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5 Minutes with Bob Kellermann, Chairmain and CEO of Lodge Cast Iron

As the sole domestic manufacturer of Cast Iron Cookware, the Lodge Cast Iron story is as American as George Washington and Davy Crockett. Chairmain and CEO Bob Kellerman speaks about Lodge’s success.

5 Minutes with Bob Kellermann, Chairmain and CEO of Lodge Cast Iron

How did the Lodge Cast Iron story begin?

Joseph Lodge started the company in 1896. It was originally named The Blacklock Foundry – he named it after his friend and local minister. But the Foundry burned in 1909 and moved to our current location in 1910. We are located in a beautiful little town of 3,300 population called South Pittsburgh. We’re a teeny town in Tennessee nestled alongside the Cumberland Plateau of the Appalachian Mountain. Joseph had a son and a daughter – his son was second generation management and his daughter had seven children; five boys and two girls. Three of the boys, including my father, were third generation Lodge. When my father suffered a stroke back when I was 21, I came into the business and now, 45 years later, I along with my cousin Henry Lodge are the senior management and we represent fourth generation. And now we have a cousin who’s been involved in the company about six years who’s fifth generation.

Cast-iron cookware has become increasingly popular in the market today. Why do you think this is?

Cast iron has a rich history – not only in the US but across world. It’s really known for its heirloom durability, its exceptional value, its unbelievable versatility – you can use it in the oven, on top of the stove, by campfire or on a grill. It’s also the original green cookware, and that was before green became popular in terms of environmental safety. It has incredible performance in terms of heat retention characteristics, and it’s the right tool to sear, sauté, bake, boil, braise and fry.

What do you like to make with your Lodge Cast Iron cookware?

I have a real special egg recipe: Bob’s Slow Eggs. Whether I’m cracking 15 eggs for a group or six for my wife and myself, I slow cook my eggs, throw in some Worcestershire sauce, tobacco sauce, cheddar cheese and a little salt and pepper. It’s good stuff.

What sets Lodge Cast Iron cookware apart from the rest?

Lodge represents exceptional quality. People ask me over the years, how the heck has our company survived over the last 118 years. Number one: unwavering commitment to quality. Number two: innovation; three: reinvestment; and four: our dedicated employees. I guess we basically reinvented cast iron cookware with the introduction of Foundry Seasoned Cast Iron. For years, young cooks particularly didn’t really know how to season cast iron so in 2002 ,Lodge Manufacturing developed a proprietary vegetable oil spray system to season the cookware before it leaves the foundry, which means your Lodge Cast Iron cookware will have an heirloom finish. Also, we’re meticulous about our metallurgical composition that goes into our pots and pans. We don’t melt junk metal – we have very high quality of metal.

I know New Zealand chef Al Brown uses Lodge.

Yes ma’am. I’m looking forward to meeting him one day.

Do any other high profile chefs use it?

Well, more the chefs that I know are based here in the States. Alton Brown from The Food Network and Iron Chef uses it. And many other chefs across the country who have a fondness for cast iron use it – we’re the sole producer of cast iron cookware here in the US. When I started the business 45 years ago, there were three players in the manufacture of cast iron. For one reason or another, be it the lack of reinvestment or what have you, we’re now the only provider in the US.

Is it as suited to domestic use as it is in commercial kitchens?

In the commercial kitchens, we cater to three different markets in the States:  the gourmet housewares market – primarily to sporting goods companies, secondarily to the commercial food service trade. We have many shapes, serving plates and heat retention characteristics that make it wonderful for making fajitas, or keeping steaks hot for example, that make it ideal at home. Camping is a big market for Lodge too. We make a Dutch oven that you can bake cakes and bread in – anything you like outdoors.

What is on the horizon for Lodge Cast Iron in 2014?

Our exports are growing, so that’s a major focus – to continue growing our export business. Currently, five per cent of our business is from the international market. We appreciate our fans in Australia and New Zealand.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

We have a strong brand following, commitment to equality and we have a wonderful culture in our company – 235 very dedicated, passionate and loyal employees who continue to put out a quality product and try to keep spreading the gospel: Cast Iron Cooking by Lodge.

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