Chef Shinobu Namae x Vermicular
The Making of an Original Vermicular
The Vermicular design team has collaborated with top chefs on numerous occasions in creating original designs that meet their specific requirements in restaurants. This time Vermicular had the opportunity to collaborate with Chef Shinobu Namae to create an original model that perfectly fits his needs in his new artisan bakery in Tokyo, Bricolage Bread & Co.
Shinobu's initial request was to create a small-sized pot. As a chef who uses Vermicular cookware at home and in restaurants, he envisioned a pot that can also be used as a serveware. The Vermicular design team proposed to develop a cast iron skillet, but he desired a vessel that can also be used to bake bread. That's how development for Shinobu’s original model began.
During the first brainstorming meeting with the Vermicular design team, Shinobu conveyed his requests for size and functionality, sketching it out in real time.
"Assuming the pot will be used regularly at the restaurant, my request for the size was very specific. For example, if I were to propose a menu using Vermicular in one of the course meals, the size needs to be just right when placed on a table to not get in the guest's way. Another important element is the design. If the sides are too vertical, it is more difficult to slide in a fork or spoon while eating. I requested the sides to have a more gentle slope, so it's easier to scoop, enhancing the overall dining experience."
During the discussion, Shinobu and the team agreed on greater use of the lid. They concurred on the idea to use the pot's body to bake bread and its lid to serve as a plate. The design concept was finalized, and the design team created a 3D printed mold that met all the design requirements from the chef. The chef had further ideas for greater ease of use once he held it in his hands.
After the design team made quick updates on the mold, it was time to create a prototype. Shinobu participated in the prototyping process and tried making a pot for the very first time in his life.
"Before I participated in the manufacturing process, I had imagined the process to be more automated. I thought machines handled the important steps, and craftspeople operated with a switch. But it was completely the opposite. For instance, in a casting process where molten iron is poured into sand molds, the pouring speed and timing need to be handled and adjusted manually as the outcome would be vastly different based on how quickly it takes. I was surprised to see so many manual processes that had to be managed by craftspeople at the foundry."
Crafting for Lavor
Not only was Shinobu's request fulfilled, it exceeded expectations. He was pleased that the usability of the pot greatly improved with various ideas from the design team.
“For example, there were instances when the lid was difficult to remove because of Vermicular's one-of-a-kind signature precision seal. The lid could be easily removed by sliding it, but that extra step becomes a burden for the staff in a busy restaurant. When I conveyed my pain point, the design team added a small puller feature that looks like a bird's beak. This makes it much easier to open the lid without having to slide it.”
Initially, Shinobu was prepared to go through numerous rounds of trial and error. As he was sincerely satisfied with the original model, he immediately started using them at his restaurant and bakery.
“I deeply sympathized with how craftspeople at Vermicular take pride in their work in pursuit of ‘deliciousness.’ I also view our staff at our restaurant and bakery as craftspeople. ‘Deliciousness’ is not just the taste of the food but encompasses much more. Working with the Vermicular team, I learned once again that it is something that ought to be conveyed through various touchpoints but most importantly through a sincere dialogue with guests.”