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Cooking with Glass!

Skilled artisan glassblower Robert DuGrenier and talented chef Alex Sorenson join forces to elevate the art of molten glass cooking.

STORY BY BENJAMIN LERNER PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY ROBERT DUGRENIER AND ALEX SORENSON 


In the hills of Windham County, an extraordinary collaboration has taken root, blending the artistry of glassblowing with the delicate finesse of gourmet cooking. Robert DuGrenier, a globally-renowned, master glassblower, and Alex Sorenson, a celebrated chef and owner of Blank Slate Kitchen, have teamed up to create “Glasstronomy.”

Molten glass is poured onto a surface known as a “marver” and used to cook world-class dishes

In this marvelous, innovative event series, food is prepared directly on molten glass, offering a spellbinding culinary spectacle unlike any other. DuGrenier and Sorenson have hosted an array of events in glassblowing studios in Vermont and New York City, including a special “Dinner on Glass” event in October 2023, which was held at Randi Solin’s Glass Studio in Brattleboro, Vermont. The evening served as a benefit for the Brattleboro Museum of Art and the Vermont Glass Guild. It was a collaborative endeavor involving DuGrenier, Sorenson, Solin, and chef Neal Myers of the beloved Southern Vermont restaurant and resort, Seesaw’s Lodge. Guests experienced a live culinary performance where a multi-course meal was cooked entirely on heated glass. The event showcased multiple glass cooking techniques, which enhanced the flavors and presentation of dishes such as steamed oysters, seared Vermont grass-fed beef, and fish.



Years before DuGrenier and Sorenson began hosting glass cooking events together, the genesis of their collaboration began somewhat serendipitously. Sorenson moved to Vermont near DuGrenier’s Townshend studio in 2020, and he met DuGrenier through an innocuous post response on a locally-based online community forum. This initial interaction laid the foundation for a partnership that would soon explore the untapped potential of cooking with molten glass. DuGrenier had already toyed with the idea of integrating glassblowing with the culinary arts, and he found a willing and enthusiastic partner in Sorenson. “Robert mentioned to me that he had been wanting to cook a dinner with molten glass, and we took the leap together and made it happen,” says Sorenson. 


Though their first attempts proved difficult, they persevered and began finding novel ways to take advantage of the powerful properties of molten glass. According to DuGrenier, cooking with glass enhances the pure flavor of the ingredients. “Because glass is a vitreous form, there are no chemicals. You get a truly pure sear that preserves the flavor and integrity of what you’re cooking.” Given the extraordinarily high temperatures of the glass, cooking with high-fat foods, such as Wagyu beef, offers an unforgettable visual experience. The fat instantly sizzles, searing the outside while leaving the inside perfectly tempered. “It’s truly mouthwatering and spectacular,” says DuGrenier. Their method also proves effective for seafood, such as scallops, and sushi-grade tuna, enhancing their taste and texture in ways traditional cooking cannot. Sorenson adds that the instantaneous, powerful heat offered by molten glass is difficult to replicate, even in professional kitchens.


One of DuGrenier and Sorenson’s more sophisticated glass cooking techniques involves a molten glass dome, which is used to create a cooking environment similar to an oven, albeit at a much higher temperature. “It gives off radiant heat from all sides,” says Sorenson. This dome is used for both cooking and smoking, adding layers of flavor through roasting and smoking herbs or wood chips. Still, this innovative method is not without its technical challenges. The temperature management of the glass is critical. “When glass drops to a temperature below 900° Fahrenheit, it could shatter,” notes DuGrenier. “As long as you’re within the window of 900-2000°, you can really do some spectacular things.”

Delicious seafood served on custom glass pieces made by Robert DuGrenier

Beyond the kitchen, DuGrenier and Sorenson’s collaboration has led to unique artistic creations, which take the form of glass plates made specifically for certain foods. These plates, now featured in upscale Chicago restaurants Smyth and The Loyalist, bear the imprint of the glass cooking process. “You have to consider both the shape of the glass and the food being cooked on it when you’re building those plates,” notes DuGrenier. This approach melds the craft of glassmaking with the science of cooking in a way that transcends traditional boundaries, offering a unique fusion of visual and gastronomic pleasures. 


Regarding the potential integration of glass cooking in traditional restaurant kitchens, Sorenson remains realistic about the potential challenges. “The biggest hurdle is the infrastructure and equipment that you need to install in order get molten glass.” While mainstream restaurant adoption might be limited due to numerous logistical hurdles, these same limitations set the stage perfectly for DuGrenier and Sorenson to play a central role in the realm of glass cooking. By orchestrating a series of pop-up events around the globe, they open the doors for countless domestic and international collaborations with other artisan glassblowers and chefs. 


