INSPIRING INTERVIEW WITH VALENTINA BERTAZZONI
Today I take you to Guastalla, in the Northern region of Emilia-Romagna.
For generations, in this area an Italian family developed their culinary arts and their expertise
on kitchen design. And one day they became world famous with it….
I would like to introduce you to the Bertazzoni family, and to Valentina Bertazzoni in particular.
She is representing the companies’ sixth generation.
Because of their 135-years celebration, VITA DI LUSSO had the privilege to interview
Valentina in Amsterdam, which led to a very inspiring talk!
Impressive family history
Back in 1867 a new and very important railway was opened to connect Austria with Italy. It allowed to quickly transport many goods from several countries to Italy and back.
Because the trains came down from out the cold Alps, they needed to be warmed up with large wood-fired ovens. That made sir Francesco Bertazzoni think. So, he came up with the idea to apply this wood-fired concept to ordinary cooking.
Together with his son Antonio, he developed his ideas and soon the first Bertazzoni oven was a fact. In 1882 the company Bertazzoni was founded.
Antonio had two sons, who built a factory in 1909, nearby the train station of Guastalla. During the first World War his son Napoleone found a job in the car industry. During the war, wapens were produced there for the Italian army. So there he learned about mass production and several techniques, which he applied in the Bertazzoni factory when the war ended. Within no time that led to huge sales and employment!
In 1939 however, tragic lightning struck: Napoleone passed away. His wife Angiolina was left behind with the care of a large family company, six children and an upcoming World War II.
Still, she managed to keep the company and even to develop it further. After the war, they designed and produced the first gas burner. And later on, in the seventies, the kitchen products of Bertazzoni were sold in every country of Europe and in Asia as well.
Beauty and functionality
Nowadays Paolo and his sister Elisabetta Bertazzoni are running the company. Together the take care of growth, expansion and development.
When I ask Valentina how she experienced this family history as a child, she laughs: ” I was so not aware of that! I just thought my dad was going to the office every day. But, now that you mention, he did take me to the factory every Saturday. There I found beautiful Apple computers, whereon I improved my designing skills. So actually, it is in my DNA!”
Although her father always encouraged his children to follow their dreams and did not in any way ‘pushed’ them into the company, Valentina studied architecture in Parma.
After graduation, she started her own business before she joined the family company. To gain some international experience she worked in design capitals like New York and London.
Currently Valentina is the ‘Director of Style’ at Bertazzoni. “I find it important that we also pay attention to the ‘soft’ side of our work, whilst we have so many people working on the hard, technical side.
Esthetics plays a very important role in our Italian culture and with my ‘designers eye’ I can accomplish a certain balance between beauty and functionality. I have to say it was not always understood in the beginning, but at this juncture it is totally accepted.”
Valentina still travels often. Of course to build brand awareness, but mostly to get an accurate impression of how people all over the world cook and live. “For us it is very important to know about the specific needs and wishes of our end users. Because we strive to design the best product. In the UK for instance, people want an extra oven built in the cooker especially for the slices of bacon (!) and in New York, because of the small living spaces, modular kitchens with all functionalities in one cooker are required.
Besides that, our product beams ‘Italianity’. We think our cookers should always contribute to a true Italy-experience. That is also why they published a small recepy book with smart suggestions on how to prepare authentic Italian food in the Bertazzoni oven.
Nowadays Bertazzoni has matured into a high-end design label in kitchen products. During the 2017 edition of the Dutch ‘Beurs Eigen Huis, I became acquainted with Bertazzoni for the first time. One detail in particular caught my attention, which is of course the brass ‘power burner’. Valentina: “Did you know that this burner is often being stolen in several showrooms? Obviously this burner is wanted item for many people. I knew these things happened with the Mercedes logo’s on cars, but now it also happens with our cookers! Since that, every showroom receives an extra box of brass power burners. Apparently one can better have a few in stock!”