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Saturday, September 25, 2010

Gordon Ramsay Professional 2 slice toaster (Sensio Bella Professional)

I have been having an on-going frustration with toasters ever since my parent's trusty old Sunbeam Automatic bit the dust after nearly 20 years of faithful service back in 1976. I must have been through more than 2 dozen toasters since then, and each one of them has had either a serious design flaw or were just not durable (even a replacement Sunbeam automatic made lousy toast and died after a year).

My current Cuisinart 4-slice is not an exception. We are on our second one after our first one died after 14 months, and now the warranty replacement unit Cuisinart sent to us is starting to toast only on one side. This was a great toaster when new, but like everything else these days, just doesn't last.

While wandering aimlessly in The Bay, the Gordon Ramsay Professional 2 slice toaster caught my eye. What a beauty! Huge, overbuilt, quality stainless enclosure, and interestingly not very expensive at $70 Canadian.

Since most toasters are underpowered, I immediately flipped over the unit and saw it was rated 1200 watts, wow! Probably the most powerful 2 slice on the market. Next, hidden elements! The box claimed a novel "mica board" heating system for even toasting.  I had never seen this before and thought it was an interesting idea. Finally the toaster had the option of turning off one of the slots for toasting a single slice, which demonstrated that energy efficiency was a design priority. Since I am a bit of a fan of Gordon Ramsay's TV shows, and given his reputation as a stickler for quality, he would probably not lend his name to a poorly-performing appliance. All around this was a compelling package at an attractive price, and I bought one.

Getting the toaster unpacked and the controls figured out was straightforward and did not require the supplied instructions. I ran the toaster through a couple of cycles to break it in, then popped in a slice of bread. I bake all of our bread, and sliced off a fairly thick slab to see if the "extra wide" slots would accommodate it. Not a problem. Normally my bread is quite slow to toast with the Cuisinart on maximum dark, but the Gordon Ramsay had my toast ready in a tad shy of 3 minutes.

Except there was a problem. The top of the bread wasn't toasted. I chopped off another slab and dropped it in...noticing now that the mechanism didn't lower the bread completely into the slot. Considering the huge vertical size of the toaster and the available room inside, I thought this was kind of dumb. Our Cuisinart 4-slice being quite a bit more compact than the Gordon Ramsay would toast oversize bread, even the "Texas BBQ" style that you often find at the supermarket.

So this now meant putting the toaster on a slightly lower toast setting, waiting it to pop up, and turning the bread over to toast the top. While the "mica board" system gave even toast, I would say that it was too even, resulting in a rather bland toast. Since bread flavor changes depending on done-ness, a nice variation (grill lines) will always result in much more flavor complexity. And not only that, the hidden, indirect heating seemed to take just as much time as our lower-powered Cuisinart, which to me seemed to result in dry toast.

Needless to say I was quite disappointed in what was a shockingly poor design from a functional point of view. And I really wonder how much value Mr. Ramsay is adding to the products that are bearing his name. So now this means perhaps Mr. Gordon Ramsay is all about the show? Shame on him for selling out.

The toaster went back today, and the quest continues. I'm wondering if and when Dyson will decide to come out with a toaster...

This toaster is identical to the Bella Professional 90001 by Sensio.  The Gordon Ramsay version is primarily a U.K. product, with the Hudson Bay Company in Canada having an exclusive.


Stan Goldman said...

I bought a larger size two-slice G.R. toaster from The Bay than the one shown. Any resemblance between this reviewer and my results is purely coincidental. Good, predictable and even toasting is what I'm getting, even with extra-long bread from an Italian loaf or dense, 3-Korn bread. Takes a bit longer, but that's a small price to pay. Depress the toaster, and you can feel gears meshing, not trashy springs being set. It's a stunning good-looking appliance on the counter, too.

Stan Goldman said...

Well, you were right and I was wrong. G.R.'s toaster makes all the bread taste the same. I compared the same toated bread with a Breville 2-slice toaster and Breville won the taste test hands down. Ramsay's machine seems to bake the bread again, giving the exterior a well-browned, tasteless, and kind of cardboard consistency. Too bad. Lovely looking and well-built machine.