Every year, the Ambiente fair takes place in Frankfurt, accessible first for the professional public, and then to all other mortals. It didn’t leave me cold. The fair features everything you need (and don’t need) in the kitchen and home. It’s all about ideas, novelties, and design.

Love among Drops of Sweat

I glide into Hall 3, which is dedicated to cooking. Pots, knives, mixers and blenders abound. I leave the hall, which has two floors, unwillingly in the afternoon, only because I have a scheduled meeting. I’ve managed one hall in one day. There’s a total of eleven of them here, and I begin to panic, because I’m here for two days. On the second day I go wild in Hall 4, dedicated to tableware. Carried away by the plates and cutlery, I lose all hope of managing to see more. This is what paradise looks like for those who are, just like me, held in a stronghold by their love of cooking and design.

Visiting the halls could be compared to climbing the sacred mountain in Sri Lanka. Feelings of physical exhaustion blend with those of absolute happiness at the beauty that surrounds you. Sometimes, you catch yourself smiling like a silent fool at a display or a product. At other times, you sigh audibly, or fall into a loud soliloquy. It’s difficult to manoeuver emotions stirred by the shapes, materials, colours, the aesthetics, and the combination of it all. Alright, I’ve left behind litres of sweat, but I’m taking away twenty kilos of information brochures and a tonne of enlightening inspiration. That’s worth laying down sacrifices for.

The World under One Roof

Whenever a kitchen equipment manufacturer comes up with an innovation, creative idea, or novelty, the Ambiente fair in Frankfurt is the best place where to show it off to the world. It’s the most renowned and most important fair in its category, where contracts are closed between manufacturers and distributors. The exhibitors are represented by companies from all over the planet, not excluding up-and-coming talent. The visitors are most often represented by retailers selling household goods (again from all over the world), but also designers. Although German companies account for 25% of the total number of exhibitors, you can’t miss them in the halls. Rosenthal, Villeroy & Boch, Riedel, ASA, Kahla, WMF, Fissler, Weber, Silit… They’re well aware of their qualities and are very good at putting their strengths to the fore and selling them. Some of the Czech companies that I’ve come across included Moser, Thun, Bohemia Crystalite Bomma, or Blex, which makes traditional aluminium biscuit containers.

Simply the Best

This year, the organisers of the Frankfurt fair reported a record high number of exhibitors in the last ten years. There were almost 5000. Let’s stay with the records for a while. The biggest stall, according to me, was that of Villeroy & Boch, who hold a very high standard in terms of quality and design. The most original stall? I’d say the airy Ritzenhof, or the Ballarini, intended for professional chefs, surrounded by highly stacked pans. I spent the longest time sighing over the delicate porcelain sets at Auratic (China), Wedgwood (UK), or Prouna (Korea). The best poster campaign was, hands-down, that of Weber, the grill manufacturer. When I tell you that, while examining at the elegant white Italian pans from the Liquida range by TVS, I wanted to become a pan like that myself, you’ll either think me barking mad or understand my obsession completely. Another one of my loves at first sight was the cutlery set from Cutipol, a family firm from Portugal, or the lovely scissors from Paul. The ASA stall was most hi-tech, with assistants running around with the clients, scanning miniature codes with special readers. Emerald was the most popular colour in kitchen equipment. It became Stelton flasks, Silit pots, and Dualit toasters. I laughed out loud at the bag from Etelvina in the shape of a chicken hanging by its legs, intended to store plastic bags. My most practical and most affordable discoveries were special band-aids and gloves for professional cooks.

My Personal Discoveries

I love my sturdy granite mortar. But when I laid my eyes and hands on the cast-iron mortar from the Swedish firm Skeppshult, my jaw dropped. The humorous pairing of a round opening inside a square frame and the round end of the wood-handled pestle combine that which I need in my kitchen: functionality and beauty. This heavyweight stands in its own category. Emile Henry has been leaving me cold for years. Both with their design as well as their colours. So when I heard about their clever bread cloche, I didn’t go weak in the knees. Until I saw it. Or rather, the bread! I could even knock on it with my finger. You knead the dough, you place it on a porcelain tray and cover it with a porcelain dome. You shove it in the oven. The cloche creates an atmosphere like that of a professional oven, where the moisture is absorbed by the unglazed ceramics surface. The result is something that I must applaud.

Kitchen Revolutions

When biology and technology come together at Fissler, Bionic is born. Researchers took inspiration from the teeth of beavers, which remain sharp despite their everyday heavy use. That happens because of two layers of teeth enamel, where one is very hard and the other soft. And so a patented knife came into being, which also has one harder, and one softer layer. It sharpens as it is used. Well, personally, I find it hard to trust automatic and durable things, but we’ll see. In any case, it caused uproar among experts. Allegedly, the gadget will be available for sale in June. I was much more excited by the Korean firm Hurom. Their juicer exceeded all of my expectations. Imagine a regular juicer, and improve what you can. Improve a couple more things, and you’ve got Hurom. It takes up less room, is much quieter, consumes less energy, and gives you more juice, which doesn’t start separating, but remains uniform even after several hours as a result of a special, gentler juicing technique. Already on my must-have list.

Nordic Minimalism from a Danish Threesome

Of course, distinctive brands with established reputations were also present. Eva Solo, from Denmark, works inventively with shapes. From pots to containers to kettles. Their neoprene cosies for glass teapots or coffeepots are phenomenal. This year, the new kid on the block was a teapot dressed in a knitted pink striped cosy. And it looked pretty sexy! It took me a while longer to get to like the minimalistic vacuum jugs from Stelton (again from Denmark), but I ended up purchasing them for myself. By the way, the company makes kettles in three colours, which it changes up every year. There’s always a story behind the colours. Last year, it was olives. This year, it’s a Danish harbour. Third time charming, Danish firm Normann also has quite a few things to offer for the household. Like the exquisite norm 69 lighting fixtures. Or a designer brush and dustpan. True to their lightness, they surprised me with their egg whisks.

In the Name of Luxury

Luxury isn’t something I need in my kitchen. It’s nice to look at (sometimes), but the functionality often lags behind. In the case of Korean porcelain-maker Prouna, however, beauty, luxury, and functionality come together to make first-class tableware with incredibly elegant motifs. The plates are set with Swarovski crystals, yet in a way that doesn’t make you afraid to put them in the dishwasher. They’re a favourite among Arabian princesses, which is no surprise to me when I see their plates, hand-painted with purple peacocks. In the case of the Turkish firm Lava, I gazed dreamily at their cast-iron black plates, tastefully hand-painted with gold or patina.

However, when the extravagance of Versace meets the perfectionism of Rosenthal, the result is a very bold porcelain set. The winged orange and blue one, or the black and red one with old Roman motifs. Personally, I wouldn’t need to eat from either one, but I think plenty of people will fall for these pieces. In short, Ambiente was like a fashion show to me. Now I know what’s going to be ‘in’ this year. At least in the kitchen.