Sharpening House

March 4, 2009

Sharpening House

Knife Sharpening Master: Sean Shib

This skilled gentleman hails from Japan, where he apprenticed and learned his fine craft. Having worked for Shun, he understands carbon steel blades.

He will sharpen 5 blades for $20.00 in 1 to 2 hours turn around time, based on how busy he is.

He can handle all sorts of blades, serrated or straight. He also carries and impressive selection of fine, carbon steel, Japanese knives.

5331 W. Boulevard (37 & Arbutus)
Vancouver, B.C.
604.266.2656

Hours of Operation: 10:30 am to 5:00 pm- Monday to Saturday

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With high fuel costs, an unsteady global economy and food security issues on everyone’s mind, community is going to be a primary means for humans to continue to thrive in our changing world. Gone are the days of cheap transport, and it seems as though global food corporations who deliver us chemical-laden foods from half-way across the world are on their way out, too. These multinationals look to make high profits at the expense of 3rd world farmers; all so we can have a really cheap banana in the morning.

The reality is, we can no longer go down this path as it is destructive to our economy and, potentially and more importantly, to our health. Community empowerment and support of local farmers and markets is a much more productive way to do business in a world that is so big, it must break off into smaller groups to be successful.

In a progressive and socially conscious area such as BC, many local businesses exist not only on their own, but as part of community networks where everyone can succeed. No business better exemplifies the potential of this model than Spud! Organic Delivery Service.

Spud! has a presence in a few major cities in the US and Canada, and their local model is gaining more traction and exposure all the time! Spud forges relationships with local farmers, food artisans and shops to provide its customers with the freshest, safest and most responsible food available. This model helps the community get in touch with where their food comes from, an important step in realizing the importance of small-scale agriculture and reliance on local products for the benefit of everyone in the community.

Spud! offers produce that is “certified organic, and free of chemicals and pesticides. More than 50% of our groceries are also certified organic. The rest are more than fine, too. No nasty surprises. We read the labels so you don’t have to.” They acquire food from local sources (as much as they can) and have a fleet of delivery trucks that operate on an area-specific schedule. They say that one truck each delivery day will replace a whole supermarket full of parking lots, and they’re probably right!

Safe food, locally produced, and a reduced carbon footprint. AND you don’t even have to leave your home as they will come to you! A wonderful example of how a network of individuals can come together for the benefit of everyone. Hmmm…sounds a little bit like Industry Blender to me ;o)

For more information, please visit https://www.spud.ca

Grocery delivery businesses have become increasingly popular Vancouver over the past few years, especially those offering organic produce.  A few of these businesses include Spud!, Stong’s Market (not exclusively a delivery outfit), Organics@Home and Green Earth Organics.  Haven’t having tried the former three, I would like to talk about the one I did sampled, Green Earth Organics.

The company was started in Vancouver and expanded to Toronto.  How it works is Green Earth Organics makes available a number of different produce options, of which some items come as part of a standard “bin” package and some are customizable.  In Vancouver, we have the advantage of a favourable climate which allows for a lot of fresh, local produce options (relative to Canada) year-round.  These selections include white button mushrooms, red beets, Asian pears and granny smith apples.  Here’s an example of this week’s bin, which is advertised as a portion for one and costs $27:
3 Gala Apples (BC), 1 field cucumber, 1 tomato, 2 navel oranges (CA), 1 green chard (CA), 1 romaine lettuce, 1lb banana, 1lb yellow onion (WA), 1 Star Ruby Grapefruit, 1lb red chieftain potatoes (BC), 1lb carrots.

They also offer medium bins which include a few more selections for $35 and are geared towards couples.  The family bins are $46 and include additional selections such as red beets, Oranghetti squash and white sweet potatoes.  The bin is a plastic Tupperware-esq tote and is available with a $20 deposit.  They switch out your bin every week or two weeks, depending on the requested frequency of your delivery.  In addition to produce, cleaning products, breads and cereals, and snacks are also available, which can be viewed upon creating an account which Green Earth Organics uses to manage your delivery schedule and payments.

I researched the company and discovered they employ a collection of very smart and cost-effective marketing strategies:  tout the benefits of the products within the context of the industry, make contributions or announce support on behalf worthy organizations, advertise through testimonials, have members of the company and community blog on their behalf, and write articles which cite research and sources that reinforce the importance of their endeavor.

“Studies have also shown that the average family spends about 2 hours grocery shopping per week.  This adds up to approximately 104 hours per year.  I’m sure you will be able to find something else to do with your time!”

They also clearly understand their industry and target customer base very well:  socially conscious, environmentally-minded progressives who are active in promoting causes, and who may or may not have the income to support the cost of convenience, but believe enough in the idea that they are willing to make it work.  I can say with confidence that their marketing acumen drives the success of their business, and congratulations to their executives for earning it through their intelligence and business sense.

I was compelled to try the service because I had a 50% coupon from the Green Zebra Book (a $30 book and well worth the price).  The website has been recently revamped and looks much more professional (the old one was very amateurish, almost campy, and even though it reflected their customer base, I agree with the changes they made).  I created an account and could have placed an order online, but I was feeling impatient with technology and decided to order directly over the phone (very 90’s, I know).

