Food processors have been in our kitchens since the 1970s, helping the harassed mother, food enthusiast and professional chef alike to chop, slice, dice and mix foods quickly and easily. Do you ever stop to wonder about the history of this kitchen marvel?
Pierre Verdon was a French catering company salesperson. During his travels, he observed the many repetitive and time-consuming tasks his clients routinely undertook and realized the time they would save by automating these. His resulting invention, the Robot Coupe, made its debut in 1960. It differed from a blender in that it needed no additional liquid to chop ingredients, thanks to its shallow, wide bowl. However, the Robot Coupe was a large-scale industrial machine, found only in commercial kitchens.
Le Magi-Mix, or MagimixR as it is now known, first appeared at trade shows in 1971 and went on sale in France and throughout Europe in 1972. Also the creation of Verdon, it was a scaled-down version of the Robot Coupe suitable for the domestic kitchen.
The CuisinartR food processor found its way onto the American market in 1973. Based on the Magimix model, it had several improvements, thanks to a redesign by American engineer Carl Sontheimer. Sontheimer had seen the Magimix model at a 1971 trade fair in France, where he grew up. Recognizing the potential in the American market, he collaborated with Verdon to add safety features to the machine and to improve the cutting blades.
The Cuisinart was initially slow to catch on. The American market, unfamiliar with the food processor, assumed it was simply an overpriced blender, and sales were slow. Undeterred, Sontheimer sent machines to Julia Child, Craig Claiborne and other food authors. One of those, James Beard, wrote Recipes for the Cuisinart: Food Processor, the first of many cookbooks focused on the use of the new "wonderful machine," as Julia Child called it.
Finally, the food processor had arrived in the American kitchen, and the rest, as they say, is history.