My first encounter with Geoffrey Lilge was about 7 years ago in a woodshop on the campus of the University of Alberta (Edmonton, Canada). I remember distinctly that he was carefully crafting a maple wood frame that would eventually take the form of a lounge chair. I was still an undergraduate student at that time and Geoff was completing a Master’s degree in industrial design. Years later, I would meet him once again and it was only fitting that it would be in yet another woodshop.
The OnOurTable studio is located about 30km Northwest of where I spent most of my childhood in Edmonton. Founded by Geoff and his wife, Cindy, the studio is essentially a collaboration between a designer and a chef, committed towards creating original and generational products for the kitchen. My sister was the first to alert me of the burgeoning studio when she gave me a handcrafted ‘Hole Slab Long’ cutting board as a birthday gift. I instantly loved the proportions, the beautiful circular handle and the concept of a product melding design, food and craft together. I was also really pleased to know that a designer from my hometown was making a splash within international design circles. The diverse collection of kitchen accessories offered by OnOurTable are the result of years of restaurant testing and their experiences with food, creating staples for sharing, cooking and dining. We look forward to launching new product offerings from their studio. Please enjoy our conversation with Geoff.
For those who are unfamiliar with the OnOurTable brand, can you tell us about company’s objectives?
GL: We’d like to bring the communities of design and food together. We enjoy getting together with our friends and sharing a good meal as much as anybody… Cindy likes to collaborate with other chefs and I like to collaborate with other designers… and with products for the kitchen we can all collaborate together. It’s simply more rewarding and interesting to work collaboratively, so that’s what we try to do.
So how did you get started designing these beautiful cutting and charcuterie boards?
GL: Cindy was opening a new restaurant and we couldn’t find any serving boards that fit the feel of the restaurant. So I made some prototypes, we tested them out and it grew into a collection of a dozen shapes and sizes, and then into a line of products I started selling throughout Canada.
You mention restaurants like Corso32 in your journal. How has working with people in the food industry, such as your wife Cindy and Daniel Costa influenced your designs?
GL: Outfitting her restaurant was interesting to me as a product designer because restaurant equipment is designed and built with greater durability and at a bigger scale than residential kitchen equipment. Every chef has a different visual style and we work to compliment that as best we can. The board we did for Corso32 will be released as a stock product shortly, it has worked well for them.
“We’d like to bring the communities of design and food together.” – Geoffrey Lilge
Can you give us some insights into your design process and working style? For example, how long did it take to come up with the designs for the boards?
GL: When I come up with a concept I have to let it sit for a few weeks to see if it will evolve in my head or not…I can’t rush to the shop because I will usually change some small detail. I am either blessed or cursed with not having any other clients or projects to deal with, all of my design energy goes into our collection.
And where are the boards manufactured?
GL: We make all of the boards in St. Albert, our crew is at 5 at the moment, but we’re growing every week.
What made you decide upon circular handles for the boards?
GL: I wanted a handle that was easy to grab and handle while being used in the kitchen. The circular handle really works well for the larger boards, it has to be used to appreciate how well it works…
The handles are definitely one of my favorite aspects of the boards. Comfortable, versatile and beautiful. You must have a ton of prototypes at home to test…
GL: Cindy uses the boards and blocks every day so I’m always getting useful feedback. We are adding some new sizes and expanding on our collection of thicker butcher blocks.
Lastly, tell me about your inspiration for the next product line?
GL: We’re developing a collection of smaller wooden tools for the kitchen, which we are testing and modifying every day…