gaggenau also looks at regional differences in food tradition. The Vario teppan yaki cooktop was developed for roasting and cooking directly on a smooth metal plate, according to Japanese tradition, without adding fat or oil. “It was imported from Asia to Eu- rope and has been very well received here”, Baacke injects. The other way round has also proven curious. Gaggenau developed a steam oven derived from professional European kitchens and introduced it in Asia, where people don’t customarily use an oven. “Now you see that, increasingly, people in Asia are becoming fond of baking cupcakes, for instance, using a European oven.”

Not only does Gaggenau not embrace every trend, it deliberately chooses to emphasise cultural values. “Gaggenau is more than just a kitchen appliance – it’s about being part of a culinary culture and about enjoying a sophisticated lifestyle”, informs Stetter. Everything is done to enable this lifestyle for our customers.” And those customers are very international. “They come from all parts of Europe, Asia, the USA and Canada. They travel frequently, are flexible, and have individual expectations. They are connoisseurs who often have a specific passion in their lives like wine, art, architecture, design, craftsmanship, or food. They value the aesthetics and the fine design of our products. They explore the details and are interested in the story be- hind the brand, appreciating the handcraftsmanship and technology involved. They are engaged and have strong opinions”, Stetter adds. “Like the chefs who have Gaggenau appliances in their private kitchen. They often give us feedback, which offers insight into new cooking evolutions and new technologies.”

One such person is Brazilian architect Marcio Kogan of Studio MK27 in São Paulo. First of all, as a skilled hob- by chef, he has been cooking on Gaggenau appliances at home for many years. And he likes incorporating the brand’s appliances in his professional projects too, such as Studio SC in São Paulo, a photographic studio specialised in gastronomy. His client, culinary photographer Sergio Coimbra, has photographed dishes by some of the world’s best chefs (who commission him because they feel he understands the soul of their dishes). Professional advice was supplied by Brazilian chef Alex Atala. In 2010, Studio SC opened its doors, revealing a central shooting area with a technical kitchen, a social area for receptions with a large open kitchen, a gallery space and 6 huge sliding doors which open completely into the garden. Both kitchens are fully fitted with Gaggenau appliances. “Many technical kitchens are quite ugly. We wanted something more interesting. Gaggenau was the perfect answer.” Lots of great chefs have since cooked in this studio. “Once, Sergio called me over to Studio SC and there I found Ferran Adrià, Gastón Acurio, and a bunch of other famous colleagues of his happily gathered together”, says Kogan, grinning.

This is Gaggenau at its best: providing superb tools that specialists love because they’re so functional and are of such high quality, and that architects adore due to their excellent design. Stetter explains, “A professional kitchen comes with a focus on sturdiness and easy maintenance – we start from there and add the aesthetics. So our kitchens combine both elegance and functionality.” Gaggenau thus introduced the professional approach to the private home, deliberately providing access to expert knowledge. The Sommelier Award, which Gaggenau is organising for the second time in Vienna this October, is another example of this approach and of the desire to share cultural values.

“A good sommelier offers a very customised service – it is a superb form of craftsmanship and part of the sophisticated lifestyle we like to share. We enable our clients to live such a life by giving them the knowledge and the tools”, claims Hösle.

Gaggenau might have achieved the venerable age of 333 years but it’s certainly not ready for retirement. “Oh no”, Baacke laughs. “This is just another milestone in our evolution as a brand. We are 333 years in the making, which means we’ve learned a lot; it’s an on-going process. So it’s not about being old but rather about having plenty of experience and making a difference.”

The 2016 edition of Gaggenau's International Sommelier Awards will take place in the Gaggenau showroom in Vienna, 18+19 October.
Studio MK27 (Marcio Kogan + Suzana Glogowski) Photos: Nelson Kon
Interiors: Diana Radomysler/Studio MK27 Photos: Nelson Kon
Studio SC, São Paulo, Brazil, 2008-2011 Photos: Nelson Kon
1683 Margrave Ludwig Wilhelm von Baden founded Gaggenau
1908 The 250,000th Badenia Bicycle is sold
1956 The first built-in eye-level oven
1972 The first modular Vario system
1986 Gaggenau introduces the 90 cm EB 300 oven
1999 The combi-steam oven ED 220 for the domestic kitchen
2007 The Vario cooling 400 series, a fully integrated,modular system