Coming soon to L.A.: the end of gas appliances in new construction. As voted on by the Los Angeles City Council in May and set to start Jan. 1, 2023 (in a tiered phase-out), no new buildings, including residences, may include gas stoves, water heaters, furnaces or gas-powered clothes dryers. Following in the footsteps of Berkeley, San Francisco and Santa Monica, the move is an effort to reduce the use of fuels that generate greenhouse gases and contribute to climate change.
Already, though, some Los Angeles designers and their clients are shifting to electric-powered induction stovetops and finding they love the cooking experience. “Induction is the best,” says chef Ludo Lefebvre (Petit Trois), who first cooked with induction at L.A. Live’s All Star Chef Classic in 2014. “It’s fast. It’s powerful. It provides even heat,” he says. “And it’s safe. There’s no open flame — so I can use it with my kids in the kitchen.” Now a spokesperson for New Zealand-based appliance company Fisher & Paykel, he installed their Series 11 professional range in his Studio City home. “I would love to have induction in the restaurants, but it would need to have a large cooking surface and commercial grade, which aren’t available yet.”
Not everyone is thrilled about the idea of phasing out gas stoves; in June, a number of Korean and Chinese chefs, in an article in the Los Angeles Times, decried the change, saying that certain cooking techniques (including wok cooking) and experiences (such as tabletop grilling), are not replicable with electricity. The California Restaurant Association (CRA) opposed the new rule as well. “Flame is critical for chefs to create their masterpieces,” CRA president Jot Condie told the Times.
Steven Cooper, of West Hollywood-based Cooper Pacific, a third-generation kitchen design firm, says he understands resistance to induction. “We’ve been cooking over flame since man learned how to walk,” says Cooper, who’s designed kitchens for Brad Pitt and Lisa Vanderpump. “That’s how Mom cooked. I don’t think people are giving it a chance.” As he points out, “You need to experience it to understand what a game-changer it is.”
Interior designer Jeff Andrews (whose clients have included Kaley Cuoco and Kris Jenner) suggested a Wolf Induction Cooktop for the Hancock Park home of producer Raj Kapoor (The Grammys, The Academy of Country Music Awards). Explains Andrews, “The island resembles a piece of furniture, so we needed something functional but beautiful that would just disappear.” Kapoor is a convert to induction, which he installed last year: “It’s sleek, it’s modern, it’s fast and the clean-up is one swipe and you’re done,” he tells THR.
Despite being powered by electricity, induction bears no resemblance to those glowing spiral coils of yore. Instead of generating heat, the process transfers electricity directly to a compatible pan, activating its molecules to produce heat. Their movement generates heat (a bit like how a room is warmed by dancing bodies. Cut the power, and the heat vanishes and the cooking stops. Kitchen Design Group’s Caren Rideau — who recently installed an induction stove for comedian Bert Kreischer’s podcast room/kitchen — is amazed by its responsiveness. “Water boils in seconds,” she says. Induction also can easily maintain the low temperatures required for melting chocolate or sous-vide cooking.
Not all cookware works with induction. “While copper, glass, aluminum and ceramic won’t work, most pans are already prepped,” confirms Cooper. Induction readiness can be verified with a magnet. If it sticks, the pan will work.
And induction can support wok cooking, though chefs who want to keep gas do so because they say flames impart flavor. “Gagganeau makes a ring that works with the traditional round bottom,” Cooper notes.
While the technology’s climate-friendliness paved the way for the ordinances, induction also beats gas on health and safety. Towels, pot holders and clothing — indeed, anything not made of metal — that’s left near the cooktop can’t catch fire. Invisacook has an induction offering where pots can be cooked directly on a countertop that’s made of granite or porcelain, meaning the stove seamlessly blends into the kitchen.
And unlike gas, electric-powered stoves don’t leach carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, formaldehyde and other pollutants into the air, an increasingly serious concern. An article published in the International Journal of Epidemiology in 2013 noted that children living in homes with gas stoves were 42 percent more likely to experience asthmatic symptoms such as wheezing, coughing and difficulty breathing. While there are no indoor exposure guidelines in the U.S., Canada puts the limit at 90 parts per billion.
And, since less residual heat escapes, the kitchen — and the cook — stay cooler.
“I absolutely love induction cooking,” says Laurie Haefele (who’s also designed kitchens for Pitt, among other celebrity clients). “It’s environmentally friendly and it is incredibly sleek aesthetically.”
A version of this story first appeared in the Aug. 10 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.