2010 Best in Category: Kitchen Hand Tools
iSi North America, Inc.
In developing iSi North America’s Design Award-winning Pro Locking Tongs, company president and CEO Rick Agresta identified several goals he wanted to achieve that all led to one major result: the tongs should appeal to both the company’s commercial kitchen customers as well as retail customers and consumers.
According to Agresta, the company wanted to branch out from silicone tools, which have long been the core of iSi’s kitchen tools offerings, first in the Mastrad product that the company used to distribute and now in the iSi Basics line of kitchen tools.
“We wanted to show the trade and consumers that iSi basics went beyond silicone products,” he said. “We wanted to show that we could bring the same kind of design and functional innovation to other materials.”
In developing the tongs, Agresta turned his focus to the commercial aspect of iSi’s business.
“I like to look for products that can be used in both markets and also in doing product development. I like to bring knowledge that we gain in the fine dining kitchens to the home chef,” Agresta said.
In working closely with chefs in commercial kitchens, Agresta noticed that their tongs were without frills— simple metal tongs with spring coil tension. From research, Agresta found that these were the only kind of tongs that could be cleaned thoroughly enough to receive NSF certification.
“If we could figure out how to bring innovations that consumers enjoy to professional chefs, they would appreciate that,” said Agresta. Primarily, the company focused on the locking feature and the ability to have multiple positions to reduce hand fatigue. “We went to NSF and asked them to help us, and they worked with us on the project, consulting on the kinds of materials we could use.”
iSi’s designers came up with the idea of disassembly for more thorough cleaning, which they identified as a feature that would benefit professional chefs as well as consumers. Adding three edges to the tongs— straight, scalloped and pointed— increased the wok area and made the product that much more useful, Agresta said. A poilished stainless steel finish is reportedly important in commercial kitchens and appeals to home chefs as well.
“It’s very hard to make products that work well in both [professional and consumer] markets,” Agresta said. “Commercial chefs don’t like anything they feel is a consumer product. Consumers typically don’t have access to commercial products. I think we hit it right with this product. It’s a nice balance between the needs of both markets without compromising anything.”
—By Lori Schneider