The Michelin star effect

One of the favourites parts of my strange little job is meeting chefs, quite often in their kitchens. I find professional kitchens fascinating and being able to meet chefs within their own environment is a real privilege.

I have been fortunate enough to meet in some of the worlds best restaurants. From tiny little hidden gems to the grandest of 3 Michelin starred kitchens, and have been in awe at the skills on display around me.

When meeting these chefs, the conversation naturally turns towards accolades and stars. Without fail, every chef I have spoken with will say that they aren’t cooking for stars, and without fail, every time I can’t help but think that they are kidding themselves.

The cachet attached to having a Michelin star (or two, or for the incredibly talented, three) is huge. They can make or break a business. I have spoken to many a chef who has told me that the phones ring almost constantly after being awarded a star.

I would consider a fine chef to be an artist, and very few artists also have great business minds. The restaurant industry is incredibly competitive and accolades come with marketing opportunites. These accolades really shouldn’t be sniffed it. Rosettes and stars help to fill restaurants.

In the U.K, restauranteurs are awaiting the news of this years Michelin reviews which are are made public on the 7th October. In a time where the country is going through a lot of uncertainty and where people may be forced to tighten their purse strings, these announcements are more important than ever.

So good luck to all those chefs and front of house staff who have worked incredibly long hours in an unbelievably difficult industry. You may not be cooking for stars, but you may just be about to experience the Michelin effect. My fingers are crossed for you all.

** update - News has just come in that one of our clients has been the first UK restaurant to receive a star this year. Alchemilla headed up by the brilliant Alex Bond is now a proud owner of its first star. Well deserved as Alex has a great pedigree and has made Alchemilla a very special place.

Making with minimal impact to the planet

Take a look around you, how much stuff do you have in your house that you actually use? If you are anything like me you will have a drawer in your kitchen, brimming with stuff. You may have a garage groaning with boxes of unused stuff, you may even have a room which you and your partner refer to as the ‘junk room’.

Clutter - everywhere.

I toddled through the eighties, grew up in the nineties and matured in the 00’s. During this time we have seen ad agencies finding more and more cunning ways to get us to part with our cash and fill our houses with unwanted stuff. I fell for it, hook line and sinker. The marketers dream.

Now that I make stuff, and maybe more so as I am a new father; I have been thinking a lot about the impact my making is having on the planet.

If we as worldwide society don’t buck up our ideas with regards to waste, we are in big trouble.

I am acutely aware that as a maker I am part of the problem, but I can make the decision to be a conscientious maker. If I can make a product that lasts forever and brings value to the user, I think I may be on the right side of the see-saw. Taking this a step further, if I can make a product that actually uses waste - it will give a positive impact on the planet.

So, over the past 12 months I have banned all single use plastics from the workshop. I am working with suppliers that have a firm understanding of their impact and are doing all they can to reduce that impact. All packaging used for shipping is made from 100% recycled and recyclable materials and I am experimenting with more and more recycled materials for my handles.

Each step I make will hopefully make a positive impact. I just hope more people are doing the same and that we aren’t too late.

Knives with handles made from recycled water bottles

Knives with handles made from recycled water bottles

Working whilst not being an absent father

The days of the father being the sole bread earner, spending the majority of his time away from his family are thankfully limited.

The modern man can now have his cake and eat it, a career and time spent with the family. This is down to a bunch of factors. Arguably, the Internet is the main reason why fathers, like myself, now have the freedom to work in a way which would have been unconventional just a decade ago.

The Internet allows me to work from my home studio, on my own schedule and with a worldwide reach. This has secured me clients in Singapore, the United States and beyond. Not only is the Internet my marketing director, it also functions as my retail manager, accountant and customer service assistant. It’s like magic. Time is a limited resource, so anything that saves me time and helps me scale is priceless.

Let’s be clear, whilst the Internet is great and it allows Chop Knives to grow, it doesn’t do the work. It doesn’t physically make product. I am not about to be replaced by a robot just yet.

So whilst I have the freedom to work on my own schedule, I still juggle with being a parent that is present whilst also providing for my family. Thankfully, my studio is located within my home so I am within nappy whiffing distance from my little sleep preventers.

This sounds like a dream but it does present a problem. Being so close to the twins does mean that I can get sucked into domestic life when I should be working. This requires discipline (and a very understanding and capable wife) and at times I struggle getting this balance right. I want to see the first steps, I want to help with the feeds and I want my children to know that papa is around.

The problem I have is the makers urge; the compulsion to make. There is also the fact that money needs to be made; but putting that aside, and even if I had unlimited money, I would still have the urge to make. It is this urge that keeps me awake at night, gets me rushing out of bed in the morning and is what I’m thinking about whenever my wife catches me staring into the distance. It’s a sickness which I hope there is no cure for.

So whilst I feel incredibly fortunate that we live in an age where this lifestyle is possible, it is still difficult. The temptation of a baby cuddle is just seconds away and the guilt of being absent can’t be fixed by the Internet or a new fangled app. I think the previous generation may think that us GenX/millennials have it easy, maybe we have.

We just have different struggles.

A baby monitor, just as important as the other machines in the workshop

A baby monitor, just as important as the other machines in the workshop