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Founder of Cuisinarts Inc.

Physics and cooking might seem to have little in common, but Carl G. Sontheimer, a retired MIT-trained physicist and accomplished cook, has combined his two loves.

In 1971, Sontheimer and his wife, Shirley, founded Cuisinarts, Inc. He intended it to be a part-time venture which would import top-quality stainless steel cookware. Today, the name Cuisinart is synonymous with food processor.

After college, Carl Sontheimer worked for RCA, invented 47 patented gadgets, sent his inventions to the moon as components of radio microwave system, and founded three electronic companies – all before his 53rd birthday. Then he retired from the world of electronics, taking up a career as a newspaper writer and specializing in his lifelong avocation, cooking.

At a French housewares show, the Sontheimers were intrigued by a commercial food preparation machine marketed to restaurants. “That machine gave me the horrors,” Sontheimer recalls. “It was totally unsafe.” He spent the next 18 months perfecting the prototype of a home version of the machine. The Sontheimers are the sole owners of the firm, which had $100 million in sales in 1980 and employs 150 people. The home office is in Greenwich, Connecticut.

In 1978, Sontheimer began publishing The Pleasures of Cooking, a bimonthly magazine. The publication is an outgrowth of customers’ requests for recipes.

What does Sontheimer see happening in American kitchens in the years ahead? “The population will grow; land will not,” he says. “There will be less living space, and kitchens will have to grow smaller. There will also be less storage space and less energy available per person. All ovens will be convection ovens; food processors will become more capable.” Following his own advice, Carl Sontheimer recently introduces a convection oven with a glass bubble cover.