Tauranga-based Cherie Metcalfe, founder and CEO of popular and ever growing local food brand Pepper & Me, is proud to unveil her latest venture as one of the country’s leading food-entrepreneurs. This time, bringing handcrafted carbon steel knives to Aotearoa.
Like her much-loved collection of sauces, rubs, crumbs and sprinkles that have garnered a cult following of keen Kiwi foodies, Cain & Abel was born from a love of cooking.
“I’m so excited to bring these blades to New Zealand,” said Metcalfe, also the author of best-selling cookbook KEEPERS and founder of Kitco cast iron cookware.
“It’s time for stainless steel to take the back seat so Kiwis can experience the joys of a carbon steel knife.”
Set to equip Kiwi kitchens from Cape Reinga to Bluff, and beyond to Australia too, the brand officially launched this month bringing a sashimi knife, three santoku-style blades of varying lengths and a mineral knife oil to NZ from Vietnam where they are handcrafted by a local family business. Metcalfe has formed a great relationship with the small company, and not without a funny story or two to tell.
“One day we got a call from the owner whose boys had accidentally engraved our logo onto an American company's order... They now had 600 knives that they couldn't sell. He asked if I’d be interested in buying them and when I saw them, I had to laugh,” Metcalfe recalled fondly.
“I was looking at huge cleavers, butchers’ tools and sword-looking blades, alongside a wide range of other glorious knives. I knew it would be a massive hit for the company if we didn’t buy them. So we are now the proud owners of a pretty incredible range of weird and wonderful knives that we will also look to sell as seconds. It was the right thing to do!
“We have had the luxury of time with this brand. We found the right manufacturer whose values aligned with ours and have always prioritised our people along the way, making sure everyone who works with Cain & Abel is happy and looked after.”
Made from spring steel recycled from cars and trucks, each Cain & Abel knife is handmade and hammered with precision over a hot outdoor fire. There are no machines, no factories and no mass production - every single blade has its own unique beauty. Discarded automotive parts are a very good source of knife steel, usually made from 5160 carbon steel and often used to great effect by expert knife-makers when creating highly-desirable custom designs. Although commonly overshadowed by it, carbon steel is stronger than stainless steel and can be sharpened to an extremely high standard edge.
The brand has also worked closely with local knife expert Kensuki of Japan Sharpening Service in Mount Maunganui who polishes and sharpens each knife to peak condition.
“Ken has been wonderful to work alongside. He believes in carbon steel as much as I do. We know it might be tricky to get people to follow the care instructions and not put their knives in the dishwasher but if they make the effort, their blades will last a lifetime, be a whole heap easier to sharpen and hold a better edge.”
Cain & Abel knives are made for Kiwis who are passionate about food and take cooking seriously, investing time and care into their kitchen routines and rituals.
“If you’re willing to sharpen and take care of your knives, then carbon steel is where it’s at, and it only gets better with time,” Metcalfe continued.
Assessing their environmental impact has also been a critical part of the process, the brand ensuring they were doing the best they could for the planet at each point of the journey, all whilst delivering the best product possible. Cain & Abel is proud to have recyclable and plastic-free packaging, all the way down to the paper tape used on shipping boxes.
The Cain & Abel team have a passion for cooking, but that’s a bold understatement when it comes to their love of the culinary world. They believe in the power of shared food experiences and the deeper values surrounding cooking, and this is what drives Metcalfe’s desire to source finely crafted tools for Kiwis to use.
“It's been a process, but we have made it to the finish line and are so excited to share our knives with New Zealand.”