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A Visit to W-S

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I don't get to a W-S too often, but today I was at two malls (the horror!) and needed to waste a little time. A few things of note:

First, the sale prices appear to continue. I think they're feeling the crunch. They're really pushing All-Clad d5 and Greenpan pans. Oh, and Staub is now the marquis CI, and the color du jour is the deep purplish blue.

Second, there appear to be a lot more single-purpose gadgets than I remember, e.g., a jalepena corer (and grill rack for them), and a mango pitter, but fewer multi-use.

Third, in the two stores I went in, both had almost a *complete* line of Mauviel copper, including the big ticket specialty pieces--turbotiers, braising boxes, large poachers, etc. These pieces are still tinned, but most others are bimetal. IMO, the only *regular* piece bearing a faint resemblance to the quality of the old W-S is the rondeau, which is still thick and heavy and tinned. Not a bargain though at $525.

Fourth, Bob Kramer's Shun is now at $299 (down from $375), and it is so light I think it's a turnoff.

Fifth, W-S had a high-end Heckels (the Chronodur, or something like that) that appears to be the same profile and geometry as their really expensive ($1K) Damascus Kramer knock-off. But not the $$$ knife itself. The Chronodur was a nice feel and shape.

Sixth, I finally handled the Shun "dual density" bread knife, and was totally underwhelmed. The handle and "bolster" are slightly Japanese-D shaped, but the blade itself was perceptibly crooked, and I found the serrations almost crudely cut.

Last, the selection of de Buyer carbon steel pans is up, and the prices for them seemed very reasonable.

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  1. What a coincidence.I was at WS today looking for a de Buyer carbon pan.Unfortunately the prices up here in Canada are about $30 more than in the U.S. Maybe you could answer me this.Is there a huge difference between the carbon steel mineral and the regular de Buyer carbon pans(besides price)?
    I haven't had a chance to handle the regular cabons in person but the minerals are real nice,sturdy and heavy as heck,very well made.

    4 Replies
    1. re: petek

      I have not had a chance to handle these two lines, but according to the DeBuyer person (Franck) I wrote to. The Mineral has a better package and better finish. Quote:

      '...The “Mineral” line is like the “Carbone +” one, but with a better finish and packaging, more suitable for the retail market (see in the attachment)

      Rgds

      Franck CHATELAIN

      Export Dept...."

      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

        Thanks Chem.
        There's about a $20.00 difference between the two lines,so I guess it's all about aesthetics then.

        1. re: petek

          Yes, that was the impression I was given. Also, the mineral line is advertised to be environment friendly. Not that it means it is environmental friend-ier than carbone plus.

          Quote: "Organic construction 99% pure iron
          Ecological Recyclable Durable"

          http://www.debuyer.com/product.php?id...

          Quote: "Ecologically-responsible pan is 100% recyclable"
          http://www.chefscatalog.com/product/2...

      2. re: petek

        Hi, petek:

        I am no scholar of deB pans, so I'll defer to Chem. If I remember correctly, these were all "Mineral" pans, a couple of skillets and a couple of sizes of "chef's pans" (evassees). Surprisingly heavy, and all were around the US $70 mark. The "packaging"--a light cardboard sleeve--has Greenpeace-looking graphics and touts how PFOA- and PTFE-free it all is. For a 100% steel pan, what a miracle! FYI, for being so plain/rectilinear, the handles were pretty comfy, and the potato peel seasoning instructions remain..

      3. Two malls. Wow. You can skip watching the horror film this month. In answering each of your points.

        1) Yes, W-S has experienced a huge drop of sale in this business recession, but it has since recovered. In recession, high end businesses (like WS) suffer and low-tier operations prosper.

        http://www.marketwatch.com/story/will...

        2) I have never seen a mango corer. Is that even possible? (mango seed is huge

        )

        3) You should buy one.

