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Jake Kalick on Involving Chefs During Product Development

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About this episode

In this week’s episode, Jake Kalick, co-founder of Made In Cookware, talks us through his journey of creating a revolutionary kitchenware brand. With a rich family history in the restaurant equipment industry, Jake's passion and expertise drove him to envision cookware that stands out from the competition. 

By focusing on authenticity, performance, and involving chefs during product development, Jake’s approach has transformed Made In Cookware into a trusted name for both professional kitchens and households worldwide. 

Learn the differences between stainless steel, cast iron, and carbon steel cookware, why it’s vital to collaborate and partner with companies that believe in your vision, and much more.

Where to find Jake Kalick: 

Where to find host Josh Sharkey:

What We Cover

(00:49): From supplying cookware to creating Made In 

(7:30): Are there common threads in cookware construction?

(9:09): Balancing price point and brand recognition in the early stages.

(10:09): Jake’s vision of educating home cooks

(12:11)]: Why Made In builds their products in-house

(13:24): Why building trust with customers

(14:57): What is the cladding process?

(16:40): Carbon steel versus cast iron

(21:41): Building relationships with family businesses

(24:50): Thiers France knifemaking 

(30:37): The challenges with plateware

(31:58): Involving chefs in R&D

(37:54): Creating specific use pans

(40:43]: Why Jake moved to Austin

(41:59) What’s next for Jake and Made In


Josh Sharkey [00:00:00]: 

Welcome to The meez Podcast. I'm your host, Josh Sharkey, the founder and CEO of meez, the culinary operating system for food professionals. On the show, I'll be interviewing world-class entrepreneurs in the food space that are shifting the paradigm of how we innovate and operate in our industry. Thanks for listening, and I hope you enjoy the show. 


My guest today is Jake Kalick. Jake is the co-founder along with his childhood friend Chip Malt of the one and only Made In Cookware. Jake began his career working for the family business, supplying equipment and cookware to restaurants in the northeast, something that the family's been doing for over a hundred years.


In 2017, he decided to take the leap from supplying to creating his own vision of what cookware should be, and this is no small feat. Anybody that knows the industry knows that the ability to compete with the incumbents, especially the ones making stainless steel clad cookware for restaurants is incredibly challenging.


But Made In has definitely succeeded in creating and supplying some of the best cookware on the planet, not just to restaurants and hotels, but also to households across the country and world. Jake and I have gotten to know each other over the years, and I could tell right away when I met him that he has this incredible passion for what he does and really high standards that not only make him a perfect fit for doing what he does, but also someone that any chef will have a deep respect and appreciation for the vision that he has for this company.


This becomes obvious when you see some of the chefs that he's partnered with like Tom Colicchio, Grant Achatz, and Nancy Silverton. So we dig into all things cookware, everything from the difference between stainless steel and cast iron and carbon steel and why to use which one and how they're made, and gadgets in the kitchen and plateware and glassware and a bunch more. And generally just have a really awesome conversation. So I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.


Welcome to the podcast. 

Jake Kalick [00:02:08]

Thank you for having me. 

Josh Sharkey [00:02:10]

Yeah, I'm excited to chat with you today about many things. It's been cool. We've been able to do some work over the last couple years, so thanks for the support there. 

Jake Kalick [00:02:20]

Hey, are you kidding, you've been the supporter. I appreciate you guys hooking your customers and clients and team up with Made In and getting our product in the right hands. So thank you.

Josh Sharkey [00:02:24] 

What better thing to gift than Made In cookware? Let's get into that. I'll just give a little brief background of you. You can indulge more if you want. What I loved about hearing about your background was that you came up in the distributor world. Well, equipment distribution, there's a ton obviously we could talk about there.


And that world is so different from what you do today with direct to consumer, which is really interesting as well. Cause I think that's a bit of the disruption of what Made In is doing as well. Just the accessibility of these products. But you said you wanted to stop doing that. It was a family business.


But you wanted to stop selling other people's products and sell your own. Harbor Foods is a very well established equipment distribution company, and among other things, sells some really awesome products, stoves, kitchens, appliances, tools. What made you decide to do your own thing? 

Jake Kalick [00:03:09]: 

Yeah, so it's interesting. I think there's one thing that I lament is the customers not knowing enough about it. It's like we're actually a brand born out of a long time in the food service equipment industry. We're not just some Instagram startup that started making cookware six years ago with no expertise or passion or interest in the category.


So I think we take a lot of pride in the fact that, like we say, we're a seven year old startup or out of a hundred year old family business. And that's something that I think we use to our advantage when it comes to understanding what we're designing and what we're building and who we work with. All that stuff, which I'm sure we'll talk about later, but why I wanted to get into my own brand and stop being a middleman.


I mean, I think first and foremost, it's more fun to have your own brand. I think you can build your own personality around your brand and your products stand for a little bit more candidly. I also just saw the opportunity to build a brand that people cared about in the kitchen tool space. I have a lot of respect for the brands that we sold to in our family business.


There are a lot of good products that we take a lot of cues from today, but there weren't a lot of brands that had chef's attention and loyalty. It was a lot of commodity items and I think what inspires us at Made In is building a kitchen tool brand that chefs actually are attached to and take pride in and appreciate representing and enjoy engaging with.


So building something that captured that. And at the end of the day, working in a family business is hard and I did five years of it. I'm super close with my dad, but I think it was time for both of us to try something new and you know, he's still running that business, as you said, it's a great business and Made In isn't Made In without it.

Josh Sharkey [00:04:41]: 

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, it had to be a little scary. Knowing that all-clad is the incumbent. And the first thing you started with was clad stain in the steel before you got into carbon steel. What were some of the most unexpected challenges or things that you didn't plan for when you started? I know there's a lot of R&D going into it before you ever launched your first pan. 

Jake Kalick [00:04:59] 

At the end of the day, like we're, we're not reinventing the wheel here. The dynamics of a quality pan haven't changed much in the last 50 years. You know what I mean?  So there was R&D, yes. Yes. And we wanted to design something that we believed in, but I'd say that it took us eight months to even back into a supply chain that made sense for making a clad frying pan. And that was before we did anything else. It took us a lot of time to figure out where to source the raw materials, how to clad them, how we could punch them, and what made a good design. So I think there were a lot of twists and turns in that process.


And along the way we took a lot of cues from the brands we were selling at my family's business. So everything from the import, WinCo’s cheaper wherever pans, the nicer Vollrath, all the way up to the Mauviel and the All-Clad. We really looked at everything that was out there and how they were made and how they were designed and what was good about them and what was kind of over the top about them and kind of dialed into a product that we believed in. 

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