From his workshop in the Dandenong Ranges, Mathieu Dechamps is bringing back heirloom cooking tools. With handles crafted from salvaged wood, his custom knives are made to hand down through generations.
For Mathieu Dechamps, quality can’t be hurried. In a wood cabin-turned-workshop surrounded by the temperate rainforest of Victoria’s Dandenong Ranges, the Belgian born artisan can spend a week, often longer, hand-making a single knife. He wants his tools to last more than a lifetime.
“I try to create something people will fall in love with and learn how to take care of,” he says, “so they can pass it down to the next generation.”
Dechamps begins with the timber handles. Working with three trusted suppliers and the bush ecosystem, Dechamps sources sick or already fallen trees, mostly slow-growing species like acacia.
“They produce the most interesting wood, with scars and gnarled bits. They’re so beautiful and very durable.”
Design is a collaboration with each cook or customer to create a knife that feels right in the hand and is fine-tuned to its purpose. Pastry chef, Miele collaborator and sustainability advocate Jo Barrett discovered Dechamps’ MD Knives brand on her search for sustainable artisans.
Having emerged from 12 months inside the self-sustaining Future Food System house and restaurant in Melbourne, Barrett is now partnering with Miele to spotlight like-minded makers in the Stories of Sustainability series of videos.
“I’m a big believer in buying one really good thing and making it part of your life,” she says.
“For me, it’s not just about something working really well in the kitchen, it’s about the impact it has on the environment.”
She tasked Dechamps with making the perfect dough knife. His challenge was to design a blade strong enough to handle heavy dough yet fine and light to work with.
“It’s very hard to make hardened stainless steel that is thin and to keep it flat,” Dechamps explains.
Fifteen prototypes later, Barrett has the knife she’ll use to make her signature breads and desserts forever.
“I love that it has thought and intention,” she says. “And it was made here in Melbourne.”
For Dechamps, the joy’s in giving an everyday tool special meaning.
“What’s really important to me is to create a love – that the person who gets my knife feels a connection to it, they’ll leave it to family members and it will become important that way. The funny thing is I’ll never know if I succeeded.”