In 2015 Patrick Kendal became a Design Council Ones to Watch, joining our exclusive list of hand-picked young designers we predicted would become some of the hottest design talents of the future.
Patrick's Spring Oven, a conical terracotta pot that allows you to steam while baking, producing bakery-quality bread as a result, was a firm favourite among the judges who applauded his innovative approach to everyday living. We recently caught up with Patrick to find out how his Spring Oven has progressed and what impact being a Ones to Watch has had on his career.
Becoming a Ones to Watch was just the confidence boost I needed. I don't know if I ever would have pursued my idea if it hadn’t happened. I had a great show at New Designers and some positive experiences at local shows in Brighton, but I had no idea how the general public would react to my idea. When I was made a Ones to Watch it made me think: 'wow, a recognised body appreciates my design!' It meant so much. The opportunities that then came my way along with the accolade just changed everything. I found myself at a Design Council event surrounded by companies like Honda, all recognised for the incredible things that they were doing in the design space. It really gave me a sense of what was out there and how I could contribute to it. University is such an insular experience and this exposure set me on a new path.
It all started with a Christmas present. My brother bought me Tartine Bread by Chad Robertson in my final year of university. At the time I was becoming increasingly passionate about making bread - sourdough in particular, and I found it intriguing to read Chad's take on why it is so difficult to make bakery-grade crust using a conventional oven. Domestic ovens just aren't able to create the steam, and hence the microclimate, that is needed for the perfect crust. What was even more interesting for me was the fact that there wasn't really anything on the market that could replicate the experience of a professional steam injection oven.
There are a number of methods you can follow to try and mimic it, for example pots of water or trays of ice in the bottom of the oven. However, it's really a big fuss and in the end it just doesn't create the perfect steaming conditions. I became fixated with the idea of creating a product that could steam while it baked, and I devoted my final year research to doing just that.
I was always making bread – in all sorts of receptacles: plants pots, tins, anything that was never designed to have bread baked in it.
The biggest test was repeatedly prototyping. I was always making bread – in all sorts of receptacles: plants pots, tins, anything that was never designed to have bread baked in it. Sometimes the result was a pretty funky taste, but that didn't deter my housemates. They loved having a never-ending supply of freshly baked bread every morning. I was always testing new theories through utensils and pots that I hadn’t made myself.
My idea really came into its own when I tested terracotta. I knew straight away that I had found my material. It held heat in the exact way that I was after, and also the colours - earthy orange red - felt very conducive to cookware. The next breakthrough I had was creating the conical tagine shape. This was specifically designed to allow condensed steam to drip down the inside of the pot and return to the channel of water surrounding the dough to continue steaming. It also has a small hole in the top of the lid to provide a direction for the excess steam to escape.
I also found removing the handles to be a great leap forward as it meant the product would have an even thickness so it could better regulate heat. Currently the Spring Oven is the only ovenware item that allows a baker to create steam inside their baking pot, and so far the results of beta testing have come back with very successful results, even from baking difficult breads like sourdough.
The finance factor saw me turn to Kickstarter. I felt that as a platform it really suited my approach to the Spring Oven. Kickstarter isn’t just about making money, it's about finding others who believe in your idea, who like what you want to do. It's really about someone with a dream and other people supporting that dream. Essentially my product is pretty traditional - a cooking pot, but it has a twist and I think people like innovation. It makes the world a better place. When people pledge on Kickstarter it no longer feels like it's my own, it becomes a collaborative effort.
I'm now funded - but still taking pledges which is a huge relief. My £10k will be spent on manufacturing, logistics set up, storage... every penny is already accounted for!
The biggest kudos so far came when Andrew Whitley, the famous sourdough baker of whom I am a huge admirer, actually tested out the Spring Oven and confirmed he received good results.
Moments that blew my mind were other people noticing and loving my idea. This obviously started with Ones to Watch, which was picked up by Real Homes who then featured me in their own Ones to Watch. From there all sorts of food bloggers found me and they have all been so interested and supportive, it's mind blowing. The biggest kudos so far came when Andrew Whitley, the famous sourdough baker and Real Bread activist of whom I am a huge admirer, actually tested out the Spring Oven and confirmed he received good results from this "attractive and well-engineered piece of equipment". I could never have predicted any of this two years ago.
I'm now on the way to making this a commercial product. I'm eager to start manufacturing in high enough numbers to really get it out there and see where it can go. I've got so many other ideas that I also want to pursue, such as a larger version of the Spring Oven, so this is really a vital time to learn the process and the best course of action. Everything is an education right now.
The best advice I can give someone with a good idea is keep going. I’ve heard from a lot of people that to chase something like this takes guts, that 'it’s really putting yourself on the line'. I don’t see it like that. I see it as I made a lot of small decisions and it amounted to one big decision. If you’re passionate about something, keep going and create tangible results. Finding confidence is a massive part of it, but as soon as you get over one hurdle, you know you can get over more. Start small and take it from there. Also, one very important bit of advice that every business person said to me: know your numbers!
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