Cooking from scratch: Upward Home interviews Eric Deng, Hestan
Editor’s Note: We are excited to launch a new series of interviews with some of the leading voices in the high-end home industry. Today we visit with Eric Deng, Co-Founder and President of Hestan Commercial Corporation, who is shaking up the culinary world with the launch of Hestan Commercial, Hestan Outdoor, and Hestan Indoor.
Chris Ray: Hestan is one of the fastest-growing brands in the culinary world. What’s the story behind the company?
Eric Deng: Our founder, Stanley Cheng, has been a life-long innovator, pioneering hard-anodized cookware back in the 1970s. Along the way, he built Meyer Corporation, one of the world’s leading and most successful cookware manufacturing companies. About 25 years ago, he and his wife, Helen, bought a vineyard on the eastern slopes of Napa Valley, and set out to create some of the most special wines in the world. Hestan’s wines now fetch Parker scores in the high 90s – and this year, one of our Cabernets was number eight on Wine Spectator’s “Top 100 Wines of the Year.” So the Hestan Vineyards team is definitely gaining some impressive recognitions!
Stanley and I teamed up in 2013 to launch Hestan Commercial, based in Anaheim, California. Many of the core team members have worked in the appliance industries for several years – and we felt that no brand was making best-in-class equipment for the most demanding chefs. We probably spent two years just listening to some of the world’s most acclaimed chefs – with the goal of reinventing the restaurant kitchen from the bottom up. We called it “thoughtful innovation.”
CR: You weren’t just talking the talk. You were walking the walk, right?
Deng: Right out of the gate, as soon as we launched, Hestan Commercial was recognized with multiple national trade awards. We received three Kitchen Innovation awards and two Excellence-in-Design awards, given out by some of the most recognized judge panels in the industries, which, of course, is very gratifying to our team. But the best “awards” that we win come from the feedback from our chef partners, who helped us create an impressive lineup of products, and who keep helping us exceed our sales goals!
CR: Speaking of chef partners, I know that Chef Thomas Keller is a brand ambassador for Hestan Commercial. What’s it like to work with him?
Deng: As you would expect, Chef Keller is meticulous in everything he touches. His input in our product development stage was invaluable – and it has been great to see him install Hestan Commercial in many of his restaurants, from French Laundry, to Per Se NY, to Bouchon Yountville, all Michelin starred restaurants. He likes that our products are made in America, and he continues to give us great feedback as we refine our products and expand the lineup.
CR: I’ve always found him to be very passionate about the brand when we feature him in our marketing communications. He even agreed to be filmed standing on one of your oven doors!
Deng: That was a fun video shoot and a nice way to emphasize how well-built the product is.
CR: Not to be outdone, the following year, you and your team introduced Hestan Outdoor. What was the thinking there?
Deng: Well, we knew that, through our Commercial line, we were working toward the eventual introduction of indoor residential appliances, so we used our Outdoor grill line as a logical next step. We liked the outdoor grilling world, because you find the same pursuit of perfection as you do with the Commercial products. Outdoor grillers are obsessed, just like restaurant chefs are. So our goal was to once again reinvent the category with a new level of innovation and design. Again, this product line has been recognized for its features, benefits, and elegant designs, winning “Best in Show” and “Best Gas Grill” at the Vesta Awards, as well as Gold in the Excellence-in-Design Award by Appliance Design magazine, to name a few.
CR: We have a monster Hestan grill on Ramey’s roof deck, where we shoot small features for recipes and content. It’s always the hit of the party.
Deng: Yes, I’ve seen the photos and heard the stories! What a great place for a Hestan outdoor kitchen. We’re very jealous.
CR: So what happened next in Hestan’s evolution?
Deng: A couple of exciting launches occurred during the past few years, as we have been working on the residential line of appliances. These are proof points to Stanley’s rule that we don’t launch anything unless it’s a game-changer. First, Hestan launched a line of cookware called NanoBond, which is a line of molecular titanium cookware that is 400% harder than stainless steel and looks brand-new after years of use. Several chef partners tested NanoBond in their restaurants and were shocked by the performance of the product. Another game-changer is Hestan Cue, our chef-guided, smart cooking platform that allows home chefs to create memorable dishes, thanks to the Hestan smart cookware, a smart induction burner, and a recipe app. It is very impressive.
CR: And now, you are launching Hestan’s indoor appliance line. How are things going so far?
Deng: I think that Hestan Home represents the sum total of everything we’ve learned on this journey so far. We are fortunate that on the larger team, we have chefs, vintners, engineers, and designers, each of whom is focused on our shared love of culinary innovation – celebrating and elevating every detail of the culinary experience. We officially launched the Indoor appliance line to the trade at the Kitchen and Bath Show earlier this year, and were so pleased with the positive reactions we received. Like all of the other Hestan product lines, there is an incredible amount of innovation baked in to the residential Indoor appliances. We are working to be in distributor and dealer showrooms this summer – and we look forward to this next chapter in Hestan’s adventure!
CR: Can you give us a brief summary of the product line?
Deng: Of course. We are launching with a full lineup of cooking products, including dual fuel ranges, range tops, cooktops, wall ovens, and warming drawers. We’re also integrating Hestan Cue technology into the world’s first smart induction cooktop. We have a great lineup of refrigeration products, including several sizes of wine coolers. We have dishwashers and ventilation as well. So, we can provide a full kitchen – in 12 signature color finishes– as well as custom overlays on refrigeration, dishwashers, and ventilation. It’s a beautiful product line, thoughtfully reinvented and packed with game-changing innovative features. You should instantly recognize them as Hestan products, as they all maintain our signature design elements, such as the Marquise design, knobs, handles, end caps, etc. It is very important that we continue to deliver a consistent brand language to the marketplace.
CR: One last question. As you know, Upward Home is a platform for marketers of high-end home brands. What lessons can readers take from your journey thus far?
Deng: Well, number one, as you can hopefully tell, thoughtful innovation is a pretty big thing to us. We believe that there are big rewards to be earned if you can successfully reinvent a product – or even a category. It’s now just a part of the Hestan DNA. Second, true innovation is only possible if you listen closely to your customer. So, we spend a lot of effort doing just that. Third, while we are very serious about what we do, we don’t take ourselves too seriously. After all, our brand is all about the magic that happens when friends and family gather around the table. So, we are very intentional about being real, authentic, and celebratory, and we truly enjoy all that we do. I hope that this spirit comes across in the way we go to market.
Learn more about Hestan’s new line of residential appliances at https://home.hestan.com/