Self-taught Toronto knife maker started his own business while working as a server
Someone in Toronto is now making knives for the kinds of chefs whose food he used to bring to tables as a server.
Michael Radojkovich started the journey of creating his own business, Culter Knives, back in 2017, settling on a shop location in Etobicoke in March 2018. He first started learning to make knives in 2014.
"I had previously worked with a friend making kitchen and camp knives for his company, but decided to move in my own direction, focusing only on culinary knives, mainly because of my love for food and how it brings people together," Radojkovich tells blogTO.
"I also felt that there was a market for local handmade quality knives that hadn't yet been tapped into. I guess I wanted to be known as the local knife maker that supplied Toronto with beautiful high end kitchen knives."
Radojkovich was working as a server at vegetarian restaurant Fresh while researching and developing Culter to pay the bills for his family and business, mainly advertising his work on Instagram. Culter is Latin for "knife."
"Working two jobs while getting Culter off the ground was difficult but it prepared me for what was to come," says Radojkovich.
On all his days off from Fresh he was working on designing and building knives, testing out heat treatments, grit progression for grinding and finishing, and learning how to use new tools, all while still getting home in time to cook dinner for his family.
"That was one of the things I always made sure I took time out of the day to do," says Radojkovich. "It forced me to spend time at home, and sit down with the family, talk about our days and try to relax, then get up and do it all over again."
Still, to this day he rarely takes a day off as sales have been increasing at Culter. His clients range from home cooks to aspiring and professional chefs including Lorenzo Losetto of George and Matthew Ravenscroft of Gia, all of whom have posted on social media about his knives which helped draw in a larger audience.
Radojkovich was able to transition to knife-making full time by picking up part-time work helping out knife maker Aaron Gough three days a week, devoting the other four to Culter. Gough uses a more automated method, and Radojkovich moved all his equipment into his Scarborough shop to learn from him.
They split for distancing purposes in 2020, Radojkovich moving back into a shop in Etobicoke where he still is now. However, it would turn out that rather than bracing for fewer orders, he should have been prepping for more than ever.
"I put a large amount of my knives up for sale to clear out what stock I had left, in hopes I could use the remaining cash to weather the storm," says Radojkovich.
"But as the months went by, more orders started coming in. Restaurants were closed for dine in service, so more and more people began cooking from home, and before I knew it, Culter had enough influx of orders to the point where I could do it without the assistance of a second income."
It can take about 15 to 25 hours for Radojkovich to make a knife depending on the complexity, but he's hoping to possibly make that more efficient by tweaking his techniques, which would also allow him to offer them for lower price points meaning they would be more accessible to more people.
Right now, knives available on his site range in price from about $700 to $1,600.
"Chefs are notoriously underpaid, and for that reason alone, I want to offer a knife made of high quality material, that will last, but also not break the bank of a chef that is just getting started," says Radojkovich.
"Most of my customers are from the U.S., which is fine for now, but I would really like to help cater to more locals as this is my home, and I'm proud to call it that."
Join the conversation Load comments