Photo Tour | The Ceramics Maker for Michelin-starred Restaurants Around the World, Jono Pandolfi

Many creatives know that experience & quality is "all in the details". A cheap-feeling, commonplace, run-of-the-mill plate doesn't pair well with an exquisite entree served by a Michelin-starred chef. Read on about my visit to one of the world's best ceramic artisans, located in Union City, New Jersey.

Behind the Scenes Tour of a World Class Ceramics Studio

Our 8-year old, cheap dinnerware set has been gradually dwindling. Having thrown out many chipped, scratched, worn-out plates & bowls, my husband and I decided to research “quality dinnerware” available around the world. We decided that ceramics made in the USA might be better (contain less led, perhaps). In this internet search, I stumbled upon the creations of Jono Pandolfi

While my own cooking is definitely not particularly worthy of a restaurant recipe, I am that type of person who believes that the quality of a glass, cup, or plate affects how I perceive the drink or food. Life is short, so why not use the best of the best?

I decided to take the trip myself to the Jono Pandolfi shop, to get my hands on this dinnerware that’s used in many Michelin-starred restaurants and hotels around the world. Just like every chef has their own recipes for menu items, a potter also has their own recipe for their own dishes they form. From my tour with Jono, I gathered that a potter’s secret recipe involves a combination of clay types, quality color glazes, methods for consistency, and a committed crew ready to create.

Jono Pandolfi’s studio is like a New England mill building artist’s workshop, but on a large scale. Being the dinnerware supplier for restaurants frequented by celebrities, Jono Pandolfi has their system down to a science. Their clients include Jean-Georges Nougatine, David Chang, Daniel Hum/Eleven Madison Park, The NoMad, Crate & Barrel, Tosca Cafe, and many others. Next time you are at a restaurant, flip over the plate to see if Jono Pandolfi’s stamp adorns the bottom. 

The pottery starts with pallets of clay and glaze straight from Pennsylvania. It gets mixed and comes out in huge slabs which remind me of giant pieces of chocolate fudge.  

[Note, all images were taken “on the fly” with available light, handheld, edited in more of a light & bright editing style]

These fudge-looking slabs go through a few other steps and then get cut by their own handmade tools made out of guitar strings to pucks that are ready to get formed into vessels. The cutters they use are similar to the wire cutters bakers might use to level off cake. 

Cutting Clay Pucks for Handmade Dinnerware

Molding and Forming Ceramics

Each piece is pressed down and formed. To create the shapes, Jono Pandolfi uses their own molds which they made themselves. Team members smooth and refine pieces by hand. Hundreds of dinnerware pieces sit on the molds to air dry before being put in the ovens. 

In a studio tour, you can watch different artists work each step of the process. It was really fascinating to watch how handles get attached to mugs, which doesn’t look super easy! Every step in creating the dinnerware is very specific, but consistent, in order to produce dinnerware with some consistency and durability. Jono Pandolfi’s ceramics have been used for years in some of the world’s best restaurants and hotels.

The pieces get put into one of their several kilns. Each kiln has its own special name which I thought was amusing. If you own a restaurant, do you name your ovens and kitchen equipment? 

Imagine you're a Michelin-star Chef in your own home kitchen (Aspirational Identity)

If you work in the world of marketing, you know that humans often make choices based on their feelings as well as their logic. In the matter of communicating the quality of a product, is it exciting to talk about specs and measurements? 

Instead, talking about a product as part of someone’s story is the path to authentic marketing. For me, when I slice local meats and vegetables with my Japanese steel Messermeister knife on my Boos butcher block, I feel like I’m my husband’s best personal chef ever! Using tools like these makes my cooking experience easier, efficient, or just plain better, too. 

To complete my experience of feeling like a Michelin-star chef for my husband or friends, serving our dinner on our new Jono Pandolfi plates is the best finality to our home-cooked meal. Using quality kitchenware and household goods also inspires me to learn new recipes and try new things. It also spices up daily routines and makes life interesting sometimes!

Joy from ALMOST feeling like a professional chef (even though you really aren’t one) is called “aspirational identity”….a term I learned from the Building a Storybrand book. Aspirational identity is when a person feels like they can gain a new character trait about themselves, or when they acquire a new, different, or improved aspect of their lives. Anyone growing their business needs to periodically brainstorm aspirational identities of the demographic they’re trying to reach. If the aspirational identity is ignored, your website messaging, images, and videos may lack impactful meaning. I think the one reason why I purchased Jono Pandolfi’s dinnerware was because their website truly spoke to my inner desires of cooking and eating good food at home (instead of going to restaurants all the time). 

If you are interested in getting your hands on a Jono Pandolfi piece, you can order online and have it shipped to you, or you can visit their Open Studio in New Jersey on the first Friday of every month. At the Open Studio, you can get a tour, meet Jono Pandolfi and his team, and hand select your own dinnerware pieces at a discount price to complete your cupboard at home. I will probably take another trip to the future Open Studios, so if you personally know me & would like a piece or two (or more), I’m happy to pick something up for you!

still life photo of handmade ceramics by jono pandolfi
headshot of ling messer commercial photographer

Meet Ling, the photographer

Connecticut native. Idaho graduate. Previous Oregon resident. Cowgirl-turned-photographer.

Story-telling photography business owner since 2013. Videographer since 2018. Photography with artificial studio lighting or God’s sunshine.

Wife, dog owner, and friend of many dogs and people.

Have an upcoming project for a client? Let’s chat. Whether it’s Zoom, phone, email, or in person over wine or coffee, I’m game. 


Ling Messer


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