March 8, 2017

Graves Firm Partners With Kitchen Twins On Debut of New Cookware Design

COOKING UP COOKWARE: Princeton Day School seventh graders Emily and Lyla Allen, known in the food world as The Kitchen Twins, will demonstrate a new line of cookware by Michael Graves Architecture & Design at the International Housewares Show in Chicago next week. In the front row are Emily, left, and Lyla, right. Behind them are, from left, Vladimir Anohkin, Graves product designer; Rob Van Varick, principal — design, insights and strategy; and Donald Strum, principal of product design.

As they do each spring, thousands of designers, chefs, and consumers will descend upon the International Housewares Show at Chicago’s McCormick Center next week to discover the latest in cookware, appliances, and innovative home products. 

One might not expect two 13-year-olds to be among the experts at this annual event. But Emily and Lyla Allen, better known as The Kitchen Twins, aren’t your typical middle-schoolers. The Lawrenceville residents, who are seventh graders at Princeton Day School, will be demonstrating the Teorema Collection, a five-piece set of sleek pots and pans designed by Princeton’s Michael Graves Architecture and Design for the Italian cookware company TVS.

“We can’t wait. We’re so excited,” said Emily, who visited the Graves offices on Nassau Street with Lyla and their mother, Cricket, last Friday afternoon. Their long, blond hair in braids, the girls were bristling with energy despite the end of a busy week of school and lacrosse practice.

They finish each other’s sentences. “The pans are non-stick, which is so great,” said Lyla as she picked up a sauce pan to demonstrate. “And they’re light-weight,” chimed in Emily, “with a nice grip. We love them.”

Cooking risotto Milanese and sauteed asparagus in front of the thousands of visitors likely to stop by their booth at the show is no big deal to Emily and Lyla, who are veterans of such popular television programs as The Today Show, Chopped Junior, and The Rachael Ray Show. The girls have been writing a blog since they were nine. Colorful and inviting, it is full of recipes and advice on where to buy their own kale chips, cutting boards, and aprons. The emphasis is on healthy cooking and eating, and it urges families to cook together and spend time in the kitchen.

“We started baking cookies with our grandmother when we were three, and our parents were natural food entrepreneurs [who formerly sold naturally flavored waters and healthy snacks] so it just came naturally,” said Emily. “When we were nine, we entered a local competition and got first place.” “We were ten,” countered Lyla. “No, nine,” said Emily. After some good-natured back-and-forth, the girls agreed to disagree.

After joining forces with marketing officer Kelly Ford of Edison Partners, the girls’ career took off. Three appearances on The Rachael Ray Show were followed by the spot on Today. “They came to our house,” said Lyla. “Sheinelle Jones interviewed us for a piece they were doing on young foodies.”

The collaboration with the Graves firm came about through a family connection. “We had the opportunity to design a new cookware line, and we were thinking of how to set it up to bring the attention — a unique, novel approach,” said Donald Strum, the company’s principal of product design. “We brainstormed, and Linda Kinsey [principal with the firm] came up with the idea of the twins. Out of all the ideas we had, this was the best. We’re so happy it has worked out.”

The girls are on spring break, so the trip to Chicago won’t interfere with classes. “The school is actually very supportive of this,” said Cricket. “Even if it had conflicted, it’s a learning experience for them.”

For the Graves firm, debuting the Teorema line at the show is an opportunity to make some further inroads into cookware. “It’s already being well received,” Mr. Sturm said. “We’re looking at it from a design point of view, and the girls have been sort of vetting it for us. The intention is for these to become your ‘go-to’ pans. We looked closely at ergonomics and how they cradle in your hands. We were really influenced by a stalk of celery.”

To test the cookware, Lyla and Emily made a lot of omelets and sauteed vegetables. “The great thing about them is that they cook everything so evenly,” said Emily. “And you can rest a spatula on the handle, which is great.”

The show is March 18-21. The Kitchen Twins will be demonstrating the Teorema line on March 19. “I think it’s going to be so much fun,” said Lyla. “We’ll be cooking, and that’s what we love to do. It’s our passion.”