The impressive excessiveness of Williams-Sonoma

I wrote this post, mostly, to get something off my chest, but to also express an appreciation. Every so often, the Williams-Sonoma catalog graces itself in my mailbox. Though I haven’t patterned the timing for when it comes, I look forward to receiving this little food magazine for a couple of reasons: (1) it’s loaded with fun and interesting tidbits of information, and (2) it has some of the most preposterous kitchen items.

  • Fun, food information:

The pages of each catalog are littered with little drops of info that I never knew I wanted to know. In fact, I first learned about grilled chocolate sandwiches in an issue of Williams-Sonoma. They also have an exclusive deal with Thomas Keller to sell his kit detailing how to make Ad Hoc’s fried chicken at home (though it is sold out and no longer available).

As of late, what I have really enjoyed in their recent catalog are their highlights on about a dozen chefs around the country. These chefs are on their career upswing of creativity and style and the catalog gave quick hits of info on each of the chefs, their perspectives, and a recipe to boot. From Gabriel Rucker of Portland’s Le Pigeon, to John Besh of August (amongst others) in New Orleans, to Michelle Bernstein of Miami’s Michy’s. I’ve enjoyed reading about all these folks and now I have a few more restaurants to add to my list.

  • The utterly ridiculous kitchen tools:

Ok, so what I find really fascinating about the Williams-Sonoma catalog is the number of preposterous kitchen tools, utensils, machines – you get the point. Pretty much each page includes at least one item that is borderline unbelievable, to the point where I couldn’t see how something like it could be usable. It’s mostly entertaining and humorous, and makes me think about what I would do with a big Scrooge McDuck vault of money.

Here are some items that I particularly found interesting and ostentatious:

  • Tomato knife – Really? For $15? Just use a sharp knife
  • Monogrammed steak brand – Because your dinner guests won’t know which steak is theirs. I think the one on the plate in front of them would be a good designator.
  • Jalapeno pepper roaster for the grill – It’s even in it’s second edition redesign due to customer feedback.
  • Potato scrubbing gloves – I’m speechless.
  • Green herb snips – Honestly, scissors wouldn’t cut it?
  • Chicken roasting pan – Ok, this one is the most unbelievable. You must see this thing; it’s a roasting pan with a suspension arm to hold the chicken while veggies roast underneath. This thing is more of a weird marvel of engineering than a useful kitchen tool. I’m mesmerized by this thing.

So next time the catalog comes in the mail, don’t be so quick to dump it to the recycling pile, you may want to see what’s in store. It could include a new recipe to try, a rising chef, or a totally unnecessary piece of cookware. Yes, Williams-Sonoma is a massive chain that pours on the excessiveness – the point that I even reconsider my needs v. wants. But I like them because a store like Williams-Sonoma helps continue the food discussion. They sell and provide quality merchandise, highlight and feature great chefs, and provide an outlet for home cooks to release their inner Top Chef skills. And that I think it is very cool.

photo courtesy of Williams-Sonoma
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4 thoughts on “The impressive excessiveness of Williams-Sonoma

  1. I don’t know If I said it already but … keep up the good work. I just wanted to make a quick comment to say I’m glad I found your blog.

  2. I love my potato scrubbing gloves! JK 😉 Glad to know somelse has the same love/horror of the WS catalog as I do. They do have the best cookie sheets I have ever used (and I have used plenty) and apparently have a pretty awesome warranty on their products.

  3. Great posts… I love the recipes in Williams Sonoma….I’m looking forward to meeting you on Friday in San Fran for the Foodbuzz Festival…I can’t wait! You’re a great writer…keep up the entertaining and interesting posts! See you on Friday!

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