A Knack for Knives: Rangelrooij

02 Feb 2022
5 min read

Knives are one of the most essential items in a kitchen, and one of those that have the greatest impact on not only cooking, but on the final taste experience of every dish. That’s why sourcing excellent quality knives and having them professionally sharpened is key to the success of any good chef or home cook, as Elwin De Veld, fourth-generation owner of Rangelrooij, tells FOUR…

Can you give us a brief overview of Rangelrooij?

Rangelrooij was founded in 1894; I am the 4th-generation owner of our family business. I took over from my grandfather in 1994. In the beginning, my grandfather took me by his hand, and he inspired me to enhance my sharpening skills and be an entrepreneur.

I took sharpening to a higher level in the following years and focused on restaurants and their chefs. Many knives went through my hands to sharpen, and the Japanese knives stood out in their quality. This made me realise that Japan is the Holy Grail of knife makers for me. Over the last few years, my wife and I have been travelling to Japan for my training. Although Japan was completely unknown to us, I remember arriving at the knife maker’s workshop after a long flight and a few hours sitting on a bullet train, and all I wanted to do was directly join the knife making process. It was not that I wanted to become a knife maker, but it was important to me to be able to explain to our customers exactly how the knives were made. Once there, we handpicked the knives that we put for sale in our atelier.

Where does your passion for knife craft come from?

Every great recipe starts with a sharp knife; a sharp knife is a must for every chef. It is very satisfying to fill a small but very important role in a chef’s life. Knife sharpening is a fulfilling job. While I am sharpening, I think of what the knife has been through.

For years I have been maintaining the knives of many chefs. I recognise their knives, provide them with new ones and advise them if they have any special requests. I am proud to form that bridge between the knife maker and the knife user.

Can you tell us more about the different products in your shop?

A knife shop is not about ordering a knife in Japan and reselling it. Every knife maker has a story to tell; every knife has a special task to fulfil. Japanese chefs believe their soul goes into the knife once they start using it.

Our trips to Japan made us realise that knife craftsmanship is a proud part of the country’s heritage. This is what we want to share with our customers. We have a beautiful webshop, which forms our display of knives online. Still, we ask our customers to visit our shop as well, if they can. Otherwise, we advise them through different channels.

What makes Rangelrooij’s products stand out in comparison to other knife brands?

Nowadays, we import all our knives from Japan, and even the sharpening stones I use are Japanese. This took lots of effort to get them to Holland. I have found a way to sharpen knives to create a high sharpness, but also this sharpness can be maintained for a long period by using the right tools that we provide as well. Chefs travel from far to bring in their high-end knives or send them in by mail. I’m proud that besides me, no one else is allowed to touch their knives.

Tell us about the knife-making process and how you believe this gives your products an upper hand?

In our shop, we display more than 500+ different kinds of knives, each with a special purpose in the preparation of cooking. One of my first working training was at Ryusen, where I made a chef’s knife in three days. I segregated the 13 stages of the knife-making process and now display them in my shop to show how the knife is made. By explaining the process of knife making, going through the different kinds of steel and different finishes of the blade, we ensure that the customer understands the benefits of a high-quality knife. A good handmade knife is an investment that lasts for years and will make you a better cook.

What materials are used to craft the knives, and why these?

Young knife makers use new exotic steels for their blades and spectacular materials for their handles. The more conservative knife makers are less concerned about the looks of their knives, but all the “know-how”  of the maker is focussed on the hardening and sharpening process. We offer a wide array of traditional Japanese knives, like yanagiba, deba and usuba knives, known for their traditional carbon steels. We also carry high-end stainless steel knives with extremely hard blades.

What is best? A knife that suits you. It is very important that you know how to maintain your knife. The hardest steel doesn’t have to be the most suitable steel for you. In practice, softer steel can stay sharp just as long because it is easier to maintain. But that you’ll learn in our shop.

Do you have any product(s) which are your favourite(s)? If so, why are these special to you?

We have been carrying the Ryusen brand from day one. This family-owned knife-makers business produces a wide variety of knives, and their hardening process is one of the best I know. Together we have worked on many great projects with chefs such as Massimo Bottura, Jonnie Boer and Thomas Bühner. But, to be honest, I do not have a favourite among my knife makers. They are all special to me, and they all have a story to tell. We have made many chefs very happy with their new knives in the past years.

Do you allow customers to make any customised products?

During one of my training periods, I forged a steak knife at the Ryusen factory. This knife was made completely out of one piece of layered steel, known as Damascus steel. When Jonnie Boer from De Librije restaurant asked me for a new steak knife, I knew this was the knife for him. It had everything that he requested: raw and pure yet elegant. We adjusted the knives to his vision, and Ryusen made them especially for him. I am proud that he uses our steak knife in his restaurant.

How do you hope customers receive these knives?

A sharp knife is a joy to use. It proves itself in the whole cooking process. For instance, when you cut a carrot with a dull knife, the structure is destroyed, and it loses its juice. When you use this carrot in a salad, it then absorbs the sauce, and as a result, the flavour of the carrot is gone, and you taste only the sauce. A good chef realises this. Imagine the consequences of using a dull knife with delicate or very expensive products.

Tell us a bit more about the other chefs you work with and why these partnerships are significant to you?

I have had the honour of working with many talented chefs, travelling to Modena was one of the highlights of my career so far. The Chefs(r)evolution at De Librije is a true culinary event that we are proud to be a partner of. I have also have been working with Nick Bril and Sergio Herman from the time they worked together at Oud Sluis, and still, we have some great projects. The Jane in Antwerp carries a special knife in their restaurant, which came from our collaboration with Nick Bril.

Why do you think these chefs have chosen to work with your knives?

Quality and honesty, we run our business from the heart.

Where can the knives be purchased?

Our shop is located in The Hague in the Netherlands, and we have an online shop: www.hamono.nl / @hamono.nl

What’s next? Any new products on the horizon?

Knife makers are creative people; new ideas and new designs will come up, and we will pass them on to our customers. We have found some highly talented Japanese knife makers who use our own ideas, and together, we have created ROOIJ knives. Personally, I am challenging myself to become better in what I do every day. I am as good as the last knife I have sharpened.

To find out more, visit Rangelrooij’s website, Instagram profile and Facebook page.