Martha Stewart illustration.jpg

Talk about pressure cooking!

My wife, Eve, has a hard act to follow when she next roasts a chicken or bakes muffins. We just had a beautiful, gently used Maytag stainless steel double oven expertly installed in the wall of our Westport kitchen.

Its previous owner, a former Westport resident, ironically, did some rather successful baking in it in New York — Martha Stewart. Eve’s baked and broiled dishes have been enjoyed by friends and family on a regular basis. Martha’s? They’ve wowed millions on her various TV cooking shows over the years.

So how’d we end up with her oven? Funny you should ask …

Like most homeowners, we had our house inspected before buying it in 1996. It passed, but the inspector cautioned that the appliances, while working, were sub-par, and would likely have to be replaced soon. Almost 22 years later he was right about one. Gee, how’d he know?

Our built-in, Allegro-model gas oven conked out. It wasn’t the first time. Three years earlier it was on the fritz, but all it needed then was a new igniter. Michael Jordan (not that one), owner of REO Appliances in Norwalk, did the job.

Jordan returned to our home recently for what we thought would be the same fix. No luck. The igniter did again need replacing, but this time there was also a small hole found in the burner valve. The oven was a goner.

Normally no big deal, except the space in the wall was small width-wise, barely 25 inches or so, limiting our choices, with a height of several feet to accommodate a microwave. Jordan then said something encouraging, if a bit bizarre.

“I don’t believe it, but there is someone in New Canaan with a gas oven they can’t use that I think might fit here,” he said. “It was Martha Stewart’s.”

Come again?

“I was just over there,” he said. “The homeowner is doing a kitchen renovation. He already had the oven. One problem. It’s a gas oven and he doesn’t have gas. He didn’t realize it was a gas oven.”

Jordan called the homeowner, Jim Goebel, to get the oven’s exact measurements. Bingo! It would fit.

So how and why did Goebel, a tall, affable, longtime Fairfield County home builder, have an oven he couldn’t use that had been Martha Stewart’s?

“My daughter used to work in marketing for the Martha Stewart Living magazine in the city,” he said. “She called us one day about two years ago and said they’re dismantling the studio kitchens there. I guess Martha Stewart used to have TV shows where she’d cook up something in the oven.”

Stewart’s employees were given first crack at buying the almost-new appliances for significant discounts.

“I drove my Suburban to the loading dock in New York, and they had quite a few appliances there, including a couple of ovens, all with price tags,” Goebel said. “This oven cost $250. It’s a 24-inch, which is an unusually small double oven. Most are 30 or 36 inches. It looked practically new when we got it. It’s been sitting in our garage for a while. I didn’t meet Martha Stewart, by the way. In fact, I don’t think my daughter ever even met her.”

Fast-forward to when Jordan was at Goebel’s house.

“Michael came out to look at our refrigerator, and we had him take a look at the oven,” Goebel said. “He told us it was gas. So we said, ‘Oh well, that’s $250 down the drain.’ He called back an hour later and said, ‘Do you still have the gas oven?’

It would take some doing and scheduling before Eve could follow Martha. Goebel was kind enough to deliver the oven to us. I gave him the $250 he’d paid for it, so he was happy to be even. Jordan had to convert the oven from natural gas to propane. Then Matt Reith, REO’s top installer, and his son Matt Jr. spent several hours removing the old oven, preparing the empty space, adding some thin wood for a perfect fit, switching out the old gas line for a new one, and finally moving and securing Martha’s ex-oven into the wall.

We tested it out at 350 degrees. Within no time, two long, beautiful rows of blue flames appeared. “You made out like a fat rat,” Jordan said.

This article appeared in the November 2018 issue of Connecticut Magazine.You can can subscribe here, or find the current issue on sale here.