For example, when I went to the Martha’s Vineyard Local Wild Food Challenge, I met one of the homecooks, John Duryea, who was working on a delicious tuna dish for the Challenge. While I was sampling and talking to him about his dish, I discovered that he was the man behind Krug and Ryan Co.
Krug and Ryan makes the most amazing cutting boards, which are actually called butcher blocks, right here on the Vineyard. You might have seen them at the West Tisbury Artisian’s Festival or recognize the name from the list of prizes at the Local Wild Food Challenge. What’s so special about these butcher blocks? Well, lots of things, you might just be amazed.
John agreed to meet me at his shop in Edgartown to talk about his work. When I first walked in the shop, I was immediately overwhelmed — the band saws, the dust collectors, jointers, and the like, tools that are pretty impressive to a lay person.
John began by showing me a number of his butcher blocks, each of which is hand crafted by him. So, no two will ever be the same. To appreciate them, you really have to hold one, see it, and feel it. These boards are smooth and solid, and look like beautiful pieces of art but are so much more. Though they do look beautiful on your counter.
How Does One Decide They Want To Make Butcher Blocks?
Before I learned more about his work, I wanted to know more about John. How does someone decide that they want to get in the business of making handcrafted butcher blocks? Leave it to the Island to open that door. One Summer, John had six weddings, three of which he was in the wedding parties and three he was attending. That’s a lot of weddings and a lot of gifts. What’s a guy to do? Well, John thought of making cutting boards for the brides and grooms. After all, what couple doesn’t love something beautiful and handmade from a friend?
Through trial and error, John made a stunning cutting board. Then five more, and he was set for wedding gifts. To his surprise, the couples loved his cutting boards, and encouraged him to make more for them to buy for gifts and for John to sell. He was onto something, and it was more than just cutting boards. John was making butcher blocks that had the potential to become heirloom items.
Now for the name. If John’s last name is Duryea? Where did Krug & Ryan come from? Once again, Vineyard ties. He and his friend were sitting on South Beach one day during the Summer, and both were talking about starting a furniture company.
Trying to come up with a name, they thought that their mothers’ maiden names sounded really good together, Krug & Ryan. It does have a nice ring to it. That was back in 2003. Though the furniture business didn’t happen, when John officially started his business six years ago, the name stuck.
Why A Wood Cutting Board?
Why does one want a wood cutting board? Well, after a passionate lesson from John, I get it. Apparently, bacteria can live in those seemingly convient plastic cutting boards even after a run through the dishwasher. Also, that same bacteria dies off naturally on its own in a short period on a wood cutting board. So, all that love I thought I was putting into making my baby’s food from scratch, might be full of yucky things. I was sold on using a wood cutting board.
Why invest in a Krug & Ryan Co. butcher block? Though more expensive than a cutting board you’d buy at LeRoux or William Sonoma, this is an investment, almost a commitment. Each board has a 20 year warranty — longer than most marriages, and there’s a chance you’re going to fall in love with cutting on it. It’s a totally different cutting experience. I’m actually serious because I know that I really like mine. I have the Douglas. Oh yes, some of the butcher blocks are named after friends of John’s. Perhaps next time he’ll share those stories with me?
Each Krug & Ryan Co. butcher block is crafted on what’s called the end grain, meaning the knife passes between the wood’s grain. For the non-woodworker, that means that your knifes are going to stay sharper longer and the wood is going to show less wear. It’s also a much more complicated process.
This is a technique that butcher’s have been employing in their blocks for years and why Krug & Ryan Co. make butcher blocks not just cutting boards. Also, John only uses the best wood, maple, cherry, walnut (black), and white oak. Most wood cutting boards, even if out of similar hard woods, are edge grain, meaning the knife is cutting against the grain dulling with every cut. See I told you there would be amazing things about these kitchen tools.
Over 1,000 butcher blocks later, John still loves his work. He continues to make each piece with an incredible attention to detail. It brings him a lot of satisfaction to know that people are using and really enjoying what he makes. He has a philosophy at Krug & Ryan Co. — he strives to make the best end grain cutting board in the world. I don’t know a lot about other boards, but I know that he makes a beautiful and functional one. I like it even more, knowing it was made here.
You Can Even Customize
Interested? In addtion to the butcher blocks, which come in a number of sizes and colors, even custom sizes, during the off- season John makes custom kitchen islands for Vineyard homeowners. Can you imagine a beautiful 9 x 9-foot , 1200-pound one of these as your island? Stunning!
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