Bladesmith Quintin Middleton crafts the perfect kitchen knife
Quintin Middleton’s shed, made of plywood and two-by-fours, stands just a couple of hundred feet from his house. On the three days a week when the twenty-six-year-old is not fixing signs on Highway 52 or chipping downed gum trees as handyman for the town of St. Stephen, South Carolina, he’s creating art in the simple outbuilding. Rising at dawn, he wrangles well-worn tools: square-faced hammers, grinders, saws, a rust-spotted anvil, a propane-fired forge. When the metal glows, Middleton, a thickset man with calm eyes, beats a crude block of steel into a one-of-a-
kind handmade kitchen knife. “Sweetgrass baskets aren’t the only thing made in Charleston,” he likes to say.
Others state it more strongly. “What he creates out of that little building is just insane,” says the founder of an underground supper club in Charleston called Guerrilla Cuisine who is known as jimihatt. He used a Middleton knife to compete in, and ultimately win, the 2010 Charleston Wine + Food Festival Chefs Challenge.
Middleton Made Knives opened for business in March 2010, and the company has already attracted fans around the country, including Food Network star Claire Robinson and the executive pastry chef at Manhattan’s Jean Georges, Johnny Iuzzini. The company sells five standard styles, plus a Japanese Santoku style, with prices ranging from $80 for a paring knife with a cherry handle to $650 for a bespoke high-carbon-steel chef’s knife, for which the customer can specify the rocker of the blade and the shape of the handle. Middleton is obsessive about quality and has been known to toss a knife he’s been working on for hours if he discovers even the tiniest crack in the blade during final sharpening. “Passion creates quality,” he says.