Weekend hobbyRoss-Harris, who originally studied design engineering, came across a process online for folding different steels together, and started experimenting with making kitchen knives.
Around the forgeWhen I meet Ross-Harris in person, he looks exactly as one might imagine a blacksmith, complete with a slight dusting of soot. He gives me a tour of the forge, and shows me some of the company’s more unusual orders, including a “noodle knife” – which looks like a clothes iron and is used to chop and separate noodles – and a “tuna sword” – a long, slightly curved blade for slicing off flesh from large fish. While these and the other knives look incredible, I ask why they come with such a hefty price tag – given that you can buy a complete set of “chef’s knives” from Amazon for £55. “With knives, there’s a trade-off between durability, ease of care, and the way it performs,” Ross-Harris explains. “People do need to understand what they’re buying into – it’s a precision tool and needs to be treated in a certain way. But if you understand that then you can get a great knife which will massively outperform any mass-produced blade.”
More than meets the eye
While the UK’s dining scene is going through a downturn – it was just last month that Jamie Oliver’s restaurant empire collapsed into administration – this hasn’t impacted Blenheim Forge. In fact, its products are increasingly popular with chefs, and it has become a trend to collect high-quality knives from a range of producers. “More young chefs are getting into buying fancy knives. Three or four years ago, the idea of spending over £100 on a knife, even to a lot of chefs, would have been a fairly alien concept. They were used to just buying plastic handled stainless-steel blades that were disposable. Now, people are much less shocked by it and much more familiar with the idea of spending money on a really high quality blade, especially young chefs. “There’s a huge amount of variation within kitchen knives – something that to the untrained eye can look quite similar to one another. Young chefs want to get a range of knives and build a collection. Within the restaurant trade, it’s picking up for us all the time.” Read more: That’s a wrap! Tortilla’s boss, Richard Morris, talks about the business of burritos