        4) Actually, I believe some people are upset that Bob Kramer knives are too thick and too heavy, especially the Euro line. The Meji (aka Asian) line is at a WS exclusive. The Euro line is Sur La Table exclusive. Quote from knifeforum:

        "i felt a shun kramer 8" chef the other day. it felt like crap to me, heavy and super thick, and balance was weird. i prefer shun classic to it. didn't get to actually use it though so my opinion doesn't say much."

        quote from our buddy Eiron:
        "So, over to the SLT Euro line. These were even worse for me than the Meiji. I didn't like the balance & I thought they were very heavy...."

        Maybe you will like the thicker and heavier Euro line then.

        5) Henckels Chronodur?

        6) The "double-waveform" is awesome fun. You add two frequency waveforms together and you get the knife edge. It is almost like the Mia Schmallenbach knives, but not as deep:

        http://adesignmafia.com/mia-schmallen...

        Look carefully and you can see the secret meaning of life behind the codes. Quote: '...Plotting squares whose sides are the length of successive Fibonacci numbers and then drawing an arc through their opposite corners will give the Golden Spiral, a shaped found in nature: the nautilus shell, for example...' Therefore you get the following. Look carefully at the circles and lines in the next picture:

        http://www.designsojourn.com/wp-conte...

        Last) My impression is that WS's DeBuyer cookware are more expensive than elsewhere.

        32 Replies
        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

          Yea i know W-S is probably more expensive,but I don't have many brick and mortar options in my neck of the woods and I refuse to shop online,I insist on handling the merchandise before I buy(my only exception was a boardSmith block I recently purchased)

          1. re: petek

            I understand. :)

            I just want to tell kaleo that the prices for the DeBuyer cookware at WS are reasonable when compared other brands of cookware like All-Clad or Mauviel cookware. Yet, one may not find the DeBuyer prices to be reasonable when comparing the same products from a different store.

            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

              Chem: Sure W-S is expensive. But say they're 10 or 20% more expensive than another place with less pretension... 10% of $70 = not worth driving somewhere else. 10% of a $575 rondeau, on the other hand...

              The more I investigate cookware, the more I favor restaurant supply stores. Even at *their* full-tilt retail prices and special order surcharges, it usually ends up being a better deal. And the salespeople usually know their stuff.

              1. re: kaleokahu

                "The more I investigate cookware, the more I favor restaurant supply stores...."

                Very normal. :)

                1. re: kaleokahu

                  Looking on line, I actually thought they had some better deals on the Mauviel pots and pans than I could find elsewhere. As you say, I haven't found them to be considerably more expensive, but they do cary almost exclusively expensive merchandise, which makes them appear to be expensive. For example, I bought Apilco there and the prices were no different than what I could find elsewhere, even on line or on e-bay for that matter on new items. Probably headed there this weekend, need some Apilco serving pieces.

              2. re: petek

                Although it could be considered 'tacky,' you can handle the things and then buy online. WS is SO overpriced IMO.

                As an aside, yesteray I bought a 20 qt, stainless steel, induction compatible stock pot for $60. It's AllClad equivilant was pusing $400 --- and not induction ready.

                1. re: c oliver

                  Not tacky imo, smart.

                  1. re: c oliver

                    Hi, c oliver:

                    AbsoLUTEly. The only reason I go in W-S is to finger the merchandise (and to torment the clerks who spout off). Although, I *was* tempted by the $15 Italian chocolate/truffle shaver...

                    Incidentally, I thought it was amusing that they had cable-locked together all the Mauviel copper. What's next, RFIDs on the crappy Reidel Grape glasses?

                    Kaleo

                    1. re: kaleokahu

                      RE cable-locking, good grief. What IS next? . PS: thanks for SEA advice. We sure did have a good time.

                      1. re: c oliver

                        Hi, coliver:

                        Re: cable locking... It was pretty funny, because the pieces on the top shelf were inaccessible. I thought it was a great metaphor, considering the fish poacher was >$1K.

                        You're very welcome; your reviews on Greater Seattle advanced the state of the art. You come back now, hiki no?

                        Aloha,
                        Kaleo

                      2. re: kaleokahu

                        Last time I visited I knew more than any of the clerks - I sold three pans! They were joking that I needed an apron! No disrespect though, I know it's a job and not necessarily a passion for everyone who works there. I've definitely met some fun, friendly and helpful sales associates at WS. I'm stuck shopping there or ebay since I strongly prefer the AC D5.

