Tiscia Eicher '89 makes a mean salmon teriyaki
and cooks a tasty beef tenderloin when she's entertaining.
But it's in her job as vice president for Calphalon brand
strategy that Eicher is helping to feed America's hunger for
all things related to cooking.
The first of Calphalon's Culinary Centers,
which Eicher oversees, opened in Chicago in October 2001.
The centers aim to bring the Calphalon brand of cookware and
cutlery alive for consumers by allowing them to test the equipment
in one of the center's gleaming kitchens, located in a re-energized
West Loop neighborhood. Class participants dice, fry and sauté
their way through culinary sessions on appetizer preparation,
knife skills, cake decorating and more. A typical hands-on
class at the center costs $80 for a three-hour session.
"The centers allow Calphalon to touch
and talk to consumers directly, and have them try the products
before they buy them," Eicher says. "It's a classic
Whether it's a newly engaged couple trying
out frying pans before they put them on their gift registry
or a group of friends convening for a Friday night class on
tapas preparation, Culinary Center participants learn new
skills, but also provide Calphalon with invaluable knowledge
about their preferences in the kitchen.
At the Chicago center, Eicher often sits in
on a class as participants chat about who does the cooking
in their household or what kinds of recipes they hunger to
"You hear so much about people's attitudes
toward cooking, about what things are really hot," Eicher
says. "Maybe they want a bunch of pasta recipes or they
want to learn how to make sushi."
Feedback from cooking class participants,
as well as the chef-instructors who lead them, could help
shape the company's new product offerings, as well as modify
existing ones, she says.
For Eicher, a deep love of food and travel,
combined with degrees from the Kellogg School and Cornell
University's School of Hotel Administration, proved to be
the right mix of ingredients for a career in the hospitality
industry. While at Kellogg, she looked for ways to combine
her previous experience working in restaurants and catering
sales with her newfound management skills.
She landed at American Express, in a division
of the company that works with merchants who accept the card,
where she remained for 13 years.
When Kristie Juster, a friend from her undergraduate
days who is now president of Calphalon Corp., contacted Eicher
1 1/2 years ago, it was to solicit advice on Chicago's food
culture for a new culinary center the company was preparing
to launch. But it was simply a matter of time before both
women concluded Eicher herself was the right person to oversee
development of the center — and two dozen or more like
it planned to follow.
It wasn't the first time Juster had tapped
into Eicher's marketing expertise at a critical point in her
"She has been an incredible resource
in helping me make savvy business decisions," Juster
says. "As Calphalon embarked upon the biggest marketing
endeavor in our history, I knew Tiscia would be the perfect
Since then, Eicher's been promoted to her
current position, which entails responsibility for the company's
overall brand strategy, as well as the Culinary Centers.
Calphalon's second center is slated to open
in Toronto in June. Between 10 and 30 more are scheduled to
follow in the next several years, with Eicher overseeing their
development by selecting locations, hiring staffs and devising
a strategy to enter each market.
She's not complaining about the gigantic
"One of the things I learned at Kellogg
was how important it is to be a well-rounded, well-balanced
person — to find something that you love to do. I feel
very lucky that I've had a chance to find that."
— Kari Richardson