The hand crafted knives are a way of life in Argentina and are built to last.
For Gisella Morassut and her partner Chris Benitez, a knife is so much more than just a knife.
For them, a knife is a hand made and treasured family heirloom that speaks to their Argentinian heritage. It is used on the barbecue and for cooking at family occasions.
In 2020, they had a business idea.
“The idea was to bring these beautiful knives to New Zealand,’’ Morassut says.
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“In Argentina, it is not a knife, it is tradition and culture. It is more than a knife.
“When grandparents pass away, we fight over who will keep the knife. My husband has a knife that his father gave to him with his name on it.
“It is something you keep forever.”
The knife has a deep cultural history in Argentina that leads back to the gaucho, a South American cowboy who tended cattle from the 16th century and became an almost mythical folk figure.
The gaucho would traditionally carry a long knife for fighting, hunting, eating and carving meat. Later, this knife was used less for fighting and more for meat carving at traditional Argentine barbecues, where large pieces of beef are slowly cooked over charcoal and wood.
“We are serious about meat and knives in Argentina,’’ says Morassut.
The couple moved from Argentina to New Zealand in 2014, with Benitez working in construction on the rebuild in Christchurch and Morassut becoming a teacher. They moved to New Zealand for the people and the landscapes. Also, Benitez is a keen hunter and fisher.
“And everything is so safe.
“In Latin America, it is sometimes not safe, especially being a woman.
“Here is amazing, I have this amazing feeling of freedom.
“New Zealand is not perfect, but people are very kind.”
The couple wanted to bring the proud tradition of their homeland to New Zealand and so The Knife Boutique NZ was born.
“In New Zealand, not everyone has something hand made at home.
“We couldn’t find anything similar in New Zealand. They are not part of tradition or culture
“We wanted to bring this world-class skill to New Zealand and see how people react. We weren’t sure because it is a very old school thing.
“People loved it.”
The couple sell the knives at various farmers markets around Canterbury and on their website. Their catalogue includes everything from kitchen knives to hunting knives with unique deer antler handles.
They also sell handcrafted barbecue knives. This is a long knife designed to handle the large pieces of meat used in traditional Argentine barbecues.
“In Argentina, we are very big fans of barbecue.
“When we first arrived in New Zealand, we were invited to a barbecue and we couldn’t wait. Our very first Kiwi barbecue.
“When we arrived, we saw a few sausages and hamburgers on the barbecue. We thought that was just to start, but that was the whole barbecue.
“We were shocked. For us, a barbecue is a massive piece of meat.”
The knives are built to last, but there are Morassut has a few tips for keeping them in good condition. She says you should never put any knives in the dishwasher because it destroys the handle. You should also keep the knives in a leather storage wrap.
The new business was also motivated by the desire to make and sell something that would last.
“We wanted to make something that you will not put in the rubbish or give to the opp shop.
“It will stay in your family for generations”