When invited for a meal with friends recently, we were having aperitifs, when suddenly there was a noise from the kitchen, which sounded a little as if a small helicopter was coming into land. It was the programmed auto-cooker, which was cooking, blending and heating the soup for our meal while our hosts were entertaining us in the room next door.
This new-age, multi-device gadget which gets on with some of the cooking whilst you entertain or do other jobs can make bread, steam vegetables, chop, blend, mix, grate, whisk, knead, prepare sauces, make purées, yoghurt and jam. In fact, it reckons it can turn you into the perfect home cook even if you are a modern day working person with not a minute to spare and it is the latest trend in home appliances.
While you do have to peel your vegetables and fruit and put your ingredients into the machine, which has integral weighing scales, you can programme it and follow step-by-step instructions on its digital display panel. You can link the latest TM Connecté model to the internet to download recipes. For some dishes, such as quiche, it will make the pastry, sauté what you wish to put into it and prepare the sauce, but it is not quite the complete robot cook. You do have to roll out the pastry, line the tart tin, fill it and then cook in a conventional oven.
There are several models on the market but Thermomix has been a success story for its factory at Cloyes-les-Trois-Rivières, Eure-et-Loir, which is owned by the German company Vorwerk. In 2012, this food processor was selling so well that the company invested €55M into the factory.
By 2015 it was producing 4,500 units a day and sold 250,000, 31% more than in 2014. In 2016, sales were still increasing, up 11% on 2015, though the pace slowed.
The Managing Director for Thermomix, France, Bertrand Lengaigne, says when he joined the company in 2003 they sold 14,000 machines and had 600 salespeople. Since then sales have increased each year at more than 10% and they now have 9,000 salespeople: “What is important to us is to show the client directly the potential of the machine so they can learn how to use it well. After they have bought it they can always go back to the salesperson who is local to them for advice. This strategy of home buying has helped increase our sales as well as the fact that our compact machine helps people cook in a way that is more healthy, easy and fun.”
In September this year, however, the firm opened its first Thermomix retail store in the Opéra area of Paris.
Audrey Eliezer-Vanerot works as a nursing auxiliary in Landerneau hospital in Brittany, but in her spare time, she sells Thermomix. “It is definitely à la mode. I am on maternity leave, but friends are always ringing me to ask when I can come and give a demonstration, and there are a lot of people who already have them and several who are interested.
“It attracts all social classes because although it is a big outlay to start with at over €1,000 you can buy one in instalments with a four year plan and in the end it can save you money. I love mine. It replaces 12 electrical kitchen aids in one machine and for those who don’t like cooking it enables them to prepare home-made meals easily.”
Charlotte Hanks is a midwife and has an 18 month old baby. She will pay thirty euros a month for four years but she thinks it is worth it: “It saves me time, it helps me prepare healthy baby food easily, plus healthy food for me and my partner, and I think you save money in the long term because you only buy basic ingredients and there isn’t any waste.”
However, for cooking purists and enthusiasts, like Charlotte’s father, Simon, it will never become the thing to have, as he says it is over priced, has limited use and takes all the fun and skill out of putting a meal on the table.