Dorothee Auwärter

01. March 2015

 „We are family“: Dorothee Auwärter becomes Chairwoman of the Board of Directors for Kuhn Rikon - A family business for four generations

Steam cooking with the Durotherm, keeping food hot in the Hotpan, chopping food with brightly coloured Colori® paring knives – products from the highly traditional company Kuhn Rikon are at home in kitchens all around the world. To this day, the company in Rikon is run by the family. Most of the pots and pans are manufactured in Tösstal. This year, Dorothee Auwärter is the first woman to chair the board of directors. Together with her older brother and two cousins, she represents the fourth generation of the Kuhn and Auwärter families to head the company. 35-yr old Dorothee Auwärter, who is a lawyer, talks to us about childhood memories such as roller-skating on the factory floor, her favourite products, and her goals for the globally active company.

  • It goes without saying that you’ve got a dream job – but did you ever envisage doing anything else?
    After completing my school leaving exams, I was spoilt for choice. I toyed for a long time with the idea of studying a science such as biochemistry. Happily, my parents did not push me in any specific direction – not even with the idea of me later working for the company. I have never regretted studying law. Today, I very much enjoy my colourful daily routine between the law firm, the pan factory and home. I enjoy each area of work, and wouldn’t want to miss out on the diversity.
  • As Chairwoman of the Board of Directors for Kuhn Rikon, you have the advantage of heading a business which is part of your everyday life, and that you’ve grown up with from childhood. What is your first conscious memory of Kuhn Rikon?
    Kuhn Rikon, company successes and the inevitable difficulties that come along have been part and parcel of my life as long as I can remember. Rather than a single experience, it’s the smell of the production halls that conjures up a feeling of home for me. Before Christmas, we were always allowed to go to my father’s office and draw pictures for a calendar for my mother. There’s a long corridor along which we children used to run, dragging our fingers along the wallpaper until they were sore. In rainy weather, we were sometimes allowed to roller-skate on empty factory floors. The boxes full of the raw materials also provided a wonderful place to play hide-and-seek. We were allowed to pitch in from an early date. There were always returns that needed unpacking, or product sets that needed assembling.

Do you have a favourite Kuhn Rikon product?
Many, of course. If I had to choose, it would be the Hotpan. It embodies all the strengths of Kuhn Rikon: great design and complete functionality. You can use it to steam, cook in an energy-saving manner and keep food warm.
Is there a product you can remember using ever since you were a child?
Yes, several. The Duromatic, for example. Or the Durotherm, the big roasting pot and the tin opener.

  • Which product do you use on a daily basis?
    Definitely the bread knife. I also use the various Colori knives, the Duromatic and the Hotpan virtually every day.
  • Which product makes your everyday life easier?
    Definitely the Duromatic, the Durotherm and the Hotpan – when people get home late.
  • What would you like to add to the range?
    We already have a very wide range of products. I can’t think of anything I really miss. The most important thing is that each new product meets our high demands on quality, functionality and design.
  • You became Chairwoman of the Board of Directors this year. How have you experienced the generation change?
    I feel it makes sense to have a fixed age limit for members of the board of directors (70 years) as we do. It forces the active generation to think about and make provisions for their successors at an early date. At the same time, those who retire are generally speaking still fit enough to support their successors in the early days of their work – where this is desired and necessary – with advice and assistance. My father does an excellent job in this respect. Of course, I’m aware that he often doesn’t find it easy to let go, which I fully understand. When it comes down to it, he’s poured 30 years’ worth of his lifeblood into Kuhn Rikon. Nonetheless, he really does take a back seat and doesn’t impose himself. But he’s always willing to give me his advice or opinion when I need it.
  • There are obviously going to be high expectations when you head a company in the fourth generation. Do you ever feel like you’re up against a mountain?
    I have a healthy respect for my new role, but I’m not scared of it. I’ve prepared myself for it, and now I look forward to taking on responsibility. And anyway, I’m not on my own. We’re an excellently coordinated team on the board. With my two cousins and my older brother, I have people I trust, and support from the younger branch of the family. Then there are two – and next year probably three – experienced non-family members of the board. This “outsider” view and their expertise are indispensable. Kuhn Rikon also has an excellent management team who do their work most wholeheartedly. And last but not least, I know I can count on understanding and support from my family.
  • Does your gender play a role?
    No. Back in my mother’s generation, the female branch of the family was not considered for managerial positions. But when it came to my nomination to the post of Chair of the Board of Directors, my gender was never an issue.
  • Your answers betray your excitement about your new job. What are your plans and vision for Kuhn Rikon?
    We want to remain a successful and independent family-run business, which is active on a global scale and which is renowned for its unique kitchen products, its top designs, top quality and highly functionality. There are still lots of kitchens without our products.


Dorothee Auwärter
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