Inspired by Gaggenau’s combi-steam oven 400 series, photographer Rein Janssen shot a series of compelling images showcasing the product’s features in an abstract and intriguing way.

The keener chefs among us will be familiar with the name Gaggenau, a German manufacturer with a proud history of making the tools of the professional kitchen available for home use. Gaggenau products have become well known for merging high performance and practicality with craftsmanship and innovation, as demonstrated by the combi-steam oven 400 series. The steam oven is of particular significance for Gaggenau, which was, 16 years ago, the first company to produce an appliance previously found only in professional kitchens in a size and configuration suitable for ambitious domestic chefs. Today it’s an industry standard, a precedent that the combi-steam oven is expected to replicate.

While the combi-steam oven is instantly recognizable as part of the 400 series thanks to its brushed stainless steel façade, inside it contains a world premiere: the first fully automatic cleaning system ever available in a domestic steam oven. As we’ve come to expect from Gaggenau, this system is remarkably easy to use. To remove even the messiest, greasiest spatters and baked-on residue from a roast chicken, for instance, all you have to do is plug in a cleaning cartridge, press start, and wait for the power of water to clean the oven with maximum hygienic precision. True to the spirit of Gaggenau, the automatic cleaning system takes its cue from the professional kitchen. It turns out that like the rest of us, top chefs have neither the time nor the inclination to scrub the walls of their ovens.

Now that cleaning is off the menu, chefs of all levels are free to get creative in the kitchen. With Gaggenau’s combi-steam oven, cooking is elevated to a fine art. They’re in control every step of the way, right down to the tiniest detail. To give you a taste, in sous-vide mode (yet another takeaway from the professional kitchen), the oven temperature can be regulated at one-degree intervals (from 50 to 95 degrees).

With this amount of flexibility at your fingertips, it’s possible to prepare virtually any recipe using the Gaggenau combi-steam oven. When you’ve had your fill of steaming ingredients, you can braise, simmer, grill or roast them. Vegetables gently steamed retain vitamins, taste, aroma and colour. Steaming fish and meat makes them nice and juicy, and you can use the grill to add a crisp crust. The unique combination of heat and humidity even makes the Gaggenau combi-steam oven ideal for baking bread. The oven’s versatility and precision allow home chefs to experience food and cooking in a new light.

Photographer Rein Janssen shares with us his approach to interpret the oven's features into this stunning visual series:

How did you interpret Frame’s brief?

It immediately felt good, the idea to translate the properties of the combi-steam oven into a series of abstract images. I was very eager to make another series using hi-speed photography. I imagined a dark, whimsical world in which clear images popped out. An oven is strong, solid and dark inside, and it’s inside where all the magic happens. I take the viewer on a journey based on my visual interpretation of the properties of the oven.

How did you begin interpreting the Gaggenau combi-steam oven’s elements into a visual concept?
To me, some vegetables naturally pair with steaming. For example, I would always steam a broccoli, never boil it. I have always wanted to photograph its brother – the romanesco – and this was my chance. I also perceive the romanesco as a bit more of a high-class vegetable – not peasant food. Therefore it’s perfect to present the professional oven by Gaggenau.

How did the materials of the oven elements inspire your own ‘material/prop’ choices?
We intended to use the oven’s rotary knobs in one of the images so I was looking for a piece of meat or a vegetable that would have a connection with it in some way. The idea of a knob is that it will be touched and turned. So I looked for fingers, tentacles and something you would cook up in the oven. All kinds of things popped up in my head: a monkey, carrots visualized like fingers, a butterfly, insects, a squid….yes! A squid.

What was the biggest challenge in expressing the oven’s qualities without a complete oven in a micro photo shoot?
I like to make abstract images of icons. How does a self-cleaning system look? What is the image that pops up into everyone’s head when they think of a self-cleaning system? How do you get as close as possible to the most basic form of a self-cleaning system?

I try to think of the most expressive approach to visualize an oven. To me, that's the warm glow of heat.

Which images are your favourite? Which image was the most fun to work on?
I find the fire-breathing fish very beautiful, and the romanesco with steam around it too. Every time, you will be surprised by what the camera captures.

Photos Rein Janssen

Read the extended version of this report in Frame #107. Find your copy in the online Frame store.

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