Most of us are doing a lot more cooking than we used to, which may be causing us to look askance at our dull knives and maybe even rant when our ancient serrated bread knife can’t slice our ugly/dense homemade sourdough loaf.
Luckily, there’s a new knife business in town: Crocker Cutlery. Unluckily for owner Gabriel Crocker, he opened his tiny dream store in February 2020, and well, you can picture the rest.
Reached by Zoom in the shop, Crocker shows his backdrop—a dramatic array of knives—and he surely wouldn’t balk at being termed a “knife nerd.” His enthusiasm quickly bubbles up as he starts to describe the East Sac space as it could have been – with knife sharpening, knife care and skill classes for up to 10 at once, and an array of retail knives and other kitchen tools at a range of price points.
Crocker has had a peripatetic career in the restaurant industry for three decades, in the South, the Bay Area, and in Sacramento, starting at Magpie about a decade ago. Over time he came to be fascinated with knives, and with the myths about their care passed down by cooks. He went down a “rabbit hole” of knife knowledge that led him to discover a new passion.
This interest, coupled with the fact that, as he puts it “I’m getting old and my body is broken,” led him to to open Crocker Cutlery. Things were going well until shelter-in-place and since then he’s struggled to figure out a business model that will keep him, his customers and his 2-year-old daughter safe.
For now, chefs and knife enthusiasts both locally and nationally are buying his custom knives, some for as much as $2,000. With layered wood handles and intricate designs on the metal, some of them take the makers weeks to craft and can double as works of art. Byron Hughes, chef of Last Supper Society, is a fan. He worked with Crocker at Canon, and posted an Instagram video of himself unboxing a purchase from Crocker Cutlery. He said that the shop is the “best outside of the Bay.”
Chef Matt Masera, of the late, great Mother Restaurant (currently working as culinary director for celebrity chef Tyler Florence) bought a particular knife that he couldn’t stop thinking about as a birthday present to himself, and said “some of the knives Gabe finds are incredible!”