                        1. re: olympia

                          Hi, Olympia:

                          I'm glad you're into the d5; maybe you can clarify something. The little display cards aren't any help.

                          These pans have an exposed rim, and it *looks* like layers 1, 3 & 5 are the only ones with any thickness at all. I assume these are SS, Al, and SS respectively. What are layers 2 and 4, and what culinary purpose do they serve? I was also struck that the two SS layers are not the same thickness, and one of them is thicker than structural integrity might dictate. I know AC slaps "patented" all over this stuff, but what is the rationale and why asymmetrical thicknesses? Please tell me the reason is not just to make them feel heavier... And those handles are just a little more comfy than barbed wire; what gives with those?

                          Kaleo

                          1. re: kaleokahu

                            Oh gosh, I can't say that I've looked too closely at the layers - please don't take away my chowhound membership card! Layers 1, 3 and 5 are the SS while 2 and 4 are aluminum; I didn't know they were asymmetrical. The rational for the layers that they push is that the core of SS creates more even heating/browning - my previous junk didn't give me too much to compare it to though. What I really like are the handles and rolled rims. I think the handles are SO much better than the originals. I can't say that I notice the performance to be that much better than my piece of tri-ply but I appreciate the heft.

                            Never grabbed barbed wire - maybe I'd find it comfy? ;)

                            1. re: kaleokahu

                              If we are talking about All Clad d5, then it is 5-ply with SS/AL/SS/AL/SS, so layer 1,3 and 5 are all stainless steels and layer 2 and 4 are the aluminum. There are a few old posts about d5 on CHOUWHOUND.

                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                Chem & Olympia: Really? You would know. The reason I'm a little incredulous is that--looking edge on--the 2 Al layers are *extremely* thin, like <0.5mm each. To me it looks like the 1-3-5 SS layers comprise >90% of the total thickness.

                                1. re: kaleokahu

                                  kaleo:

                                  I cannot get on All Clad website now. Here is an image:

                                  http://blog.streaminggourmet.com/wp-c...

                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                    Thanks, Chem. d5 may indeed have 5 layers in that sequence, but certainly not in the proportion implied by the diagram--edge on, it looks like 3 layers. "Layers" 2 and 4 look so thin they seem to be just a darker demarcation line between 1, 3 and 5.

                                    What could possibly be the culinary advantage of a center layer of SS? It seems to me it would be an *impediment*.

                                    1. re: kaleokahu

                                      "Layers" 2 and 4 look so thin they seem to be just a darker demarcation line between 1, 3 and 5"

                                      I think that depends on which diagram you have looked at. Some diagram indicates that layer 2 and 4 are the thicker ones, which makes more sense.

                                      "What could possibly be the culinary advantage of a center layer of SS? It seems to me it would be an *impediment*."

                                      The center stainless steel is to help to produce heat evenness. It slows the heat going through and gives the heat more time to travel laterally (sideway) as oppose to going to straight from bottom to top (cooking surface). This is, at least, what All Clad has argued.

                                      1. re: kaleokahu

                                        Here:

                                        http://www.allcladstainlessd5.com/#/T...

                              2. re: olympia

                                In case anyone is interested in buying some AC d5 on the cheap, cookwarenmore.com is having a sale where you get an additional 20% off your purchase of any single item.

                                1. re: ToothTooth

                                  Thanks for posting. I wish they'd get the shiny version in!

                            2. re: c oliver

                              I think the key here is you bought an All Clad equivilant not an All Clad for a lower price. With that logic, yes I agree, WS is a very expensive place to shop, but their All Clad prices are more or less in line with other retailers that sell first quality All Clad and this seems to be true with other brands as well. Your example is equivelent to shopping for a BMW and then deciding the VW is less expensive, sure it is, it has nothing to do with where you were shopping, but what you bought.

                              1. re: mikie

                                Yes, but there are other equivalent products which WS sells at a higher price point. About a year ago, another poster and I went through an exercise like this. Yes, certain items are not more expensive (not cheaper), but some are much higher.

