Kitchen store comes to Kenai

Posted: Thursday, December 11, 2003

Whether it's a stainless steel Viking self-cleaning gas range or a set of mini butter bells, Kenai Peninsula residents in the market for kitchen utensils, cookware and appliances now have a new retail option.

Allen & Petersen has opened a new Kitchen and Cooking Center in Kenai, in the strip mall next to Safeway.

Even though two working, in-store kitchens are still under construction, walking into the store feels like stepping into one of Disney's magic kingdoms, the one called Tomorrow's Kitchen Land.

The stainless steel stoves, firecracker-red cookware and utensils for every odd-ball cooking chore imaginable shimmer and sparkle more than enough to make even cynical, grouchy Donald Duck purr, "Oooooo!"

While Allen & Petersen definitely carries nice stuff, the nice stuff doesn't necessarily come with a nasty price tag, said CEO Leon Barbachano.

"We don't do super cheap-cheap," Barbachano said from his Anchorage office, "but our products run the gamut."

Allen & Petersen's goal is to cater to a range of customers, from those starting off in their basic first house to those moving up to their dream home, he said.

The Kenai location is Allen & Petersen's third store. The company was founded in Anchorage in 1968 by Ray Allen and Jack Petersen, but is now run by Petersen's three sons, Kerry, Chris and Kenny Petersen. The other store is in Wasilla.

Kenai store manager Bria Johnston agrees that Allen & Petersen tries to carry something for everyone.

Johnston said the more affordable gas ranges and freezers by recognizable names like Frigidaire, Amana and Maytag have been selling well. However, she also noted that Allen & Petersen carries less familiar, high-end names like Fischer and Paykel, Thermador and Viking.

Some of the more interesting items the store carries are specialty gadgets.

For instance, a roasting wand is a gizmo used to thoroughly cook stuffing inside turkeys. Without the wand it's difficult to get the stuffing hot enough to properly cook it without overcooking the turkey, according to demonstration chief Mike Hartman. With the wand, "I can fully cook the bird (and stuffing) without drying it out, like mom's," he said.

Hartman will be giving daily cooking demonstrations once construction of the in-store kitchens is complete.

Another intriguing item the store carries is butter bells.

A butter bell is a traditional French contraption designed to keep butter fresh at room temperature, which also keeps it soft.

A butter bell looks like a simple ceramic jar with a lid. However, raise the lid and you'll find a bell-shaped, ceramic cup attached to the underside.

The butter is stored upside down in the bell.

The cool part is that by pouring half an inch of water into the bottom of the jar an airtight seal is created. Since oil and water don't mix, the water rolls right off the butter when you go to use it.

The butter bell's an old idea that's making a comeback, Johnston said.

"My Grandma used to have one, way back," she said.

In addition to selling cooking appliances and implements, Allen & Petersen also offers cooking classes that teach you how to use them.

Johnston said she expects to begin offering classes in February, once construction on the in-store classroom kitchen is complete.

The courses will range from an eight-class, basic cooking series to courses based on the chef's specialties.

Visit the store at 10672 Kenai Spur Highway, Suite 103, in Kenai to sign up for the cooking class mailing list or call 283-8005.

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