Jordan Nathan started his company after almost poisoning himself with toxic fumes, he says.
Having left a non-stick pan on the burner for too long, Nathan said his apartment was filled not only with smoke but a chemical smell that he feared could be poisonous. He called poison control to see if 45 minutes of fumes coming off his non-stick pan could have turned toxic. They confirmed his doubts, he says. “It’s possible that I was exposed for sure. After that experience, I had the idea for Caraway.”
Non-stick pans can be used safely, he clarifies. “They’re designed to be cooked on medium heat, not on high heat with smoke and fumes coming off of them. But there must be a safer option all around.”
As someone who had built companies, and previously worked in home goods, serving as CEO of Vremi, a New York City-based kitchenware brand, Nathan decided to launch his own company — one that focused on a cleaner non-stick alternative. “I didn’t see anyone focused just on ceramic pans with an emphasis on design.”
Caraway sells sets of ceramic cookware, which are made of a heavy-duty aluminum gauge and have a ceramic coating (applied three times). Compared to other ceramic options on the market, Nathan clarifies that the extra coatings prolong the life of the pan and the non-stick coating.
Ceramic pans are not a new-age invention. Rather ceramic refers to clay pots and pans that have been hardened by fire in a kiln. They’ve been a natural way of cooking for generations and companies such as Xtrema still sell modern renditions of pure ceramic cookware. But many of today’s brands use a metal base with a ceramic coating instead.
Unlike conventional non-stick pans that are dipped in a chemical coating, ceramic coated cookware is fired. With that comes cracking. “That’s the biggest challenge with ceramic. You can have more pans crack in the manufacturing process, which increases the cost and can result in waste,” Nathan says.
Yet by cutting out middlemen and working directly with factories, Nathan says that the increased cost can be managed. He visits the factories every 45 days, he notes, to oversee production runs. That’s led to a more detailed design process: “Everything has been designed from scratch, from the handles for the most comfortable grip to even the rivets.”
He adds that Caraway does a ceramic coating on the interior and the exterior of the pan, which is scratch resistant. “That was not easy to achieve.”
Given his interest in being an eco-friendly company, the pans come in plastic-free packaging entirely, a clear deviation from heritage brands in cookware, he notes.
“It’s up to our generation to make a good impact. This category in general, cookware has so much wasteful packaging and materials like bubble wrap. These are areas that we can improve upon.”
Despite his tweaks and innovations to the classic cookware set, Nathan found it hard to raise capital with all the other cookware companies sprouting up in the past two years, he says. Yet, last summer, he was able to secure $ 1.8 million from about 60 investors.
Inspired by companies such as Outdoor Voices and Method, Nathan wants to carve out a space in cookware for Caraway, building on the eco-friendly values of the company. “The first step is to get the company up and running and a product that’s sound. Now, we can build out these different avenues,” he says.
That includes encouraging customers to recycle their old pots and pans. Industrial recycling facilities exist, but they need to be easier to access. “We’re working on it.”