WHEN TALENTED PROFESSIONALS TALK, WE LISTEN.
The kitchen is at the cross-roads of every family’s daily routine. Whether passing through for a morning coffee or gathering to prepare a holiday meal, people make the kitchen the heart of the home.
WHJ profiles two businesses that design, equip, and elevate the most used room in the house. Meet La Cuisine, Bozeman’s French-inspired kitchen store and culinary classroom, and Cooper Pacific Kitchens Big Sky, a full-service kitchen and cabinetry design studio.
Tina Cusker, Owner
La Cuisine is Bozeman’s French-inspired kitchen store and culinary classroom and is owned by native Montanans Brett and Tina Cusker. The showroom features Montana artisan goods for kitchen and dining, as well as premier European products sourced from the Cuskers’ seven years of living in and traveling around Europe. La Cuisine partners with local chefs, caterers, and restaurants to deliver weekly cooking classes in their shop’s second-floor commercial kitchen. Through cooking together, La Cuisine strives to build personal relationships in its own kitchen while also sharing culinary skills so that cooking enthusiasts are confident to invite others to their own tables.
What services do you offer?
We offer products for kitchen and dining to including dinnerware, cookware, small electrics, textiles, and table décor. Whether you’re outfitting a new kitchen or seeking to upgrade existing items, we want to help you find high-quality, long-lasting, and elegant pieces you will cherish for many years to come. In addition to our retail store, we have a commercial kitchen where we host weekly cooking classes led by local professional chefs, open to both the general public and for private events.
What geographic areas do you serve?
Our brick-and-mortar store is available to support any clients living in or visiting the Gallatin Valley. Additionally, our online store serves customers all around the nation.
What is your professional background?
I spent about 25 years in the K-12 education space, most recently, five years as a professor in the College of Education training new K-12 educators. A personal passion is cooking and entertaining. When I decided on a career change, it had to include both parts of my life—cooking and teaching. My husband and I raised our family while he served for 25 years in the U.S. Air Force. Our life of living overseas for eight years, seven of them in Europe, led us to appreciate a world view for cuisine, culture, and quality kitchen goods.
How do you give back to the community?
As a veteran family, we are proud to use this business to give back to our fellow veteran families. For eight couples twice a year, we partner with a local chef to deliver a complimentary cooking class that is part of a very elegant four- to five-course dinner. Whether retired, reserve, active duty, or surviving spouse, any veteran can receive an invitation to this special event as we raise awareness and say thank you for the sacrifices of the entire military family.
When did you know that you wanted to go into this field and what motivated you?
COVID motivated me. It was time for me to leave the education space and I knew that when our nation, and truly our world, attempted to divide and separate us, people would, in turn, be seeking shared experiences and fulfillment through relationships. That is the nature of human beings! As families learned to again cook and eat together at home, I recognized the gap in our community for a kitchen store.
What inspires you?
The kindness and generosity of the Bozeman business community is very inspiring. Our chef and artisan partners make our mission possible and we are so humbled and grateful for all their support and collaboration. We feel blessed to be able to cross-promote their businesses through our work and together build a stronger community.
What projects are you most excited about right now?
Our cooking classes have been extremely popular and truly a ton of fun! We are working on developing a VIP program for our loyal customers to be able to offer exclusive goods and services as a way of saying thank you for their continued support.
Do you have favorite products you prefer or are known for?
The very first line from Europe we selected was Zwilling JA Henckels—also known as the family of brands to include Staub, Miyabi, Ballarini, and Demeyere. The Staub enamelized cast iron braisers and Dutch ovens are incredibly popular and we feel are far superior in the marketplace. That said, USA-made Smithey cast iron and carbon steel cookware is phenomenal and equally popular. Italian and Portuguese dinnerware, French linens and salt & pepper mills, German blown glassware, and linens grown and woven in Ukraine are also incredibly popular. Whether shopping for yourself or gifts, you certainly can’t beat all of our Montana-made specialty food products and cutting boards!
How did you get your start?
La Cuisine is a labor of love, 100% launched from nothing. While we certainly gained inspiration from our travels and living in large cities around the U.S., we started with the basics of a blank business plan and a lot of market research. Once we found a space we could purchase, we designed the business around the space, making very intentional decisions about a home-like décor for both the store and the kitchen. We want our customers to visualize themselves in their own homes, inviting others in to share experiences and life together.
What do you enjoy most about living and working where you do?
We have lived in six U.S. states and three foreign countries. I lost count a long time ago on all the distinct countries and cities we have visited. Even though the world is vast and we’ve been blessed to enjoy a large part of it, Montana was, and always will be, home. Military families often don’t know where to retire. We always knew Montana would be the place to live, work, and share time with our extended families and, especially, our son who also chose Montana as his home.
