While he was still in college, Minsuk Kim read an essay by the cookware author Mark Bittman that made such an impression on him he’d eventually launch a company around its tenets. “I contend,” went the intro to “A No-Frills Kitchen Still Cooks,” “that with a bit of savvy, patience and a willingness to forgo steel-handle knives, copper pots and other extravagant items, $200 can equip a basic kitchen that will be adequate for just about any task, and $300 can equip one quite well.” Yeah right, you’re probably thinking as you stroll through a traditional cookware store—but in a restaurant supply shop like Mark Bittman recommends, it’s possible. The knives might have plastic handles, but the blades are sharp—these are, after all, the tools real chefs use in their actual kitchens.
Minsuk took the tip to heart, shopping for his first no-frills pieces of cookware at shops like Bowery Kitchen in lower Manhattan. More recently, over lunch with his friend Jessica Sheft-Ason (they met working at cult-favorite beauty brand Glossier), they realized they wanted to take it a step further: Launch a company that will bring pared-down, restaurant quality basics to consumers for prices so low they seem like wholesale. In other words, make it possible for some to stock a fully-functional first kitchen on an entry level salary even if they don’t live near a restaurant supply shop in New York City. (Are you cheering yet?) They started researching production methods, visiting factories, and last week their completely self-funded startup, dubbed Potluck, went live.
“It’s totally bootstrap, it’s just me and Jess shaking out our piggy banks,” Minsuk says. “We really believe in this business and really believe in what it stands for.”
Their system is simple: Produce pots, pans, utensils, and knives at the same factories used by other popular brands, but sell the products direct to consumers to cut down the price. Potluck’s knives are made of high-carbon German steel, but you can get all three of them (a chef’s knife, a bread knife, and a paring knife) for $60. Their pots and pans are the classic tri-ply construction you’ve seen advertised a million times by reputable brands, but you can get four pieces (a stockpot, large saucepan, small saucepan, and skillet) plus lids for a cool $160. Same goes for utensils, the final category Potluck has launched with: only the most essential, hardest-working tools—think mixing bowls, the perfect spatula, etc—that will make pretty much any dinner possible. $80 for 12 pieces.
Compared to other direct-to-consumer cookware startups, Potluck’s pieces are simple, even restrained—these are the same types of pieces you’d find on the line at your favorite restaurant. Lots of stainless steel, polypropelene handles on the knives. But it’s this totally pared down design that makes them so smart. Where else can you get all the pots, pans, knives, and tools you need to stock a kitchen for under $300, with free shipping? Yeah. We thought so.