John Cronin: Can’t cook without… Dualit toaster

John Cronin

John Cronin


I’m John Cronin. In winter 2011 I founded Cutlery Drawer, an online-only kitchenware store. I do pretty much everything myself, tasks like maintaining the store, processing orders and writing posts for the blog.

My background is in software development for commercial business systems but I’ve been publishing websites since 2003; the first one was about credit cards and was a total design shocker. I’m pretty awful at arty stuff so I rely on platforms such as wordpress and good theme designers.

Away from work I go running quite a bit. I’m currently training for the 2012 Liverpool Marathon having ran my one and only marathon in 2011 (also in Liverpool). Doing lots of running means I can eat more cake. I love cakes, especially home baked cakes. I’m interested in hyperlocal publishing (see wikipedia for an explanation) and I maintain a few websites for various places including this one for my home town of Hoylake.

Married. Children. Dog.

I can’t cook without…

The one thing I can’t cook without in our kitchen is my trusty Dualit toaster (current model pictured). Now you can argue the point that you don’t actually cook with a toaster but there’s no denying that it’s a pretty essential kitchen gadget. As a family we all use it, but it’s my Dualit. We’ve had for what must be eight years or more and it’s never gone wrong. I’d wanted one for ages so when the previous one – a cream coloured, nondescript plastic thing – went kaput I took the opportunity to purchase my dream toaster. They make different coloured ones but my Dualit had to be chrome – no other finish would do or would even be considered. There is something inherently beautiful about a chrome finish, all-aluminium Dualit – it’s a design classic.

dualit 4 slotThe toaster looks sturdy, somewhat squat with two curved ends. The fatter end houses the controls while the thinner end has the air grills and embossed Dualit logo. Ours is a 4-slice model which is much more practical for family use. It’s easy to wipe clean and the removable crumb tray while seeming a little rudimentary in design is a most practical way of cleaning away the toasted breadcrumbs that didn’t make it to the plate.

My Dualit, sorry our Dualit, is used just about everyday.   For making morning toast with jam. For making lunchtime toast to go with a steaming hot bowl of homemade leek and potato soup. For hot, New York style bagels as a Saturday morning treat. For toasted pita breads that when sliced open release enough latent heat to melt an iceberg. For crisping up leftover rounds of French stick to eat as an appetiser before dinner. It’s always got to be butter too by the way.

Pop your slices of bread in the slots. Use the lever to lower the bread into the toaster. Flick the red switch to 2 or 4-slice (a sometimes forgotten manual procedure on a 4-slice run – the newer models have a separate dial for that) and twist the timer knob. I never pay too much attention to how far I twist the timer. Somewhere around ‘2’ is fine, closer to ‘3’ if the bread is frozen. Let go. The whirring of the timer starts immediately. The heating elements make a popping sound. You’re in business and now all you’ve got to do wait. If you get impatient you can use the lever to lift the slice to see how they’re coming along. As the timer runs down the whirring accelerates …you’re nearly there! And then it stops. No automatic popping-up with a Dualit, it’s your last task to reach for the lever and eject your toast.

Paul Dack: Cook & Eat utensils


UK product and furniture designer Paul Dack has designed an innovative and fun range of kitchenware that has its origins in a chemists lab.

Dack has taken laboratory glassware and produced a range of items that makes serving condiments fun and humorous. I especially like the vinegar bottle …it’s a laboratory pipette and is a clever way of putting vinegar on your chips! In a passing nod to chefs such as Heston Blumenthal Dack says of the kitchenware:

[The collection brightens] up any kitchen worktop or dining table. Their fun and playful, yet elegant forms take inspiration from laboratory glassware and molecular gastronomy. The Cook&eat kitchenware collection aims to inject pleasure and enjoyment into the cooking and dining experience.

The four piece set consists of an oil flask, vinegar bottle and salt and pepper mills. The mills are non-spill and adjustable and the flask and bottle are dishwasher safe. See more images right here.