Cooper Pacific Kitchens, Big Sky
Steven Cooper, Owner
Steven Cooper is the Principal Designer and Owner of Cooper Pacific Kitchens, a third-generation design firm specializing in luxury kitchen spaces for over 35 years. With an emphasis on seamless functionality, unique materials, quality product specifications, and thoughtful and precise details, Cooper Pacific provides one-of-a-kind kitchens for industry-leading architects, interior designers, and private residences. Under the leadership of Steven Cooper, Cooper Pacific Kitchens expands into Montana, bringing its decades of experience, talented staff, and fresh approach to the Big Sky State.
What services do you offer?
We are a full-service kitchen and cabinetry design studio. We create and design the working areas of the home including kitchens, closets, baths, mud rooms, and utility areas. Once the space design is complete, we work with specialized artisans and ateliers to build the space and complete the full-service experience with installation by Cooper Pacific craftsmen.
How did you get started in your field?
For me, design has always been a part of my DNA. I have been involved in this field since I was 14 years old and have worked at Cooper Pacific since I was 19! My dad was a custom home builder in southern Minnesota where I grew up. I kept the books, worked odd jobs as a teen on his new home builds, and found myself truly fascinated with the designs and plans for the projects. I studied them for fun and fully out of curiosity. We all moved to California when I was 19 and I helped him start our kitchen design studio once I had graduated university and we continue as a third-generation family-owned design firm.
What geographic areas do you serve?
Our relationship with architectural and design firms often takes us around the globe to execute a project. While most of our projects are in the U.S., we have worked with clients in Montreal, Paris, Beirut, Tokyo, Singapore, and Sydney.
Why Big Sky?
After Los Angeles, we launched our Big Sky location in the heart of Town Center. With projects currently at Yellowstone Club, the growth of the Big Sky construction industry offers great business opportunities of course, but the people in the community have attracted us as well. They are so welcoming, down-to-earth, and, at the same time, sophisticated and worldly. These are many of the same values I grew up with in the Midwest. We are so excited for the opportunities and growth in one of the most beautiful places in the world.
How do you see your field changing in the next five to ten years?
I’m seeing a shift toward greater formality in design with the reemergence of butler’s pantries, sculleries, and built-in wet bars. Permanent wellness and workspaces have also become a natural part of a home’s design. Many clients are dedicating room for home gyms that are not only functional, but incorporate material, colors, and finishes used in the rest of the home. A dedicated workspace helps drive creativity and promote maximum productivity.
Appliance technologies are changing rapidly, digital cooking assistants are now a part of most luxury appliances, and I can see that AI will predictably become a part of a future feature set.
What makes you laugh?
My goldendoodle Margaux. It’s her world; I just live in it! She’s an adorable goof and makes me laugh every day.
Describe your process.
From initial design to final install, we offer turnkey services on each project. Starting an in-depth relationship building process allows us to design and deliver the dream. We are meticulous about the details of not only design, but also project management and support the onsite contracting crews with all the detailed and coordination they need for our design and installations. Our on-staff installation teams are true craftspeople, helping to ensure an exquisite finish to a Cooper Pacific experience.
What other specialties do you have?
While kitchens are at the heart of our company, we specialize in cabinetry for all rooms throughout the home. With that approach, we can effectively create an entire palette of finishes and materials that make sense as a whole.
Do you have a style you prefer?
I think my best work involves a mix of materials as finish elements. That is where the magic happens.
I love mixing different, unexpected materials together in fresh new ways. We are a different kind of design house in that we work with traditional,
transitional, and contemporary styles. Because of this flexibility we have been able to transition into the Big Sky community seamlessly.
What makes the difference between a good house and a great house?
A good house checks off generic boxes. A great house has nuance and endless hours of work behind its design. A great house evokes emotional response, puts you at ease without knowing quite why, makes you and your guests feel welcome, and moves you through the house with purpose. Every design choice should either have a necessary purpose or add to the overall aesthetic. In a great house if it doesn’t fit into those two categories, then leave it out.
What words do people use to describe your work?
Smartly designed and well-executed kitchens that work intuitively in a way that fits our habits and lifestyle. Thoughtful and creative use of materials with fine details made with the highest quality in workmanship.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
I enjoy working collaboratively with architects, builders, and interior designers. Together we create beautiful, inspired spaces through personalized attention to detail. Creating a special home unlike any other can be challenging, which is a welcome endeavor for me. It inspires me to be a part of those special projects that push the limits. When a challenging project is completed, we’ve elevated something that could be considered “ordinary” to something that is “extraordinary.”
What places in the world do you find most inspirational?
Italy. Everything about exploring in Italy is a wonderful indulgence for me. The people live life passionately amongst some of the best classical architecture you can find. Italy is vibrant and so historical, and it makes me happy whenever I have the chance to visit.