Guest post: 20cm BIA Cordon Bleu sauté pan

Amy L.

Amy L.

“I found it in the basement of an antique shop for only $40.”

VFC says: This post was written and photographed by reader Amy L.

My husband and I stopped at an antique shop while we were on our way home from my monthly visit to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI) in Boston to treat my chronic leukemia. I’m very comfortable talking about my experience — my chronic leukemia is well managed in Boston once a month so I feel fortunate. I have become accepting of it over time and I’m proud of my journey. I wouldn’t have found this great pan if my husband and I weren’t driving home from the hospital!

The shop is located about half way between DFCI and our house, so we decided to stretch our legs a bit more before returning home. The pandemic has left us feeling cooped up, like everyone else.

When I found the sauté pan it was covered in very thick dark patina, so thick that its hammer marks were barely visible. It was the thickest of a group of pans hanging from an old pot rack suspended from the ceiling. I didn’t have my caliper with me, as our stop was spontaneous, but it seemed thick enough to take a chance on for $40. $40 was also just about what I had available for a spontaneous, unplanned purchase at the time, as my husband and I are in the thick of house renovations, and as I have purchases arriving in the fall that I have financially prioritized. I guess it was meant to be!

When I arrived home I measured the pan and happily discovered that it was 2mm. I was even more excited to wash and polish it, as it cleaned to a shiny rose gold hue, revealing few scratches and dings for its age and history. Gorgeous, well-defined hammer marks also emerged, which was exciting. I love the look of hammered copper.

Guest post: 20cm BIA Cordon Bleu saute pan

The only thing I knew about this pan came from its visible characteristics. The teardrop and curve of its iron handle, its even hammer marks, and the stamp that included France indicated, to me, that this pan was made in France. Any dream that it was once handled by Julia Child at Le Cordon Bleu was squashed after reading about rivets (and discovering information I learned later). The style of rivets indicate that it was made during or after the 1970s, so well after Julia’s time as a student at Le Cordon Bleu. Sigh. That’s okay though.

Guest post: 20cm BIA Cordon Bleu sauté pan

The following morning, during my favorite time of the day, my morning ritual where I eat peanut butter toast, drink a cup of hot coffee, read blog articles, and search the internet, I decided to research my pan. I discovered that BIA Cordon Bleu’s headquarters is in California. This is where current BIA Cordon Bleu products are manufactured, with some products also made in Asia. Regarding my pan, I though, this can’t be — it had to be made in France!

In an attempt to solve my confusion, I contacted a local BIA Cordon Bleu sales representative in my area, sending images of my pan and hoping that he would provide information. He forwarded my email to his manager who responded later in the day to say that it was a Mauviel make from the mid-1970s. She also sent me an image of a catalogue from the 1970s that displayed my pan (#142320) and others with product numbers.

Guest post: 20cm BIA Cordon Bleu sauté pan

I feel so lucky! I found a total steal for $40!

VFC says: Amy, that really is a lovely pan and a terrific buy, and I love the story of how you found it. It was a great idea to reach out to the present-day BIA company to ask about it, and I am so pleased that they replied — and provided the photo from their old catalog! It is excellent to have them confirm the manufacture of their BIA-branded copper so buyers know the quality they’re getting. Thank you for doing this and for sharing it with us!

Guest post: 20cm BIA Cordon Bleu sauté panThis also gives me an opportunity to look at the history of BIA Cordon Bleu, a US-based kitchenware and housewares wholesaler established in San Carlos, California in 1952. I think I figured out what the “BIA” stands for — the French trademark for “BIA Cordon Bleu France” is registered to “Belgian Importers Association, Inc.”  a US company registered in Burlingame, California in 1969.

BIA initially appears to have focused on importing European kitchenware brands, but in 2000 it was purchased and relocated to Galt, a town near Sacramento, and shifted to manufacturing and importing high-quality porcelain and stoneware products from Asia.

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  1. Amy, it’s wonderful how you tell this story and how warmly you can be happy. Congratulations on your sparkling find!
    I saw some pans with the Cordon Bleu stamp on eBay in Europe and so far I thought they were a French company, because the stamp says France below. It seems similar to Williams Sonama France. The company is based in the USA, but the products come from France and are manufactured by Mauviel. At least the ones I know.

  2. Amy, congratulations on your wonderful find. That was a great deal you got! I bought a NOS (new old stock) saucepan from a retired chef from California. It has a BIA sticker on the floor of the pan yet is stamped with the Matfer toque. I am sure this was also made by Mauviel.

  3. If I can correctly assess the pattern of hammering on your sauté pan, the pan is from the “good old days” of Mauviel. This is also proven by the photo from the catalog. Here you can still see drop-in-lids (couvercle à degré, “sized cover,” or emboîté, “nested cover”) with flat stick handles. I find these and the slightly shorter stick handles from other manufacturers more practical than the top-mounted ones handles. In addition, the lids were still hammered back then – an effort that Mauviel has not done for a long time. Since around 1980, many proven things have fallen victim to Muviel’s rationalization measures.