To that end, DuGrenier and Sorenson have brought the art of glass cooking beyond Vermont’s borders at events hosted at UrbanGlass in Brooklyn, New York, where DuGrenier is a board member. DuGrenier and Sorenson cooked an exquisite, multi-course meal for the high bidders at the The 2023 UrbanGlass Gala and Auction, which raised funds for UrbanGlass and their various artistic programs. Their dishes showcased locally-sourced ingredients from farms in Vermont and New York State, paired with select fine wines. Recently, they also hosted a private event for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, raising $14,000 for their cause. 

Sorenson (Left) and DuGrenier (Right) cooking together

As the Glasstronomy project continues to expand in scope and ambition, DuGrenier and Sorenson are grateful for the incredible artisan and culinary community in Vermont, which they regard as fertile ground for their groundbreaking collaboration. Reflecting on the flexibility and openness of Vermont’s culture, Sorenson adds: “There’s such a wide variety of artists and chefs here, and everyone seems to be open and interested in collaborating and exploring things together.” This atmosphere allows for a conscientious, organic approach to culinary and artistic experimentation, which is often not feasible in more constrained urban settings. 


Looking ahead, DuGrenier has ambitious plans for the Glasstronomy project, intending to grow its reach beyond local and regional demonstrations and venture into international showcases. “The plan is to do a Vermont version, to do a Paris version, and do a Los Angeles version, and we want to potentially develop a Netflix series or a reality TV series.” This vision includes deep dives into the artistic processes of both glass artists and chefs, emphasizing collaboration over competition. 



The project’s next steps also involve harnessing the power of digital media to reach a broader audience. “We’re going to start a YouTube video series first, which we’re going to call ‘Glasstronomy NYC,” shares DuGrenier. “The aim is to bring New York City chefs and glassblowers together.” This series promises to capture the essence of their glass cooking technique and share it with a global audience.


As momentum builds, the dynamic duo plans to continue offering glass cooking events in Vermont. “We’re hosting performance dinners at my glass studio, and we’re potentially planning to start doing them once a month.” DuGrenier and Sorenson are optimistic about their continual quest to explore the intersection of glassblowing and gourmet cooking. By challenging and expanding the culinary horizons of chefs and diners alike, each meal serves as a profound testament to the transformative power of collaborative artistry. 




Beyond the Glass 

Robert DuGrenier blends artisan craftsmanship with creative innovation at his glassblowing studio in Townshend

Robert DuGrenier’s studio represents the pinnacle of artistic achievement in the world of glassblowing. Founded in 1980, Robert DuGrenier Associates, Inc. began as a design studio that specialized in glass sculptural pieces. Over the past four-and-a-half decades, DuGrenier has developed multiple lines of gorgeous glass artworks. He has collaborated with celebrated architects and designers, creating bespoke installations and chandeliers featured in prestigious international venues, hotels, stores, museums, and private residences. DuGrenier’s works are featured in the permanent collections of esteemed museums around the world, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Corning Glass Museum.


In addition to high-concept art installations and innovative, customized pieces, DuGrenier also offers a range of accessible glass products that showcase his mastery of glassblowing in more practical formats. Highlights include stunning items like hand-blown glass pumpkins and meticulously designed maple syrup bottles, which are filled with delicious Vermont maple syrup from his own sugaring operation at Taft Hill Farm. DuGrenier’s studio also produces hand-blown glass tableware, paperweights, and decorative pieces, each of which is crafted with the same attention to detail and quality as his larger installations. These products highlight DuGrenier’s diverse capabilities, as well as his commitment to furthering the accessibility of artisan, hand-blown glass. “I’ve always been driven by the challenge of transforming a molten material into something that captures imagination,” shares DuGrenier.

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Colby Adkins
Colby Adkins
21 hours ago

It was a collaborative venture between DuGrenier, Sorenson, Solin, and chef Neal Myers of the famed Southern Vermont restaurant and resort. doodle games

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Manuel Murphy
Manuel Murphy
a day ago

Robert DuGrenier, a globally renowned master glassblower, and Alex Sorenson, a renowned chef and owner of Blank Slate Kitchen, collaborated to create the perfect “Glasstronomy”. A great combination. Congratulations. doodle baseball

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