Kellogg World Alumni Magazine, Spring 2003Kellogg School of Management
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© Nathan Mandell
Tiscia Eicher '89

Alumni Profile: Tiscia Eicher '89

Tiscia Eicher '89 turns up the heat on Chicago’s culinary scene

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 marketing opportunity."

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.

Visit the Calphalon Culinary Centers online.

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 try.

"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 career.

"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 fit."

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 task ahead.

"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

©2002 Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University