We asked “A Chef’s Life” fans to share stories about their beloved Le Creuset
pots and pans. And boy did they have stories to tell — about their family heirlooms, how they splurged on a set for themselves or received them as gifts. One lucky fan even rescued a Dutch oven from a South Carolina landfill! Read all the endearing Everyday Le Creuset stories from A CHEF’S LIFE fans below.
Russell Smith of Fairfield, California inherited his walnut brown 5-1/2-quart round Le Creuset Dutch Oven from his late grandmother, Lora Smith. Grandmother Lora died five years ago at the age of 102 but cooked until the last few years of her life. She had seen a lot in her lifetime, having moved from Arkansas to Oklahoma in a covered wagon in her younger days. She used that Dutch oven to make pinto or red beans served with collard greens and cornbread. After she passed away, Russell Smith found that pot in the back of his grandmother’s cupboard: “I snagged it. I love this thing. It’s one of my favorite pieces.” And what does he cook in it? Beans, just like his grandmother.
Sheryl Hester and her six brothers bought an ivory Le Creuset cookware set for their mother, Martha, as a Christmas present 30 years ago. When her mom passed away in 2006, Sheryl inherited the Dutch oven, two saucepans, and a skillet. She uses the cookware everyday when preparing meals at her home in Clarksville, Tennessee. Even though a friend asked if she could buy the set, Sheryl replied: “I wouldn’t sell it for anything.”
Evelyn Gorden Marshall’s round flame Le Creuset Dutch Oven isn’t likely to win any beauty contests but she believes it’s beautiful: soft, smooth and worn on the inside. Evelyn, who lives outside Detroit in Westland, Michigan, bought the pot as a birthday present for her late mother, Clara, in the 1970s. Shortly after receiving the pot, her mom called one day, a little embarrassed, saying she had “burnt it up.” What her mother thought was burned, Evelyn says, was the pot being seasoned. Today, Evelyn pulls out that pot and opens the cupboards to find ingredients to make a large batch of soup — chicken noodle, beef barley — like that her mother used to make.
Sara Kay Coker – It was the evocative words of chef Gabrielle Hamilton in the memoir, “Blood Bones & Butter,” that left Sara Kay Coker of Austin, Texas dreaming of one day owning a Le Creuset pot. Hamilton’s image of her French mother cooking with brutalized Le Creuset cookware while wearing high heels left Coker — who was pregnant at the time — with what she now concedes was an unrealistic idea of the mother she wanted to be. She now owns two Le Creuset Dutch ovens — a small white one and a larger Coastal Blue one — that she uses to regularly roast chicken, bake no-knead bread and whip up soups and stews. While she may not don high heels and pearls to cook, Coker says she hopes her 3-year-old son and 6-month-old daughter will remember her “bustin’ out some tasty food a la Le Creuset.”
What a Bargain!
Connie Yaskowski of Temple, Pennsylvania vividly remembers standing in line at an outlet store in Reading, Pa. about five years ago to buy a cerise 3 1/2-quart Le Creuset Dutch oven. The pot had been returned and was being sold at a discount. “I scooped that thing up like it was a clandestine operation,” said Yaskowski, who recalls that the “Mission Impossible” theme song was playing in her head at the time. “I was never so giddy in a cashier’s line before.”
Doris Moore Hawkins of Hendersonville, North Carolina also took advantage of a 30 percent off sale at the Le Creuset store in Charleston, South Carolina to score her red casserole dish about six years ago. “It’s so pretty,” Doris said. “I leave it sitting out on my stove.” She uses it frequently, especially to make her husband’s favorite: Spanish rice. And Doris is already plotting a return trip to buy her next wish list item: a Le Creuset Dutch oven.
Julia Pond’s obsession with Le Creuset began when she worked at a Maine outlet store. She took advantage of the steep employee discount to start amassing a collection of pots and pans in an array of colors. Her mother, Marilyn Pond, became a fan of Le Creuset as well. About three years ago, her mother was excited to come across a set of flame orange Le Creuset saucepans with the wooden handles at an estate sale. Her mom brought them home and Julia’s dad asked: “Why do we need these?” After Julia’s mom died in October, Julia says she soon got an email from her dad: “How do I use the Le Creuset?”
– Nobody has a better story about how they acquired a piece of Le Creuset cookware than Rich Thomas of Johns Island, South Carolina. Several years ago, Rich collected a bunch of trash from a construction project and was taking a trailer load of stuff to a nearby landfill. A truck pulled up next to him and a gentleman got out and also began unloading stuff. Tucked among the items the gentleman was dumping was an oval black Le Creuset Dutch oven. Rich asked the man if he could have it and saved that pot from the landfill. (An impatient landfill employee didn’t give Rich enough time to find the lid’s pot.) He reports that that Dutch oven works great — even without the lid — and the price could not be beaten.
Patricia McKee of Norfolk, Virginia received a lovely wedding present from her husband’s four siblings: a four-piece blue Le Creuset set, which included two Dutch ovens (one round and one oval), a saucepan and a skillet. Patricia uses her Le Creuset everyday to fry eggs or cook oatmeal with pears and walnuts for breakfast and to make red beans and rice or gumbo for dinner. About the gift she received 27 years ago, Patricia says, “It was wonderful. It still is.”
