Chris Hastings' new, super-durable knife roll is designed to be "used and to be abused."
“I’ve had all kinds of bags,” says the chef/owner of the Birmingham, AL staples Hot and Hot Fish Club and OvenBird. “Cloth, canvas, leather. I tend to use one and then fall out of love and move onto another.” Although Hastings has always been on the lookout for the perfect knife roll, it wasn’t until meeting Radcliff Menge, founder of the Alabama-based outdoor apparel company Tom Beckbe, that he considered designing his own.
Throughout the past year, Hastings and Menge have worked together to create the ultimate chef’s knife roll, complete with three key attributes: durability, balance, and comfort. Made of oaky brown, derby-style leather, the bag was made to be tough. “It’s leather, so you shouldn’t get it soaking wet,” Menge says. “But it’s designed to be used and to be abused.”
Many of Hastings’ previous knife rolls were designed in such a way that all of the knives were placed on one side of the bag. “When you roll that knife bag up, you end up with a fat end and a skinny end and it’s awkward,” Hastings says. The solution? To line the roll’s interior with pockets on both sides, so that the knife blades are forced to cross over one another.
“Imagine if you folded your arms across the front of your chest and your hands are touching your elbows,” Hastings says. “That’s the way the knives are laid.” This innovative design both prevents the knives from banging around and keeps the roll balanced once it’s closed up, which in turn leads to a comfortable, ergonomically-effective bag.
To fill the roll, the duo teamed up with blacksmith Will Manning, who owns the Tennessee-based knife brand Heartwood Forge, to create a set of three knives: an elongated paring knife, a traditional chef’s knife, and a sort of cleaver that they named the Butcher’s Haste. There are 10 sets of the limited edition Sportsman's Knife Collection, each being sold for $2,499.
Just like the bag itself, the construction of the knives involved both aesthetics and ergonomics. “I love being creative with my work,” Manning says, “but at the end of the day, you’re making knives to cook food with, not to put on a mantel.”
While the knife roll and its contents were designed with a professional chef’s needs in mind, the handcrafted products will likely appeal to home cooks, too. “I think people just want a connection,” Manning says. “That’s why handmade knives, handmade food, handmade anything is seeing such a strong revival right now.”