Big Appetites: Little people on big food

big appetites hot dog

I stumbled upon a fabulous series of food images that I’m sure you’ll like.

Seattle-based photographer, writer, artist and filmmaker Christopher Boffoli has produced a series of entitled Big Appetites featuring character toys and food, beautifully shot with wry captions.

Boffoli says of the work: “If the sight of whimsical toy-like figures conjures pleasant memories from childhood, so too do the comforts of food. The sensual experience of eating accesses primal instincts that stretch back to the earliest days of our evolution. Whether we are reflecting on the comfort food of childhood, celebrating food’s tremendous diversity, or obsessing over calories and nutrition, cuisine is one of those rare topics that most people can speak about with authority and yet largely without controversy. So the choice of food as a backdrop of the environments of the Big Appetites series is certainly calculated. But even more simply, food can be beautiful, with colors and textures that perfectly suit macro photography.”

After much deliberation I chose the hot dog as my favourite; partly because I like the way the mustard is being raked over the sausage by the toy but mainly because the caption made me laugh more than the others. Actually, the captions remind of a Gary Larson Far Side desk calendar that a friend and colleague had a few years back.

Many thanks to Christopher Boffoli for allowing me to republish the image. Choose your favourite by visiting Big Appetites and feel free to comment on your favourite.

Apprentice finalist launching ‘Whisk’

BBC Apprentice finalist Nick Holzherr is launching the business idea that he proposed to Lord Sugar in the final of the recent business TV series.

Nick HolzherrHolzherr (pictured) is now accepting sign-ups for Whisk, his new online recipe and ingredients buying idea. Whisk will allow users to add multiple recipes to a single basket via the web or app. The site then finds the list of ingredients needed and creates a shopping list of items to buy from a selection of supermarkets.

Holzherr comments: “To start off with we will have an iPhone app and a web service. It is a website primarily, but what we have launched first is a preview app to flick through a couple of pages. We are looking to launch it fully in the summer.” The service will earn revenue from both advertising and affiliate commissions.

Holzherr adds: “Every time we check out a basket there are affiliate systems in place where supermarkets pay you to send traffic to them. For example the user will be sent to a supermarket website and the basket will automatically fill up so you don’t have to search for all the ingredients. The supermarket then pays us to do that. Brands can also pay to place products in your basket, so if cream cheese is needed Kraft can pay us to put Philadelphia in your basket rather than another brand. The user will always be told that is happening so it’s a bit like a Google ad for your basket.”

It seems that Holzherr has received some financial backing from ASAP Ventures; a company that has enjoyed success with other online services such as and


6302 Spoons sculpture

6302 spoons sculpture

This unusual “wall lamp” sculpture is entitled 6302 spoons and was created by Najla El Zein, an artist, interior architect and product designer based in Beirut, Lebanon.

The sculpture really is made from 6302 stainless steel spoons that are welded to a frame in such a way that light runs through them. From a distance the spoons create a reptile skin texture. Close up of course each individual spoon reflects light as seen in the photo:

spoons closeup

El Zein says of the piece: “The spoons become a material in itself. The rudimentary transforms into a rich and unique material, taking here the shape of an aquatic, reptile-like skin allowing different reflections of light and movement.The spoon becomes beautiful, gains value and is seen from a totally new perspective.”

We’ve previously seen spoons being used in a Darth Vader sculpture.

Food Glorious Food: Cowell aims for Eggs Factor in the kitchen

Simon Cowell eatingSimon Cowell will be hoping that contestants on his forthcoming cookery contest will have the Eggs-Factor and come up with something slightly more inventive than an apple!

The music talent show supremo (pictured) is launching a new cooking programme on ITV1 entitled Food Glorious Food! which will give the winner a “once in a lifetime opportunity to get your recipe on the shelves of M&S”. And if that’s not glory enough there’s a £20,000 cash prize too!