I was greeted by an indescribably enthusiastic girl named Melissa, who as I have discovered from subsequent conversations, is an expert customer service professional who never has a bad day.  If she doesn’t love the job and company with all her heart, then create an organic Oscar and read her name from the envelope at the microphone.  Melissa explained that their delivery schedule put their driver in our neighbourhood on Monday, and we would receive our bin (we ordered the family size at $23 with the coupon) after 5:00pm.

The delivery arrived at 8:00pm the following Monday.  My first impression of the bin was that it didn’t seem like that much food for $46, though I understand the cost of delivery and convenience is also included in the price.  I was happy with everything except for the condition of the apples (a little bruised and mealy), the pears (slightly bruised) and the onions (a few were moldy only a day after delivery).  Since I have time to go to the grocery store, and didn’t really want to pay the convenience charges, I decided to cancel my order after one delivery.

I had signed up for the bi-weekly delivery option, and I called the next week to cancel before the Thursday deadline so as to not lock in the next delivery.  I told Melissa I was discontinuing service, and unlike some instances when this can change the tone of the conversation to become condescending, less friendly or uncomfortable, Melissa maintained her cheerful rapport and I felt no pressure or awkwardness after stating my decision.  She did ask why I wasn’t continuing service, at which time I mentioned the deficiencies in some of the produce.  Without asking that I relinquish the items, she offered to replace them for free when her driver came by to pick up the bin.  I was so impressed with the gesture that I declined the replacement offer (which surprised her, I think) and told her to keep them for the next person.  I noticed later that this is company policy, which will further win over the support of their customers.

By focusing on the intangible details i.e. exemplary customer service, spot-on marketing and targeting and impressive guarantees, Green Earth Organics has built a successful operation that is primed for longevity and steady growth.  This company has all the components of a successful business, and proves that with the right approach you can sell just about anything.  Green Earth Organics Ketchup Popsicles?  I won’t even take off my white gloves.

Please visit www.greenearthorganics.com to place your order.

Executive Chef Marc Andre Choquette, originally from Montreal, has now been practising his profession in Vancouver for over a decade. In those years, he has witnessed the rapidly evolving fine dining scene.

He recalls his days as the Executive Chef of Lumiere, where he saw the evolution of a local chef Rob Feenie in (1998) on his way up to the Iron Chef title in (2004).

He was also there to witness the dramatic business changes that led Feenie to where he is today.
Through the years Choquette has hired and trained many aspiring cooks. The list of talented cooks that Choquette has mentored and trained include Jeremy Bastien and JC Poirier, who have now become very popular Chefs by operating their very own respective cuisine, Boneta and Chow.

When talking about suppliers, he mentions how they have changed and adapted themselves to the specific requests of the growing population of Chefs as well as the competition.

Choquette has met various suppliers along the way and maintains great working relationships with them. However, he understands the value of seeking out the new and even smaller suppliers, as he confides that often that is how he has sourced some of the best ingredients.
For his new upcoming restaurant, Voya, Chef Choquette plan on going on a short trip around BC to discover unique suppliers such as organic farmers and orchards.
Choquette’s new restaurant Voya is much anticipated by Vancouver foodies. While there is no confirmed opening date, he is excited that the brand new restaurant will be well worth the wait.
Meanwhile, he has been working on various projects for the Kor hotel group in L.A and Miami but the main focus is to get Vancouver’s location set up and launched. The task is not an easy one to say the least as there is a lot that needs to be taken care of: kitchen plan, buying equipment, hiring staff and testing new menu recipes. You can likely find Choquette in the kitchen with his Sous Chef, Tret Jordan (previously from Elixir Restaurant in Yaletown), trying out new menu ideas and flavours.

Choquette’s has provided a Mushroom recipe.

A short video of Choquette cooking up.

Some of Choquette’s favorite suppliers are:

-Ponderosa Mushroom’s
-Market Wise Fine Food
-Finest at Sea

Choquette

Voya

I spoke with Manny Abacia, the Vancouver based, eco-friendly, cleaning adviser for Treefrog Environmental Solutions, a company providing green cleaning services to small local businesses in Vancouver and Victoria.

Emmanuel Sr. founded Abecia Cleaning Services in 1978, in Prince Rupert, B.C., “this is where, my brother Emmanuel and I learned the trade” says Manny, “but later, when my brother got a degree in Biology from UVic, we started thinking about our trade from an environmental point of view.”

With a strong belief in fair trade, fair pay, and providing a quality service, they developed a professional cleaning service, using only biodegradable cleaning products, and the power of professional steam equipment for the tough jobs. As this relates to kitchens, they chose to specialize in cleaning surfaces for both FoH and BoH.

“In the end, we thought about what were doing in terms of a ripple effect. The toxic foot print had to get smaller. Today, we educate our clients, talk about waste management, and try to provide solutions that help them slowly move toward sustainability. It’s an on-going conversation, and it’s totally worth it.”

Looking toward a greener future, the brothers are in process of developing a line of biodegradable cleaning kits for use by their customers, and are actively seeking efficient waste management providers in local communities.

“It’s a mind shift, it takes time, but our customers love the personal touch, and really want to make a difference. We are here to help them, one step at a time. That’s how change happens, that’s exciting.”

For more information go to: www.treefrogenviro.com