Hey Appliance Fans,
Did you ever see the movie Jurassic Park? During my visit to Wisconsin, home of Sub-Zero and Wolf, I kept being reminded of Jurassic Park. More specifically the line that Richard Attenborough’s character kept repeating throughout the movie, “we spared no expense”. That line kept running through my mind over and over as I visited the factory floor, the test kitchens, and the Westye F. Bakke Center (the training facility where schleps like me get invited to learn all about Sub-Zero and Wolf’s products).
It’s true. They spare no expense when it comes to the quality of their products and their attention to detail. Lucky for me, I was able to get an insider’s look that the public never sees and now I’m here to reveal all of their secrets!
Ok, not really. I was able to snap a few pictures of their factory floor before being politely told that I can’t share them. While I can’t show you that they test each and every Sub-Zero that rolls off of the production floor (unlike other brands that test a sample before shipping), you’ll have to trust me. All of the top secret photos will remain on my iPhone for my own personal viewing—sorry, appliance fans. But I can share with you some other goodies, like:
The Westye F. Bakke Center
Named for the founder of Sub-Zero (pronounced WEST-ie BACH-ee), the Westye F. Bakke Center is their education hub. Filled with demo kitchens, a huge theater for presentations, and an eating area complete with a bar–my Irish side is happy. Everywhere you look is some type of Sub-Zero or Wolf appliance. Refrigerator drawers are filled with water and other beverages while their coffee systems stand ready to make coffees, cappuccinos, and espressos. I personally put a dent in their coffee budget.
Remember when I said they spared no expense? Check out the theater inside the center. The stage literally lowers so they can load various Sub-Zero/Wolf appliances on it then the stage elevates back up for the next training session. Like a freakin’ aircraft carrier.
Still family owned, Sub-Zero is run by Jim Bakke (Westye’s grandson). Would you believe that Jim and I go way back? If you do, I have some land to sell you in Florida. Anyway, before we entered the Sub-Zero factory, we had a chance to take a look back in time to see some of the history of Sub-Zero. I love the headline on the display that reads, “The Mercedes of Refrigerators”.
While they no longer make freestanding refrigerators, they had some of their old models on display. My best guess is that these are from the 1950’s or possibly 60’s. I was amazed at how big they were on the outside, but how little room there was on the inside. They’ve come a long way with the technology!
Did you know that Sub-Zero was the first refrigerator company to design a unit that accepts a cabinet front? It’s true, but these old units below don’t come close to the panel ready units they produce now. Notice the small stainless steel frame around the refrigerator on the left? While this look is still achievable, their current units accept a wood front without the frame around the unit. This leads to a much more integrated look within the kitchen.
Let’s get cooking!
Of course Sub-Zero and Wolf make some snazzy looking products, but it’s not just their looks. It’s all about the cooking. The heavy cross that I had to bear was almost too much—tasting all of the different foods that in-house Chefs Justin and Joel prepared for me. Each dish highlighted the flexibility of Wolf’s cooking products like:
This is a shrimp taco. There are many like them, but this one is (was) mine. The tortilla was steamed using Wolf’s in-counter steamer (model IS15S) while the shrimp was expertly seasoned and then sautéed using a Wolf multi-function gas cooktop (model IM15S). The topping included a lime slaw with a drizzle of crème fraiche. I promptly devoured said dish. Side note: while I’d probably kill for a Wolf range in my kitchen, my preference is an assortment of their module cooktops like the steamer, induction unit, deep fryer, and two burner gas cooktop. I could do some serious culinary damage with a setup like that.
Chef Joel continued to woo me when he prepared some fresh sushi. Nevermind that Wisconsin is mostly landlocked. This sushi was awesome.
Just when I thought Chef Joel would receive my everlasting love, Chef Justin decided to enter the picture. It was almost like having Scarlett Johansson ask me out and then Sofia Vergara comes storming in and muscles poor Scarlett out of the way. Decisions, decisions, right? As much as I loved Chef Joel’s entrees, I simply couldn’t ignore Chef Justin’s masterpiece. It was so good that I forgot to take a picture of the finished product. Let’s take a look at the preparation:
What we see here is Chef Justin preparing a gluten free pasta (I swear I couldn’t tell the difference) with a roasted garlic and arugula pesto drenched in a white wine and cream sauce with copious amounts of fresh parmesan cheese. The entire dish was prepared on a 60-inch wolf range that features a French top burner. Seriously, call Sub-Zero right now and demand the recipe for this because it was to die for.
Just like my other appliance travels, I was treated with unbelievable hospitality from everyone at Sub-Zero and Wolf. True to form, I embarrassed myself so much that I was asked to never come back, but thankfully I was able to enjoy all Sub-Zero and Wolf had to offer. Will Jim Bakke have me back? I really don’t know. Jim, when are we doing this again, old friend?
Feel free to stop into the showroom and test my, dare I say, herculean knowledge of Sub-Zero and Wolf appliances.
Until next time, America!