The producers are proclaiming that it’ll be the biggest search ever for Britain’s best loved recipe, giving the nation an opportunity to share “a special recipe that tugs at your heart strings, makes you smile, brings back memories and sums up all that’s great about food.” The winning dish will be made into a ready meal and sold in-store at M&S will all proceeds going to charity.

Amateur chefs from around the UK will compete in regional heats and successful competitors will advance to filmed semi-finals and then a grand final.

The judges and show host have yet to be confirmed but according to the Metro, Cowell would love to Dawn French to front the show. Cowell said of her: “I would love Dawn to do it. I know she has lost a lot of weight, but I am hoping to persuade her to put a tiny bit back on with me.” However, as Ms French has signed-up to do Lord Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar on BBC1 this year it’s suggested that Dermot O’Leary is the front-runner.

So, if you fancy entering you can read more about the show, the entry rules and apply right here.

Gasper: Silicone saucepan mat

gasper pot cushion

I spotted this unusual kitchenware product a while back, bookmarked it and then completely forgot about it until today!

It’s called Gasper and it’s a silicone mat worktop protector for hot saucepans. Designed by Taiwanese designer Chih-Ching Yang. Without a saucepan on top it’s spooky appearance reminds you of Casper The Friendly Ghost, but when you place a hot pan on top it expands to act as a worktop protector. Simple, but clever!

As a design project it’s a novel idea for a practical kitchen utensil. Silicone is an ideal material of course, it’s ultra-flexible, easy to clean and can withstand temperatures up to 230c. You’ll see silicone used in a wide variety of kitchen products including pastry mats and oven gloves.

Kanye West: Cutlery snob

Kanye WestAmerican music and fashion mogul Kanye West is rather particular when it comes to his choice of crockery and cutlery.

Reports suggest that Mr West (pictured) refuses to eat off “cheap” plates and cutlery. Apparently his favourite Hermes plates cost around £700 each and he also insists on gold cutlery worth £4,500.

A source told The Sun: “Kanye is very particular about his plates and cutlery. Everything is the best quality.”

But despite a complete dinner set setting him back several thousands Mr West isn’t likely to notice. He is currently on tour with fellow superstar Jay-Z and tour earnings are expected to top £30m.

I wonder how much he spends on mugs for tea and coffee?

Growing Your Own? One in six of us are

courgettesAccording to a recent study one in six adults has started growing their own food within the past four years, with the majority saying that they do so to save money.

According to a poll for the City of London, 31% of British adults now grow their own food, while 64% of those interested in growing their own say they would do it to save money.

The City of London is launching a £2million grants programme to promote the use of green spaces and encourage people to grow their own food through volunteering and community involvement.

In our home town local volunteers encourage planting of veg in local green spaces, window boxes and raised beds. The Incredible Edible Hoylake scheme encourages locals to help themselves to fresh produce that can be picked from veg boxes in places such as the local train station.

I’m carefully nurturing some tomato and courgette seeds at the moment …the little fellas will be ready to plant out soon. In our back garden there’s a little rosemary plant that we’ve started pick to add a little something to roast spuds. Add a couple of sprigs of rosemary along with a few garlic cloves to your roasting tin of Maris Pipers and you’re good to go!

The most useless gadget: A fondue set

fondue setA recent consumer research project suggests we spend £900m a year on household gadgets that we rarely use. Top of the charts is the fondue set (pictured) which apparently costs an average of £41.65 but is used just once, or never, by 56% of people who own one.

Other kitchen gadgets listed in the PriceRunner research report include:

  • soda drinks maker (the Sodastream ones do look good though)
  • melon baller
  • ice cream maker

On the flip side, an espresso maker sees a lot of action in many kitchen and offers value for money as does a garlic press. Despite costing around £400 the Apple iPad is also good value for me money because the device is used so often.

We’ve got a chocolate fondue set in the back of a kitchen cupboard that we’ve never even opened! It was gift that was well received but our good intentions have proved to be just that.

How about you? What kitchen gadgets and utensils do you have that are just lurking at the back of a drawer or cupboard?