                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                  I am in the middle of something, so I cannot look for all of them, but I remember from the previous exercise I had with another poster that I went to compare various product sold by Williams Sonoma. The price of Lodge is very different. Here. 12" Lodge skillet from Williams Sonoma for $33:

                                  http://www.williams-sonoma.com/produc...

                                  Same pan from Amazon $21:

                                  http://www.amazon.com/Lodge-L10SK3-12...

                                  Not to mention the fact that it is free shipping from Amazon and no sale tax.

                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                    Unless you find a sale of some sort, and I've been fortunate in that regard, most manufacturers are setting prices these days and will not let individual retailers discount items. Obviously there are exceptions, however, most of the big boys, Wusthof, Henckles, Apilco, LC, Staub, AllClad, etc. don't allow discounts.

                                    My recent example: I bought a 10" Wusthof Chefs knife from Wasserstrom (restaurant supply) for considerably less than I could even find it on e-bay about two years ago, however now all the Wasserstrom prices for for Wusthof knives have gone up to full suggested retail (or equivelent to other outlets such as WS). Because of this, I don't find WS to be that much different on most items when comparing same brand and same model of an item. Although, I'm sure there are some items where they are more expensive, and from my recent looking some where they are less expensive. Even their Staub line is a bit less that some other retail outlets and some e-bay prices.

                                    1. re: mikie

                                      I think the manufacturers are trying to protect the profits of retail stores, which I can understand. If a store is paying for floorspace and employees to let customers have first hand experience with a product, it is unfair to the store if the customer decides to run away and go buy it online because the same thing is sold for less there. If everybody's selling the same thing for the same price, why would someone buy it online other than to avoid taxes, unless online stores are able to provide comparable services as a physical store.

                                      If the manufacturer doesn't do something to fix this loophole, the physical store will close down eventually, the manufacturer will have one less channel to fulfill consumer's instant gratification, and ultimately consumers will have one less channel to examine the product.

                                      It's all about you get what you pay for. People here talk about scratches on pans bought online. You get to examine and pick the one that looks the best to you at a physical store.

                                      1. re: cutipie721

                                        If the manufacturer doesn't do something to fix this loophole, the physical store will close down eventually"

                                        Far from loophole. Like you said, one can check the merchandise in a physical store and that is the unqiue service it provides. Certain products benefit from hands-on inspection. Others like DVD benefit less, which is why the business model of Netlex works better than Blockbuster.

                                        What you is speak of is known as: Resale argeement.

                                        For almost 100 years, rescale argreement is an illegal practice because it threatens the antitrust law as we know. It favors big business over small business -- that was how the Supreme Court saw it. It was only overturned in 2007-8:

                                        http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/27/bus...

                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                          Yeah, laws have to be modified to reflect real life. Just like how several states have stepped up to force online stores, including Amazon.com, charge "sales and use tax". One of the reasons being people aren't really keeping up with filing use taxes.

                                          At least the new resale agreement practice is subject to "rule of reason" and is reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Unlike the old version which makes it flat out illegal. After all, either the supplier and reseller can act irresponsibly in their own creative ways.

                            3. re: Chemicalkinetics

                              re: the mango pitter, the OXO product has been around for a number of years. i always thought it was one of the dumbest inventions in the history of kitchen tools considering the total inconsistency in mango seed size and shape, but apparently some people love it. i'll stick with a knife.

                              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                Oh. Now I see it:

                                http://www.amazon.com/Oxo-Good-Grips-...

                                Like you, I have always used my knife. Thanks.

                                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                  Talk about a one trick pony. I loathe those things :(

                                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                    There are some one trick ponys that I like. The mango pitter happens to be one of them. I'm always worried about slicing up my hands with that slick peeled mango and my sharp knife. I do peel them because I want to eat ALL the flesh. Love those mangos, and my maneo pitter!

                                2. I saw the rondeau too and ooooh, lovely. Hammered copper 2mm, tin lined, freakin' heavy and too expensive. What was it, 7 quarts?

                                  WS also sells Demeyere too (catalog only). It looks as though they are branching out.

                                  1. I think they're getting rid of BC Shun

                                    http://www.williams-sonoma.com/shop/s...