Alyce Bass of Ivor, Virginia, had wanted her own Le Creuset cookware for a long time and her husband took the hint and bought her first piece. She now owns two Le Creuset pieces: a Marseille blue Dutch oven and an 8-inch frying pan. They are her go-to pieces of cookware. They don’t go in the cabinets. They stay on the stove. “I use them a couple times a week,” said Bass, who frequently makes soup, macaroni and cheese or braised meat. “It’s so good for anything such as that.”
Lawson Patten’s – If Lawson Patten’s mother was still alive, he’s convinced he would own one of everything in the Le Creuset collection. Rosie Patten passed away in 2000. But her son says she was quite the Southern cook and as the wife of a state politician was often called on to entertain. Patten, who now lives in Nashville, Tennessee, remembers his mother hosting the then First Lady of Georgia, Mrs. Mary Beth Busbee, for tea at their home in Lakeland, Ga. in 1976. Rosie passed on her love of cooking to her son. On the spur of the moment, while they were shopping at an outlet mall, she bought him his first Le Creuset piece: a Flame oval Dutch oven. He’s since gone on to collect many more.
Valerie Person of Currituck, North Carolina had been longing for a piece of Le Creuset for several years. One Christmas, she asked her family to give her money instead of gifts so she could go to the Le Creuset outlet in Williamsburg, Virginia to purchase her first piece. An interest in Moroccan cooking led Person to buy a purple Le Creuset tagine. (Tagine is the name for the cooking vessel as well as the stew made in it.) Valerie likes to make a Moroccan chicken tagine with dates and preserved lemons as her go-to special occasion meal. Sally Pope
of Wilmington, North Carolina owns a nine-piece collection of peach Le Creuset cookware. In 1990, Sally remembers buying a five-piece set as a splurge out of the now-defunct Spiegel catalog. “You could buy everything in there,” she recalls. She added to her collection with purchases at the Le Creuset outlet store. “I use it like daily. It still looks wonderful,” she said. Her 20-year-old daughter is already eyeing the set as her future, inheritance. Sally noted: “My daughter will have mine — but I’m not giving it up yet.”
Denis Duffy, 73, of Upper St. Claire, Pennsylvania, did not learn how to cook as a young man. After his first divorce, he got interested in cooking. By the time of his second divorce, he decided that he would learn how to cook food as good as what is served at a restaurant and save some money. That is how Denis came to collect a stack of Le Creuset Dutch ovens, braisers and more in a rainbow of colors, including Flame, Cerise, Dijon and Soleil. “They are perfect. I try to use them as often as I can,” said Denis, who makes soups, tomato sauce and a Guinness beer beef stew in those pots. “I think of the Le Creuset pots first whenever I’m cooking anything.”
Anne Pullen Kurtz’s cooking style was made for Le Creuset. She owns four Le Creuset pieces: a fry pan, a small stock pot, a 3-quart braiser and the one she uses most of all, the 9-quart Dutch oven. Anne says she loves making big batches of chili and soups (bean, chicken noodle and lentil). She shares the extras with her 27-year-old daughter and 30-year-old son who live near her Muskego, Wisconsin home. She explains, “I just don’t know how to cook small.”
Kayla Marie House once thought she might turn her love of cooking into a meal delivery service in Greensboro, North Carolina. While her business did not get off the ground, she has enjoyed sharing photos of her kitchen efforts via her Instagram account, @housemademeals (a play on her last name). She purchased her Cassis Le Creuset skillet about two years ago. “I was going through a tough time,” Kayla said. “My aunt had given me some money as a gift so I splurged.” She used that skillet to make this dish: grilled chicken legs with garlic and kale quinoa.
KelliSue Montague-Kolz’s pear crisp is so good that it won her a Le Creuset Dutch oven in a Del Monte Foods recipe contest. KelliSue lives on a farm in Rushville, New York with her husband and six children. They have a tradition of picking pears from their pear trees and canning them. So she adapted her pear crisp recipe to work with Del Monte canned pears. The children were hoping their mom would win first prize, which was a trip for the family. Instead she was a runner-up and snagged the French blue pot, which she uses almost every day. “That’s what makes it an heirloom,” she said. “It’s not just the having, it’s the using.”
And finally one story of a long lost Le Creuset piece…
Diane Jo Huff – At the age of 24, Diane Jo Huff of Seattle, Washington found herself working as a housekeeper for five families in San Diego. It was a nice job because she could bring her toddler son with her and her bosses were generous, delightful people. One of those women got some new cookware and passed along a blue Le Creuset skillet to Diane Jo. Eventually Diane Jo moved to the beach with a boyfriend who would offer to get up weekend mornings to make breakfast. At first, she thought: “How sweet!” Then she saw that he was scratching the skillet’s enamel with metal utensils. She eventually hid the skillet in her underwear drawer to keep him away from it. “We probably split up shortly after that,” said Diane Jo, who no longer has the pot herself but wishes she still did.
And these stories wouldn’t be complete without one from Vivian Howard, host of “A Chef’s Life.” Ben’s mom, Susan Singer — before she was Vivian’s mother-in-law — gave Vivian a white six-quart Dutch oven. “It was my prized possession,” Vivian explained. But one day, Vivian was slowly reducing stock in that coveted pot and then went for a walk and forgot about it. When she returned, flames were shooting up from the bottom of the pot. “Le Creuset can take a lot but a full-on fire will damage the enamel,” she said. “I know from experience.” Since then, Vivian has replaced the charred pot with a few Le Creuset pieces and has learned a valuable lesson: never take a stroll while something’s brewing on the stove!