This summer I had the amazing opportunity of being invited by the JENN-AIR brand at the gorgeous World of Whirpool Corporation in Chicago. Other design specialists and myself were flown out to the windy city and treated to an intensive training forum on state of the art kitchen technologies. I was mesmerized by the psychedelic lights in the Chicago airport corridors! Photo Barbara Elza Hirsch
Whirpool clearly knows how to treat their guests. They have their own chef on site and employees get to eat gourmet meals every day..Sigh. All dishes prepared by Whirpool Chicago’s Corporation chefs | Photo Barbara Elza Hirsch
It was a good thing the food was nutritious as there was a lot to learn about in a short visit. Here’s what I learned. JENN-AIR was founded in 1947 and is the inventor of down draft technology, a form of ventilation on the cooktop. They are also the first brand to have offered convection ovens in the USA. After going through a dark phase, it was aquired by Whirpool in 2006. Relaunched in 2009 as a luxury brand, JENN-AIR is considered a step above the Kitchen Aid, Maytag and Whirpool brands. Whirpool did some strategic thinking to figure out how to define and place each of their brands so as not to compete with each other. It was great fun to walk through the Whirpool training center and showrooms and see Maytag washing machines, Whirpool fridges or Kitchen Aid mixers. The first Kitchen Aid mixer (1919) came attached with this cabinet and was wheeled by saleswomen door to door! Photo Barbara Elza Hirsch
JENN-AIR now offers a full suite of beautiful streamlined appliances. General Manager Steve Brown-an architect by trade-brings to the designs European flair and a great sense of clean and appealing design. Kitchen Design Considerations: Ellen Cheever of Ellen Cheever & Associates was a tremendous speaker and source of knowledge. I’d like to share some tips she shared which are essential in today’s kitchen design. -Kitchen planning standards have changed. Start with selecting appliances before you select cabinets. It helps with issues such as clearance rules or installation differences which one wants to be prepared for before specifying cabinetry. -As much as possible, try to select a suite of appliances so to offer clients a cohesive design look. -Two sinks is ideal but if there is not enough room, try to specify a multi-configuration sink. -As much as possible, try to invest in a small under counter ice machine. It makes the best clean ice, at an ideal temperature. -The height of appliances is extremely important. Design with your client in mind. -People are interested in new technologies such as an integrated coffee machine, a steam oven, induction ovens, etc.
Below are a few features on some of the newer technologies I saw in action and was most impressed with:
Induction cooktops have made tremendous progress. In the 80’s and 90’s induction burners used to steal power from each other. Modern induction burners offer a very responsive source of heat and offer the advantage of doubling up as an extra work surface. Today’s induction cooktops are 90% efficient compared to electric (60%) or gas (40 to 50%). JENN-AIR offers an induction cooktop that has a sensor boil option: it boils the water automatically for you and lets you know with a beeping sound when it is ready. The induction cooktop has elements below the burner surface that send electromagnetic forces to heat conducive pots. This allows for a safe cooking surface, as human hands being non-heat conducive, they cannot burn. Middle burners are today’s prime piece of real estate on any cooktop. It’s where the strongest heat source is located. JENN-AIR offers an exclusive 5000 wattage (36000 btu) middle burner.
Another fascinating technology was ventilation: This Jenn-Air® luxury telescoping downdraft ventilation offers minimal design and powerful performance right at the cooking surface. The sleek telescoping downdraft vent appears at the touch of a button, and elegantly retracts back into the countertop when not in use. An unexpected refinement in ventilation, each Accolade™ Downdraft Ventilation System is individually crafted and hand-polished. Its graceful movement is matched by its singular performance: It powerfully, quietly, beautifully clears the air, then disappears on command. It’s truly at the forefront of design and performance. JENN-AIR has beautiful ceiling ventilation such as this beauty (offering high clearance, ideal for taller individuals): The average home kitchen releases 1 to 5 gallons of grease per year, hence the importance of ventilation! One should never underestimate the importance of adequate ventilation. Ideally, a ventilation system should be 6 inches wider than your cooktop. it is ok to have it the same width, but some states have different code regulations regarding this matter.
I was pleased to hear downdraft vents (vent is on the cooktop and vents downwards) have much improved over the last few years.
Steam Oven cooking grabbed my attention and I sure wish my kitchen had room for this 24 inch Steam/Convection oven: This versatile wall oven uses steam to preserve nutrients in vegetables and tenderness in meats, and convection for evenly-baked pastries and roasts. One can use steam and convection together for food that’s tender inside and roasted or crisped outside.
The steam/convection oven offers 11 preset food categories in its steam options, 89 presets in all! These can be used manually or automatically. It operates with a water reservoir that needs to be refilled (but never mid cooking). With steam cooking, there is 0% odor transfer between foods being cooked. This means you can easily cook salmon, baked beans and dessert all in one!
The eco-focused Whirpool facility we trained in was built at this Chicago historic landmark building using locally-sourced construction materials; materials made from recycled, renewable and/or recyclable content; low-flow plumbing fixtures; and low VOC coatings. Even the construction waste was carefully recycled throughout the project. The location uses extensive day lighting, and includes a large outdoor space with an herb garden providing fresh ingredients for cooking demonstrations and events. Housed in Chicago’s Reid Murdoch Center, it offers a fantastic clock tower with offices inside the tower:
Views from the tower were amazing:
A really cool brick detail of the inside of the renovated tower:
I’d like to share a final fantastic new JENN-AIR product called the obsidian refrigerator:
The Obsidian Refrigerator by JENN-AIR: The dual evaporator system creates two distinct and independent climates for enhanced food preservation. Offering LED lighting throughout the interior, the Obsidian minimizes shadows and reflects against the black interior to dramatically display ingredients. Saw it in person: as cool as it sounds!
Technologies are constantly evolving and it is so helpful for us to see what is out there. I truly enjoyed my time in Chicago, the kind hospitality of Whirpool and JENN-AIR. I came back with a better understanding of what one needs to consider in today’s kitchen designs.