Cowboy Cauldron – C&I Magazine


Fire, food, and the human need to come together gave Mike Bertelsen the idea to create Cowboy Cauldron.

WHumans have much more in common with ants than you might think.

Harvard University biologist EO Wilson, who has studied ants for decades, concluded that one aspect of their social behavior was largely related to having a defensible nest – a fun fact you might want to know. learn by talking to Mike Bertelsen, owner of luxury fireplace maker Cowboy cauldron company.

“Humans acquired a defensible nest when they mastered the art of fire,” says Bertelsen, who grew up in Utah enjoying the outdoors, hunting, and, presumably, encountering many ants. He studied Wilson because he was intrigued by how fire brought humans together.

When people use their Cowboy Cauldron, it’s called a burn, says company owner Mike Bertelsen. The word is both a noun and a verb, used as a rallying cry for friends to gather around the fire.

“All our behaviors [are] based on the type of communication that occurs around a fire, ”says Bertelsen. “In any situation where a group of people organize themselves to have a conversation, they form as close a circle as possible, whether in a living room or around a dining table. ”

For Bertelsen, face-to-face interaction is so important that he’s built an entire business around bringing people together. Its circle is right around a cauldron, filled with, you guessed it, fire.

Growing up, Bertelsen, like many children, liked to play with fire. He was also an avid hunter who loved to cook what he caught. His eventual career path – law school followed by a move to Washington, DC, to become a lobbyist for the mutual fund industry – took him away from the outdoor lifestyle he was used to, but its western roots have remained. Living in Virginia near Mount Vernon, he obtained permission to bow hunt and fish on the grounds of George Washington’s historic home.

His work as a liaison with the Senate in Washington was “essentially entertaining for a living,” which involved frequently welcoming friends, colleagues and other influential guests to his home and cooking an excellent meal for the occasion. After ruining the family grill that had been a housewarming gift from his mother-in-law by setting fires right in the base, Bertelsen had to take honing his live-fire skills seriously.

At a Christmas celebration in Mount Vernon, Bertelsen was inspired when he saw a colonial heating brazier, and the idea of ​​Cowboy Cauldron began to take shape. He sourced the steel and finalized his design to create a structure large and sturdy enough to function well as a fire pit and grill, while still being beautiful, clean, and able to help entertain his sophisticated political guests.

The result was very successful.

“In politics,” says Bertelsen, “people have two very disparate psyches: they have their personal lives, and then they have their professional lives. They keep the two very carefully forked. But around the fire, these guards are abandoned, and a level of trust evolves, especially over time. The wonderful dynamic of the Cauldron was that it became a kind of sacred space for everyone.

This human impact has helped fuel Cowboy Cauldron’s mission since then.

“The Cauldron allows people to organize themselves in a circle, to look into each other’s eyes and to be both side by side and face to face. In this context, a real social interaction takes place, ”says Bertelsen. “Cowboy Cauldron allows people – especially in this fleeting, disposable digital age – to interact on a very real or personal human basis, and I think that’s important. “

Sstarting a pot making business was not really Bertelsen’s business plan. But he was fed up with DC’s political pressure cooker and wanted to raise his children in an environment like the one he enjoyed as a child. So he and his family left Washington and went back to Utah. There he continued to foster friendships and community around his cauldron, and he eventually gave in to the constant begging of his friends for replicas. The rumor spread and friends of friends started asking for them. Eventually Bertelsen decided to go for it and start a business. It was 2008, but things really took off in 2010, when the Cauldron made the cover of a culinary gift catalog in Napa, California.

Initially there were two models of cauldrons, both built by hand from solid steel plates: a large model called “The Ranch Boss” and a much smaller model called “The Urban Cowboy”. To meet growing demand and be able to offer a more complete range of options, the company has since released other models, “The Wrangler” and the latest (and smaller), “The Dude”.

“Anyone who sees a cauldron loves it and wants one, but the bigger ones are big enough, and not everyone has room in their backyard to keep one,” says Bertelsen. “Before, size was kind of a limiting factor.” But with the addition of “The guy, this is no longer a problem. “” The Dude “goes down; it has segmented legs, so it can go in your car, at the beach, or in your condo’s storage unit. You can set it up by the pool in an apartment for a party, then take it apart or take it to a friend’s house, whatever. So, I feel really good about expanding the ability of most people to be able to use live shots in their lives. “

Along with their quick set up and take down, extreme durability, and height adjustable basin, pots are versatile whether people are cooking or just getting together. When people use their cauldron it is called a to burn. The word is both a noun and a verb, used as a rallying cry for friends to gather around the fire.

“We really don’t sell fire fighting equipment,” says Bertelsen. “We sell the hosting experience. Some people just burn them. Not everyone is greedy. Not everyone can cook on the fire, but overall the Cauldron is changing the way people have fun. It changes the way they use their garden. They also tend to sprout: if someone has a cauldron, soon all of their friends have one too.

The great thing about the Cauldron that makes it different, he says, is that it’s nice and clean. “When you’re done the next day you don’t have a pile of burnt logs and blackened stones in your yard. You have a sculpture that is as beautiful as it was before you used it. And there is much of the seasonal extension of your outdoor life. You can snuggle up under the cauldron and be toasty warm on a very cold day or night. You can interact and you can cook.

Although cauldrons are used in many commercial environments, such as hotels and resorts, Bertelsen likes people to choose them for their own backyard because it is so personal. Customer feedback has been gratifying. “People love them. Our customers are becoming fanatics. I get phone calls and emails from people all over the world showing pictures of what they are doing with their cauldron.

Having been a lawyer and lobbyist with an impressive resume that goes hand in hand with his former career, Bertelsen takes pride in the fact that with the Cowboy Cauldron he has created something tangible. “When we are done with a day’s work, there are physical items that are of value to people,” he says. “I think the most memorable piece for me was very early on when someone came up to me and said, ‘This thing is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. I want to buy you one. I was like, “Well, you know what, if this person who works hard for their money wants to spend it on something that I do, then that has to be the best I can do.”

For more information on Cowboy Cauldron, visit the website at

From our October 2021 issue

Photography: (All images) courtesy Cowboy cauldron

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