by Mary Rekosh
Some of the finest skillets in the South are made by hand in the shell of a two-bay auto shop tucked into Charlottesville’s trendy, industrial Belmont neighborhood.
Last year Corry Blanc, founder, and owner of Blanc Creatives converted the space into a blacksmith workshop, where every month he and a staff of seven pound out about 200 carbon steel masterpieces – an update to the cast-iron variety that has been a staple of kitchens for centuries.
The pans, which Blanc says have the qualities of cast iron but are lighter and easier to use, range in price from $180 to $275 and have become quite popular; they are shipped worldwide. The wait for one has grown to more than three months, and several Charlottesville-area chefs are advocates.
“They conduct heat perfectly for everything we throw their way,” says Harrison Keevil of Brookville Restaurant, a local favorite. He says he is also impressed with the skillet’s durability, which is good because Blanc hopes his skillets will one day become heirlooms.
“I think of these as 22nd-century antiques,” he says.
Why focus on the skillet? Quite simply, according to Blanc, it reflects his Southern heritage.
“My father’s side of the family is French-Cajun from New Orleans, and my mother’s side is a mix of German, Irish and Native American – but they’re Appalachian more than anything,” he says. “And we’re a food-centric family all around, with our Southern culture always being reflected in that.”
As a kid growing up in North Georgia, Blanc says, he played with kitchenware instead of traditional toys. Family gatherings were always around meals. He spent most of his early 20s working with an uncle who owned a metal fabrication company, learning about the construction and layout that go into craftsmanship.
After moving to Charlottesville in 2007, he started making and selling grilling tools and bottle openers at city and holiday markets. One weekend he displayed a skillet he’d made. An admiring customer asked if it was for sale, which led Blanc to consider making them on a larger scale.
He decided to enter a prototype in the annual Garden & Gun magazine Made in the South awards contest. He won, which generated a flurry of interest and publicity.
While the skillets are the most popular product at Blanc Creatives, the company has an eye for growth, aiming to double its selection to 10 pans of varying sizes and styles. Blanc says he would also like to branch into other materials, bringing in ceramics, wood, metal, copper and more.
“We love to create,” he says. “It’s time to build on this foundation and grow.”