We take a step back in time to ask Tom what gave him the idea for Roccbox, what challenges he encountered during its development and how he feels about its imminent release…
You already run a successful business selling pizza ovens, what on earth made you take on a project of such epic proportion?
“The Stone Bake Oven Company is a great business, we design and build these beautiful ovens and take a huge amount of pleasure in seeing the food our customers create (we receive photos almost everyday) but the whole time I was growing the business I just felt it was unfair that not everyone could enjoy the wood-fired lifestyle either because they didn’t have a garden or couldn’t afford to spend £1000+ building a setup. That is really what drove me. I wanted to create something that was accessible (and affordable) to as many people as possible, but I knew I couldn’t compromise on cooking conditions, it had to work like my big-boy ovens and that’s why we’re two years deep into the process.”
What has been your biggest challenge developing Roccbox over the last two years?
“I think it has to be the ‘miniaturisation’ of the cooking environment, traditional 400 degree ovens are very dense, they have thick stone walls and floors so they weigh a ton! But this is the reason they work so well; they create this really dry heat that does amazing things to dough-based foods. They also retain the heat for a long time and aren’t designed to be moved regularly – the complete opposite to Roccbox. Cut to the chase, we employed the best people in the industry to help us. We developed a special stone floor for moisture absorption, we used three layers of insulation with different properties and uses, we designed every component from scratch to ensure it operated exactly as required and we’re still not finished iterating! I can’t wait to reveal all of the features soon.”
Tell us some more about your team, who does what?
“We have an all-star team working on this product, it simply wouldn’t have got this far without them. Firstly there’s Patrick, he’s our amazingly talented in-house engineer who helped me put together the first prototype and continues to make modifications to every part of the product on a daily basis. Geoff looks after all of our commercial requirements – from the patent to our global CE approval, Geoff is responsible for making Roccbox pass every requirement needed to sell globally. Mike is our technical engineer who turns our radical ideas into feasible, machinable plans. We recently sent over 200 pages of technical documentation through to the factory in order to get our third prototypes made, without Mike, we’d have a huge gap between us and the manufacturing process. Rich takes care of the brand and our global marketing. I can’t forget Paul who helped us visualise the product in 3D before we ever made a prototype. Al is our in-house video guru, tasked with creating inspiring cooking videos and helping us to share the Roccbox story. Gerrard adapted our original burner to maximise it’s heat output and efficiency – Hey Gerrard! That’s not everyone, I feel bad for not mentioning them all here – Maybe we should do a post on each person?”
If you could go back two years is there anything you would do differently?
“I’ve learnt a lot about running big projects over the last two years but in hindsight, I would have probably only changed the way in which the project was managed slightly and I may have adjusted how we allocated resources to different aspects of the development. More money wouldn’t have accelerated anything though, I’m very particular and every detail had to be right. When you’re creating something new you have nothing to test it against so I believe it’s taken this long for good reason.”
You’re getting closer to the launch now, what are you most excited about and are you nervous about anything?
“The wood-fired trend has been on a continual rise for the last four years. The difference with Roccbox is that it’s global, affordable and a much quicker purchasing decision to make. I’m excited about everything to do with Roccbox, it’s been a labor of love for two years but if I had to pick one thing to be excited about, it’s got to be seeing what our customers create with it. Roccbox isn’t just a product, it opens up the art of high heat cookery to everyone – there’s the cultural/social benefits but mastering the craft is massively rewarding. I like the idea of friends and family getting together and being creative, that’s a beautiful thing.”
When is Roccbox going to be released?
“We’ve deliberately held back on sharing release dates and telling the Roccbox story because the truth is we can’t launch until the product is perfect. We have a lot of gearing-up to do at the factory, there is a lot of tooling to be made and a few final tweaks have to be re-prototyped this month. We’re currently finalising finishes and a few aesthetics but we’re also bringing in some new partners to ensure we can create enough units to keep the price point where we want it. It’ll be next year until launch but we have tested a production model and the results have surpassed all of our expectations, it’s very exciting…”