In one of my college design classes, the professor said, “Do it so well, they don’t even notice.” As designers, he was telling us to get out of the way. He was telling us to design it so well, that the end user didn’t even consider a designer had touched it. “Don’t make them pause,” he said.
I went to Madison, WI a couple weeks ago to visit the home of Sub-Zero and Wolf, who I’ve gotten the chance to work with over the last couple years. They invited Kev too! We hopped a quick plane ride across the state line, without Hal, and landed on the cusp of fall.
We toured the factories that assemble their appliances. We watched human hands and modern ingenuity turn sheets of steel into a precise, iconic beauty. We were greeted with familiar, down-to-earth, midwestern accents, a Sub-Zero Old Fashioned (see recipe below), and homegrown, sun-kissed produce for dinner that was still warm from its long bake in the dirt.
We met Chef Joel, the full time chef at Sub-Zero and Wolf. I think we all made a new friend in him that trip. Kev and I invited him over for pizza anytime he wants to cross the state border. We should feel highly intimidated to invite a Chef over for dinner, but not this one. He’s brilliant but doesn’t take himself too seriously and is an avid learner (and teacher) of food. He taught us the science of how heat changes the flavor of food. He also taught us how to properly use convection. He’s got more BTUs than a Wolf range and speaks about food with so much enthusiasm, you’re convinced you can do anything in the kitchen.
On the last night of the trip, we drove a couple minutes down the road to the Harvest Haven Barn and Garden, where they grow 65-70% of the produce they cook with in the kitchens. It’s a thing of beauty—from the rows of lettuce and leeks, to the greenhouse with a walking lane draped in tomato vines. Kev thought so too.
We told a couple friends and family about the trip when we got home. They all asked, “Wait, why do they have a chef and a garden? Don’t they make appliances?” They do everything so well, I didn’t even notice—from the homegrown produce that tests the promise of the fridge to extend its life well beyond the dirt, to the whisper of the blue flame that keeps dinner warm without overcooking it. It all works so well, you don’t even notice. It works so well, my design professor would have been pleased.
In this case though, it would be a shame to ignore everyone behind the curtain—the craftsmen and women, the chefs, the designers, the love of fresh food, and the down-to-earth hospitality of the midwest. That’s why it all works so well.
This recipe is courtesy of Joel Chesebro, head chef at Sub-Zero and Wolf, served to us on our trip (with hollow ice spheres that we smashed). I love the addition of cherry in this classic Old Fashioned. I might have finished Kev’s drink while he was in the bathroom, I loved it so much. Joel says you can serve it as is or top it off with some Club Soda.
2 oz. high-quality Bourbon
1/2 oz. pure maple syrup, or to your liking*
1 bar spoon Luxardo cherry juice (from the jar)
3 shakes of angostura bitters
1 Luxardo Maraschino cherry
In a serving glass, stir together all the drink ingredients until combined. Garnish with ice (1-2 cubes or 1 round piece), cherry, and orange peel. Serve.
I usually add a little less maple syrup to my drink, but taste and add to your liking.