    Amy, I wish you many more steals, a successful renovation of your house and above all good health! I am sure that your passion for beautiful things will help you with this.

  4. Hi Martin!

    Thank you so much. I truly appreciate your well wishes! In regards to warmly being happy and telling my story, I like to carry around the belief that life is about embracing what is around us and what we love and enjoy. Appreciation and living in the moment creates good dispositions, which I think is important for all of us : ). I’m so grateful to have found this equally passionate group!

    I agree about BIA Cordon Bleu being similar to William Sonoma. What a smart comparison! I’m still learning about the company myself, so I’m not even sure if they still manufacture copper cookware, or if these pans that we find are a thing of the past? In my searches I’ve found other household and kitchen goods, but no new copper. VFC, please correct me if I’m wrong! VFC continues to bring forward great information on this company. I’m excited to see where research takes us as we continue investigating!

    Also, thank you for this information! I guess I really have found a gem from the past! I have considered getting this pan polished, solely for a fresh start, when I have it retinned… probably sometime before the new year. I’ll reconsider this though, or request that it is done very lightly, so as to not possibly flatten or alter the hammer marks over time. Thank you so much for bringing this to light! Now I know that the hammer marks are a sign of my pan’s history and quality!

    Thanks again!

  5. Hi Stephen!

    Thank you so much! I’d love to see this pan, and I’m sure VFC would too! Since VFC is researching BIA Cordon Bleu copper cookware to add to this blog, it would be great if you reached out to her to contribute your pan as well, if that is something you would like to do! Also, if you are curious about your pan’s history, I encourage you to reach out to a BIA Cordon Bleu company representative. They live up to their reputation for being phenomenal with customer service. I had a wonderful experience!

  6. Hi Amy,
    your excitement and enthusiasm really comes across, and makes this post a particular joy. That is a lovely saute pan in a domestically very useful size.
    I am sure that you are desperate to use it but there is no harm in just living with it for a while and it will tell you the level of restoration it wants. A pan of this age can quite reasonably be returned to as new condition or you could go to the other extreme and ask for it only to be tinned and then hand polish yourself to preserve the traces of its previous life. Being of traditional construction it will last decades if not a century or more and just get better.
    I’ll wager you find another piece before the year is out!

  7. Amy, I think you have just the right outlook on life. Live in the here and now, use the day (carpe diem), be mindful (attentive) and enjoy the little things. That’s how I live at 70 years old.

    But now I would like to turn to VFC and all other readers. I still know a variant of the “Cordon Blue” brand. Above the oval stamp shows GASTRO (curved), in the middle CORDON BLEU and below again curved MADE IN FRANCE. This manufacturer or shop has an exclusive and expensive SILVER-LINE series. I suspect that despite a partial match in the name, it is a manufacturer who is not identical to BIA. What do you mean?

  8. The expression cordon bleu is a metaphor for high culinary art in French and goes back to the broad, sky-blue ribbon on which the golden cross of the elite order was carried by the Holy Spirit from the 16th century. The addition “à la cordon bleu” can be found in older French cookbooks and means “in the style of high culinary art”.
    Wikipedia (Germany)

    1. And there are multiple cookware companies that have registered a trademark in France with “Cordon Bleu” in the name. INPI tracks this and you can look them up — use the search function for “Cordon Bleu” in business class 21 (Ustensiles de ménage; ustensiles de cuisine; récipients à usage ménager; récipients pour la cuisine):

      There are 14 current registrations and 11 that have expired. Martin, any of them look like possibilities?

  9. Hi Roger,

    Thanks for your kind words and reply! It’s funny how you mention the pan’s useful size. My husband jokes that it will help me practice cooking smaller portions. I am notorious for cooking too much on most occasions. I hope he’s right! I also agree with waiting to restore this pan. Thank you, I think that is great advice! There is no rush to have the pan serviced. I will make sure to give myself plenty of time to ensure that I make the right decision!

    Thanks again, Roger!

  10. VFC, thanks for the hint. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a company that matched the stamp either with the name “Cordon Bleu” or “Gastro”. I will email you the stamps.

  11. What a great find! Congratulations! I have to agree with VFC, I love the story of how you found it. I live in MA as well but my first experience with finding copper is more like finding junk!

    1. Hi Patchanee! Thanks! I’m right there with your experience. Sometimes we get lucky, and other times, not so much. I found this pan at the RI Antiques Mall in Pawtucket, but my favorite sellers are Fid and Bill of Normandy Kitchen Copper and Steve Nash of French Antiquity. The quality of what they source in France is really hard to come by in the States! As far as local shopping goes, I’ve also had luck finding decorative copper at Stillwater Antiques Center in Greenville. Thanks again for the comment!

  12. Thank you for the pointer to all the reputable shops Amy. I definitely have been looking and waiting for some nice pieces to show up online and I also can’t wait to visit the local shops in person. 🙂

  13. Thanks for the article. I bought the same 20 cm saute for cooking. 🙂 Made identifying it easy.

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