From Chef to Knife Sharpener: Why Knifewear Hires So Many Cooks
March 07, 20234 min read
At Knifewear, we frequently hire former chefs and kitchen staff to work with us. We’ve always said that chefs are the backbone of our business, and in the shops, over half our staff have experience working in restaurants! “Why?” I hear you ask: let me tell you:
Knifewear’s founder and chief knife nerd, Kevin Kent, comes from a chef background and understands the struggle of working in a busy kitchen. While being a gratifying career, it can be hard on one’s mental and physical health. Chefs often work long hours and hardly see the sunlight. They sacrifice most of their time with loved ones to feed the masses, and when the holidays roll around, and most people are making time for their families, chefs are working overtime to keep up with demand during one of the rare times that restaurants actually become profitable. Folks who last in the industry are transformed into (or perhaps always were) some of the most driven and hardworking people in the world. People used to having mere minutes in a day to eat, people who keep going, even when their tank is empty after a long rush. Kitchen staff are among the most resilient workers out there, but after a decade or two of service, even some of the toughest chefs feel burned out and ready for a change of pace.
Many kitchen staff (falsely) believe they aren’t good for anything except cooking. In reality, they can accomplish any task given to them quickly, efficiently, and thoroughly. We’re a creative bunch, always problem-solving and teaching ourselves new skills. I doubt many chefs have gone to school for HVAC or mechanics, but I’ve seen them fix a condenser or stand mixer with the confidence of an experienced tradesperson. Many skills translate to other career paths, one of the most important being the ability to multitask and keep track of many things simultaneously. A chef is constantly keeping track of what needs to go on each plate, how many orders are stacking up, the timing of each component of a dish, and the next order coming through from the front-of-house staff. Outside of service, they’re balancing a schedule, product spoilage, ordering, new menu items, and a dozen other tasks at once. If a chef can survive all of that stress and organization, they’ll become an individual who can sharpen knives while helping customers and remember the endless facts and data about the various blacksmiths, steels, and products we work with.
We also bring some solid knife skills to the table, and our 'Cut Like a Chef Class' was born many years ago to share this knowledge with home cooks!
Kitchen staff underestimate just how good their memory is, but they’re constantly memorizing recipes, recalling what’s on order or what ingredients are in season. This helps tremendously when remembering the “recipe” of a knife: the type of steel in the blade, the wood the handle is made of, and the essential details and stories about the folks who made it. Being able to recall this information is a huge deal; we work with so many different blacksmiths and companies that it’s essential to have a good memory when you work at Knifewear. Between being able to memorize vast amounts of information, balance different tasks, and creatively problem-solve, many cooks and chefs are well-prepared for the world of retail.
The most important part of working at Knifewear is understanding customer service and being able to make someone’s day: everyone leaves happier than when they arrived. We strive to create a positive, fun, inclusive environment for anyone who walks in the door. We’re nerds about knives, and we want to share that with everyone, making new friends in the process. Many of the folks visiting us are kitchen staff, and many of our employees were customers first when they used to be cooks and chefs. Being able to interact with people that love food, professional or otherwise, is essential, so who better but the people who love food so much they decided to make it a career! Cooks and chefs may not be the most extroverted people in the restaurant scene, but they’re honest, fun, and a great hang. Kitchen staff aren’t afraid to show people who they are under the layers of tattoos and oil burns. The product of staff with no fear of being themselves is a genuine, truthful retail experience when you walk into one of our stores. Honest people that will help you find what you actually need instead of simply trying to sell you the most expensive thing in the store. Being on the other side of the counter from an actual human makes the experience that much more enjoyable for everyone and allows Knifewear to become precisely the kind of shop we’d want to hang out in!
Despite typically being in the back of house, we know how to entertain and make folks laugh!
As a former chef, Kevin knew the hardships that cooks and chefs face and wanted to create a positive environment for us. Everyone at Knifewear is paid a living wage, including health benefits, above-and-beyond bonuses, and even have profit-sharing options! It’s a welcome change, and many a former cook has been able to have a more stable foundation as a result, having the time and resources to build a family or pursue their dreams. Our love of food and knives draws us to Knifewear, and many of us have stuck around for years, learning and growing. Chefs and cooks are always welcome in our stores, and if you’re currently working in a kitchen and looking for a change, we might just be a great fit for you, too!
Meet Jacob! While bouncing around national parks and the west coast of Canada, one thing remained constant for him, his love of Barbecue. If you see him, feel free to ask him anything smoking related, because he loves a good brisket. Hailing from Calgary, Jacob came back from his adventures to be closer to family, and to go to marketing school. His love of food and sharp things eventually landed him a job at the Inglewood location, where they needed someone to reach stuff off the top shelf. If you see him, you’ll be greeted with a smile and wave, and he’s happy to help you find something that fits you perfectly!
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