Speed & Purpose
By Lisa Readie Mayer
It’s fairly common in the barbecue industry for entrepreneurs to bring innovative new grills to market. Typically, they develop a prototype, tinker with it in the garage for years until they get it right, and maybe even get a patent on it, before launching the product and seeking distribution.
|Hestan 36-in. grill on deluxe cart.|
Stanley Cheng is not that kind of entrepreneur.
In just one year, the owner of Meyer Corporation founded a grill division, Hestan Outdoor, worked with a team of engineers, culinary experts, and sales and marketing pros to design and develop the innovative Hestan Grill; applied for 10 patents on it; set up a 70,000 sq. ft. manufacturing facility in Anaheim, California; and secured six distributors before launching the line with a big splash and a Best-in-Show Vesta Award at the HPBExpo in March.
To say he jumped in with both feet and a major investment is an understatement.
The innovative features of the commercial quality, premium, Hestan Grill are many:
- a spring-assisted “Horizon Hood” that holds open at any height on the continuum
- motion-activated “Stadium” interior hood lighting that points down onto the grill surface
- touch-controlled LED panel lighting
- 5/16th-in. thick, diamond-laser-cut, stainless-steel cooking grates
- a unique, 25,000 Btu, stainless-steel “Trellis” burner system designed to deliver even heat and temperature ranges between 200 and 800 degrees
- a reversible, heat-distribution tray above the burner with built-in ceramic briquets (each embossed with the Hestan logo)
- a hinged warming rack that folds down when not in use
- a top-mounted infrared rotisserie burner that also can be used for searing and broiling
- a new-and-improved hot surface ignition system
The grill, available as a built-in or on a cart base that looks somewhat like the outline of a map of the United States, has a decidedly unique look. It comes standard in a stainless-steel finish, but it’s also available in 12 bold color finishes, including “stiletto” (red), “sol” (yellow) and “citrus” (orange). One- and two-burner side-burners, two types of outdoor refrigerators, a beer tap, an ice maker, and a variety of outdoor kitchen storage components with soft-closing doors, complete the line offerings.
Such quality and innovation doesn’t come cheap: Hestan grills run between $4,000 and $10,000. The majority of the grill’s components have lifetime warranties, but, according to Basil Larkin, VP of Sales for Hestan Outdoor, consumers get a free extra-year warranty extension on any other components with the purchase of the brand’s $150 grill cover. A wood-chip smoker box accessory is packaged in a gift box and presented as a thank-you gift to all grill buyers.
“This grill is meant to be an heirloom,” Larkin says. “The goal was to offer an incredible grill that’s a pleasure to use and better than the competition. The response from distributors, dealers and consumers has been outstanding and exceeded our expectations.”
|Stanley Cheng, owner of Meyer Corporation.|
Hestan Outdoor is just the latest in a series of successful culinary business ventures for Cheng. The native of China came to the U.S. to attend college in Oregon. After graduating with a degree in engineering, he returned to take over his family’s aluminum business in the 1970s. He began to manufacture cookware with a nonstick Teflon finish that he says was the most exciting, state-of-the-art cookware technology at the time. Never satisfied with the status quo, Cheng soon had developed and patented even more durable nonstick, dishwasher-safe, hard-anodized cookware.
Cheng has been called “The King of Cookware” for a reason. Today his company, Meyer Corporation, is the second-largest producer of cookware in the world and the largest supplier of cookware in the U.S. The company has 5,000 employees and over 100 branded and private-label lines, including Circulon, Anolon, Farberware, Cake Boss, Rachel Ray, and many others, produced in three factories around the world.
About three years ago, Cheng embarked on an expansion plan for the company, naming Eric Deng president of the newly created Hestan division. (The name Hestan was formed by combining Stanley’s and his wife Helen’s first names.) The pair laid out a 10-year business plan in support of Cheng’s goal: to develop and offer the highest quality and most innovative culinary products available.
|Hestan facility in Anaheim, California.|
Cheng bought three buildings spanning three-fourths of a city block in Anaheim, California, to house operations for his dream, including manufacturing facilities, a test kitchen, certified testing lab, and office headquarters. In addition, the pair assembled a team of product engineers, technology experts, culinary professionals, and manufacturing staff that today is just shy of 100 strong.
