FOOD: Transforming the American Table

A New Source for Cookware

Chuck Williams, founder of the retail empire Williams-Sonoma, established his first store in Sonoma, California, in 1956. He moved his store in 1958 to San Francisco, selling cookware and, later, other housewares and furnishings to new food enthusiasts inspired by Julia Child, James Beard, and Gourmet magazine.

Chuck Williams in his San Francisco store, around 1977

Chuck Williams in his San Francisco store, around 1977

Courtesy of Charles E. (Chuck) Williams

An early Williams-Sonoma mail-order catalog, 1974

An early Williams-Sonoma mail-order catalog, 1974

Gift of Charles E. (Chuck) Williams

Soufflé Dish, 1960s

Gift of Julia Child

Porcelain soufflé dishes made in France were among the first items Chuck Williams brought to his Williams-Sonoma customers. The availability of specialized cookware gave home cooks the tools they needed to tackle soufflés and other ambitious dishes.

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Cooking pot, around 1973

Gift of Julia Child

Italian designer Enzo Mari created the "La Mama" line of enameled, cast-iron pots made by the French company Le Creuset. Williams-Sonoma introduced Americans to new forms of durable cookware, including French pots like this, which were perfect for American stews and roasts and for long braises, such as the boeuf bourguignon Julia Child made famous on her first television cooking show.

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Food processor, around 1973

Gift of Charles E. (Chuck) Williams

American inventor Carl Sontheimer developed the Cuisinart food processor, a modified version of the French Robot Coupe. Chuck Williams sold the machine in his stores and used this one at home for many years.

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Pasta machine, Italian, early 1980s

Gift of Betty Jane (BJ) Boudreau

In the 1980s, making fresh pasta at home became another culinary challenge for adventurous cooks. This pasta machine, given by a son to his mother, was meant to remind her of the family’s time living in Italy.

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In the 1960s, Americans’ passion for coffee was reawakened by new coffee roasters and retailers. By the 1980s, coffeehouse chains offering bold brews from around the world began dotting urban street corners and suburban shopping malls. For home use, manufacturers made small espresso machines and larger models for high-end consumers. The blue-lined cups are for serving cappuccino and the white porcelain are for espresso.

Espresso maker, around 1990

Gift of Rayna Green

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Espresso cup, around 1990

Gift of Rayna Green

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Capuccino cups, around 1990

Gift of Rayna Green

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