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John Boos & Co.

Apr 28, 2017 Art, Pottery & Jewelry

Most cutting-edge technologies become obsolete within a year, let alone a century.

Yet in the Central Illinois town of Effingham, a product created more than 125 years ago is still considered the finest of its kind in the world. A granddaddy of American manufacturing, John Boos & Co. practically founded the cutting-block industry back in 1887, and its flagship product, the Boos Block®, remains the world’s most sophisticated cutting surface over a century after its creation.

Back then, founder Conrad Boos would harvest sycamore from wooded areas around Effingham, process it at his sawmill, then bring it to his blacksmith shop for finishing. A local butcher admired Conrad’s inventive design and realized he could use one in his meat market. Seeing an opportunity to craft a legacy, Conrad's son, John, adapted the idea and created the original Boos cutting board.

Today, Boos uses millions of board-feet lumber per year. Each board takes up to three days to individually craft from sustainably harvested North American hard-rock maple. The telegenic design has brought Boos Boards front and center on popular cooking shows hosted by chefs including Bobby Flay and Emeril Lagasse, while the impeccable craftsmanship makes them a commonplace tool in five-star restaurants around the world.

In Chicago, home of the annual James Beard Awards, top chefs rely on Boos Boards to create beautiful presentations for their guests—including up-and-coming chef Mark Sabbe, who plans to use Boos exclusively at his newest restaurant, Marchesa. You’ll even find Boos in the farmhouse kitchen of Kate Middleton in Anglesey, Wales, where the Duchess has been seen using her Boos cutting block to make jam and prepare Prince William’s favorite roast chicken. Even Britain's royalty swears by Illinois Made.

Started just 26 years after Lincoln’s inauguration, John Boos & Co. has been an Effingham staple for generations, and its legacy of craftsmanship is ingrained in every plant worker who grew up there. When the tendrils of smoke roll off a John Boos branding iron, what’s left is the pride that this is something folks are going to have in their kitchens for the rest of their lives. 

Visit the John Boos & Co. showroom to see stories about the chefs using Boos products. Tours and demonstrations are available upon request, though the showroom itself is open to the public every day except Sundays and holidays. 

Discover more Illinois Artisans at Illinois Made.

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