Cheng and Deng fast-tracked the new division’s first endeavor, the Hestan Commercial line of premium, high-performance, commercial appliances for restaurant kitchens. Since officially debuting in February 2015, Hestan Commercial kitchen equipment is now in nearly 40 high-end restaurants, and has earned two National Restaurant Association kitchen innovation awards, as well as the endorsement of James Beard Award-winning chef Thomas Keller, owner of the famed French Laundry restaurant in Napa Valley.
|L to R: At the Vesta Awards, Basil Larkin, VP of Sales; Chris Moy, VP of Engineering; Dick Zirges, VP Territory Sales & Service; Eric Deng, President of Hestan; Yvonne Juarez, Director of Inside Sales and Logistics.|
One year later, the aforementioned Hestan Outdoor grill division followed. “Getting into grills was a natural and logical extension of the commercial product line, and was quicker for us to bring to market than an indoor appliance line,” says Larkin.
But that, too, is in the works. A separate company division, Hestan Smart Cooking, is developing appliances and cookware that incorporate advanced technology allowing the user to electronically program both the cookware and the appliance to cook with foolproof, repeatable results.
Renowned chef Philip Tessier, who captained the U.S. cooking team in the prestigious Bocuse d’Or culinary competition, is the culinary director of Hestan Smart Cooking and works with the team of chefs and scientists tasked with creating smart appliances that communicate with smart cookware to control the flame, set exact temperatures, and create precise and accurate cooking conditions tailored to whatever food is being cooked.
According to Cheng, with this system even a novice home cook will be able to create restaurant-quality food because the process removes the guesswork and uncertainty in cooking.
“Our Hestan Smart Cooking culinary team is developing recipes that are not just about combining ingredients, but rather a video-based, step-by-step, ‘guided cooking’ process that is based on science and is repeatable,” says Cheng. “We test recipes 20 times or more to make sure they work and are correct.
“This technology is still a couple of years away,” says Cheng, “but we are working on elevating culinary technology to be able to achieve perfect and repeatable results every time. This is revolutionary, and it’s a huge commitment on our part.”
Another major commitment has been Cheng’s investment in the development of “Nanobond technology,” a type of super-hard, stainless-steel surface with a mirror-polish finish that is easy to clean, won’t scratch or tarnish, and permanently retains its glossiness. Cheng has spent seven years and $10 million dollars developing the material and has earned 14 patents on it. According to Cheng, the finish takes stainless steel to the next level.
“After you use stainless steel for cooking, it discolors and scratches and you can never get it back to its original finish,” he says. “With this, you can scrub it with steel wool and it won’t scratch or discolor, and it always looks good.”
Cheng sees numerous immediate applications for the durable new finish across all his product lines; it is expected to be available by year’s end. In the Hestan Outdoor grill line, for example, the grilling grates, side shelves, and even grilling accessories such as griddles or baskets, could be made with “Nanobond” material and remain showroom-shiny for the life of the grill. “It’s going to be revolutionary; a real game changer,” he says.
|The Hestan tasting room and showroom for its cookware. Stanley Cheng produces wines under three labels – Hestan, Meyer and Stephanie.|
|Hestan Vineyards’ main estate is located on the east facing slopes of Napa Valley’s secluded Gordon Valley. Comprised of 56 planted acres, the vineyard is a tapestry of more than 25 small, individually farmed blocks planted to the five principle red Bordeaux varietals – Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec—and a small amount of Grenache and Sauvignon Blanc.|
Because no good meal – whether prepared in a restaurant, at home, on a grill, or even with high-tech appliances – is complete without a glass of wine, Cheng has a solution for that as well. He has his own vineyards and produces wines under three labels, Hestan, Meyer, and Stephanie, the latter named after his daughter. Cheng’s largest vineyard – 60 acres – is part of a 127-acre property he bought in 1996, with rolling hills and its own 11-acre lake in Napa Valley. He plants additional acreage on the grounds of the Meyer Corporation company headquarters near San Francisco Bay.
Though he initially sold all of his grape harvest to other winemakers, since 2002 he has sold only 20 percent each year and uses the remaining 80 percent of his 140-ton production to make nearly 6,000 cases of his own wines. Varieties include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Bordeaux blends, Grenache, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
“The White House bought our chardonnay wines a couple times for state dinners and holiday celebrations,” says Cheng. “That was very flattering.”
“Stanley’s love for food, wine and cooking has inspired him to create the best quality and most innovative culinary products available,” says Larkin. “Innovation is in our company DNA and there is much more to come from Hestan.”