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Fridays in the Food Lab: Career Advice and Knife Sharpening 101


There are clear best practices for teaching someone how to sharpen a chef’s knife — however, the steps to success may be less straightforward when it comes to an undertaking like learning how to turn a dream career into a reality. 

Fortunately, both of these topics were addressed at a recent NYU Steinhardt Department of Nutrition and Food Studies panel discussion and workshop. Part of the department’s new Fridays in the Food Lab series, the inaugural event featured an interactive knife sharpening demonstration and conversation exploring how local experts and innovators in the field achieved their aspirations.

Culinary Director of the NYU Food Lab and series organizer Lourdes Castro said that the goal of Fridays in the Food Lab is to position students to “derive as much inspiration as they do hands-on, practical information.”

Student using a sharpening stone to sharpen a knife safely.

Students at the inaugural Fridays in the Food Lab event practiced techniques for safely and effectively sharpening kitchen knives.

NYU Stern alumnus David Olkovetsky (BS ‘09) opened the panel by sharing the story of his quest to create the perfect kitchen knife and ultimately found his own company, Artisan Revere, after over a decade of working as a steel industry researcher and investor.

“I started this company because I saw a huge void in the market,” he said.

His advice for students who are uncertain of their ideal career paths? “Do something you actually care about. Find amazing people to help you and outwork everybody else.”

For Olkovetsky, one of those people is Paolo Verzani, Artisan Revere’s designer and a 2018 graduate of NYU Steinhardt’s BS in Nutrition/Food Studies program. After various internship experiences, Verzani landed his current role at Artisan Revere, allowing him to uniquely combine his creative skills and passion for food.

“Whatever you want to do in life, go at it 100 percent — even if it means taking risks,” he said.

Students also had the opportunity to hear from Ancolie founder and chef Chloe Vichot, who left the finance industry to pursue her dream of opening the most sustainable restaurant in NYC. “Ask yourself, ‘What is my goal in 2-3 years and how can I get there as quickly as possible?’” Vichot encouraged students.

The final panelist was Greg Hanson, a development specialist at MTC Kitchen, who honed his passion for knives while working in NYC’s fine dining scene. Hanson led the hands-on workshop portion of the event, first showing students how to set up their own knife sharpening stations on damp towels to create a safe workspace.

Knife-sharpening block resting on a towel

After explaining methods for safely testing the sharpness of a blade, Hanson demonstrated how to properly grip and angle a knife while using a sharpening stone.

Each participant then practiced sharpening techniques at their own stations, receiving tips and feedback from Hanson and Olkovetsy throughout.

The event concluded with a competition to determine which student demonstrated the best sharpening skills — congratulations to Nim Dhillon (MA ‘21), the winner of a new sharpening stone and Artisan Revere knife!

Photos courtesy of Paolo Verzani.

About the NYU Food Lab

NYU Food Lab

The NYU Food Lab is a teaching kitchen and food and nutrition idea incubator where students explore solutions to health and sustainability issues.

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