Blade Runner

A chef’s son takes advantage of the pandemic to launch a knife company.
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slice and dice Ken Knife Co. in Southfield considers multiple factors in designing and crafting kitchen blades, including the point, edge, spine, heel, tip, scales, bolster, and handle fasteners. // Courtesy of Ken Knife Co.
Slice and Dice – Ken Knife Co. in Southfield considers multiple factors in designing and crafting kitchen blades, including the point, edge, spine, heel, tip, scales, bolster, and handle fasteners. // Courtesy of Ken Knife Co.

Ryder DelSignore was bartending and working as an expeditor in the kitchen at Bacco Ristorante in Southfield, which is owned by his father, Luciano, when the COVID-19 shutdown happened. Looking to capitalize on his free time, Ryder and his girlfriend, Robin, began brainstorming business ideas.

The pair’s creative meanderings led them to launch Ken Knife Co. in Southfield. Fearing his dad would reject the idea, DelSignore initially kept the plan to himself.

“I’ve had my own take on knives my whole life, just being in the kitchen and having a lot of knives,” he says. “I did a lot of research. What do people look for in a knife? What does a knife weigh? How long is your average chef’s knife? What materials are used? There’s a lot (that goes) into it.”

DelSignore researched more than 100 vendors before developing a finished product. Finally, with everything in place, he approached his father.

“I walked into his office and brought up the idea that I’d like to start a knife company, knowing exactly what he was going to say,” the entrepreneur recalls. “I handed him a finished product that I brought just to show him, and he was blown away. He loved the idea.”

A knife is often regarded as a chef’s most important tool, and with Ken — Japanese for sword — DelSignore created several lines of cutting instruments that range in price from $130 for a 6-inch Beast Serbian Cleaver to $500 for a 17-inch Yanagiba knife.

Made from a blend of Japanese AUS 8 and VG 10 steel, along with high-carbon Damascus and hard woods, the knives have a distinct look and are designed to stay sharp over long periods, yet are soft enough to sharpen easily.

Aside from the knives in the Puro, Shefu, and Shoshinsha series, DelSignore developed cutting instruments with one-of-a-kind handles that are gone as quickly as they arrive. The blades, along with a handful of accessories, are available at kenknifeco.com and locally at Fairway Packing Co. in Detroit.

DelSignore believes this is just the start. “I see a lot more growth to come. I’ve quadrupled (revenue) year-over-year since I started, and I just see that growing much higher,” he says. “I’d like to get nationwide with retail, and I have some plans (for) the designs I’m working on now.”

One of those plans caters to the request he says he gets most frequently — home kitchen sets with matching handles, which are now available. Also, in collaboration with Frame in Hazel Park, he and his father will host knife skills classes on Jan. 26 and Feb. 23. “We’re looking to get the word out any way we can,” he says.

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