Keep­ing cooks sharp

Adam Sweet is us­ing his kitchen ex­pe­ri­ence in hand­crafted knife busi­ness

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - BUSINESS - BY DAVE STE­WART dstew­art@the­guardian.pe.ca Twit­ter.com/DveSte­wart

A Char­lot­te­town busi­ness­man is try­ing to help chefs and home cooks stay sharp in the kitchen.

Adam Sweet, 36, was look­ing for a new chal­lenge af­ter spend­ing sev­eral years as a chef.

Sweet, a na­tive of Fredericton, N.B., thinks he’s found his niche sell­ing hand­crafted Ja­panese knives out of a bou­tique shop called The Cook’s Edge. It sup­plies high-end prod­ucts to pro­fes­sional chefs and home cooks look­ing to out­fit their workspace with the high­est qual­ity kitchen tools avail­able.

“I needed a new chal­lenge,’’ Sweet says. “A lot of th­ese knife shops have been pop­ping up around North Amer­ica so I thought ‘Why not try one here in Char­lot­te­town’? We don’t have any place where you can get good knives on the Is­land. No one is sharp­en­ing them in town by hand, so I thought I would give it a try.’’

Ja­panese knives are crafted us­ing cen­turies old tech­nique and tra­di­tion. The high qual­ity of th­ese prod­ucts make the knives the favourable choice among chefs to with­stand the de­mands of a pro­fes­sional kitchen set­ting.

Sweet started out in the restau­rant busi­ness as a cook when he was 19 years old, mov­ing when a friend of­fered him a job at a steak­house in Cal­gary.

“I re­al­ized that cook­ing was some­thing that came nat­u­rally to me.’’

So, he en­rolled in an ap­pren­tice­ship pro­gram at the South­ern Al­berta In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy. That led to an­other job work­ing with a chef who used hand­crafted Ja­panese knives.

“He taught me how to sharpen knives and how to care for them.’’

Three years later Sweet moved on, work­ing at a Cal­gary ho­tel for the next five years be­fore open­ing a restau­rant with an­other busi­ness­man.

Sweet spent 14 years in the restau­rant busi­ness be­fore mov­ing back to P.E.I., lend­ing a hand in launch­ing Terre Rouge Bistro Marche on Queen Street in Char­lot­te­town.

Two years later, Sweet said it was time for a change and de­cided to go into the knives busi­ness, open­ing The Cook’s Edge in Novem­ber.

Mike Clarke, the head chef at Terre Rouge, is one of his cus­tomers.

“It is in­stru­men­tal to have some­one be so close and so knowl­edge­able about knives,’’ Clarke says. “I bought a cou­ple of knives from Adam and I use them. It to­tally changes ev­ery­thing in the kitchen. A lot of it has to do with his knife sharp­en­ing skills as well.’’

Clarke said a sharp knife is vi­tal in the kitchen, ex­plain­ing that food won’t taste as good if the chef uses a dull knife.

“It’s dam­ag­ing to cut with a dull knife.’’

Sweet’s knives retail any­where from $89 to $500, per knife. His in­ven­tory in­cludes Shun, Kikuichi, Takeda, To­jiro and Fujimoto. All knives are sharp­ened in the shop us­ing whet­stones and leather strops. The shop also of­fers kitchen ap­parel, tools, car­ry­ing cases and sharp­en­ing equip­ment like ce­ramic rods and stone hold­ers.

“A sharp knife will re­tain tex­ture, taste and vis­ual ap­peal. Dull knives can also slip and lead to in­jury and smash your food apart,’’ Sweet said.

The Cook’s Edge is a one-man op­er­a­tion now, but Sweet hopes to ex­pand if things go well. His vi­sion in­cludes a store­front lo­ca­tion and maybe some em­ploy­ees.

Clarke says be­ing able to drop knives off to get sharp­ened and pick them up or sim­ply hold a new knife as op­posed to look­ing at pic­tures on­line is a big plus.

“You can’t re­ally put a price on how valu­able that is,’’ Clarke said.

Sweet hopes that by first sharp­en­ing his skills in the kitchen, he’s now ready to help cooks find their own edge.

DAVE STE­WART/THE GUARDIAN

Adam Sweet opened The Cook’s Edge on Syd­ney Street in Char­lot­te­town, near the cor­ner of Syd­ney and Pow­nal Streets, in Novem­ber. Af­ter spend­ing the first 14 years of his ca­reer cook­ing in the kitchen, Sweet de­cided to go into busi­ness for him­self and opened the bou­tique.

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