By Tanya Henry
Rudy Keller moved to Marin 30 years ago from Switzerland. As a teenager he completed a three-year apprenticeship with the Swiss cookware giant Kuhn Rikon. He was hired on full-time as their export manager and would eventually make his way to the U.S. by way of Greenbrae’s Bon Air shopping center, where he sold the European cookware from 1988 to 1995.
For the uninitiated, Kuhn Rikon is best known for its gadgets designed for the home cook. “We were the first to introduce color—especially on knives,” says Keller, who cites brightly colored garlic presses, peelers and can openers as just a few examples of Kuhn Rikon’s whimsically designed cooks’ tools.
The company’s effort to create ever-more functional gadgets included taking familiar items and attempting to make them fun and easy to use. Perhaps its most recognizable product (it sold 20 million by 2009) is a simple peeler that comes in an array of bright colors, has a wide, easy-to-grip handle and makes peeling carrots and potatoes almost enjoyable! Kuhn Rikon was also an early promoter of healthy cooking techniques. Its “waterless cooking” or pressure-cooker pots “used the food’s own moisture” and “kept the color and health benefits of the food intact.”
Keller says that although Kuhn Rikon was ahead of its time in some ways, it was challenging for a Swiss company to seamlessly adapt to American tastes. “So many things were different here—sinks were bigger and the color palette—even today is very different,” he says.
Keller recently stepped down, but the U.S. office (now in Novato) continues to operate with small marketing and sales teams. In these food-obsessed times, Kuhn Rikon’s colorful and functional gadgets serve as a good reminder to us all that cooking and preparing food are meant to be fun and joyful experiences.
Kuhn Rikon; kuhnrikonshop.com.