Tastemaker Takeover: Meet Chef Elan Wenzel of Element Knife Company

BY Steph Wilson


Are you ready to elevate your kitchen game? Look no further than Element Knife Company, the chef-owned and chef-driven company that offers high-end cutlery, sharpening services, and accessories for both home and professional chefs. Founded in 2010 by Chef Elan Wenzel—one of our DiningOut TastemakersElement Knife Company has curated a collection of artisan products that are sure to take your cooking to the next level.

With over two decades of experience in the culinary industry and a passion for knives and kitchen tools, Chef Wenzel has traveled the globe to find the best products for his customers. He believes that the quality of your tools should match the depth of your enthusiasm for cooking, and that’s why Element Knife Company is dedicated to providing support, education, and the best products to ensure that your time in the kitchen is a joy, not a chore.

One of the standout features of Element Knife Company’s products is its focus on Japanese cutlery. With roots dating back to 14th century Japan, the ancient art of knife-making has been perfected by sword-smiths using iron, fire, and water. During the Edo period, Japan was closed off from the outside world, and its craftsmen had to come up with their own ideas and products. It was during this time that the idea of a knife with a single cutting-edge, as opposed to the double-edged knives from China, was born. Today, Japanese knives are sought after by top chefs worldwide for their artful beauty and exceptional performance.

Join us on Instagram this Wednesday, Jan. 25, as the sharp chef takes over our takeover of @diningoutmagazine page for the day to showcase Element Knife Company’s products and share his expertise on Japanese cutlery. Don’t miss this opportunity to learn from one of the best in the business and sharpen your knife skills. We caught up with the chef to find out a little more about his business and what he has in store for the takeover.

DiningOut: What made you decide to transition from being a chef to starting your own knife company? 

Elan Wenzel: I have always loved knives. My sushi training in Japan and exposure to the tools and culture had a deep impact on me. When I had the opportunity to sell Japanese knives around 2008, I jumped at it. What started as a side hustle turned into a business and eventually retail.

DO: What sets Element Knife Company apart from other shops in Denver? 

EW: I only sell products that I have personally used and love. I have tried dozens of different brands over the last three decades. It is important that I can speak passionately about my products and have real-world experience with them. Additionally, we focus on supporting other local businesses and carry products from 12 Colorado companies in our store. It is also beneficial to have a professional chef on hand to help outfit customers properly with tools and knives. I see myself as a guide, not a salesman.

DO: How does your shop cater to the needs of both professional chefs and home cooks? 

EW: We provide support, education, and the best products and services. For professionals, I understand the importance of working with the best tools. I offer industry discounts on products and services to all Colorado chefs, cooks, servers, dishwashers, sales representatives, delivery drivers, and others in the industry. Additionally, I always offer free knife sharpening lessons for industry professionals who want to improve their skills. For home cooks, Element has a wide variety of options and price points available. I help guide and educate our customers on knife shapes, functionality, and fit, as well as on the topics of sharpness, optimizing a blade’s edge, storage, and overall care.

DO: How does the food culture in Denver influence the products and services offered at Element Knife Company? 

EW: As a chef myself and having many chef and industry friends, I am always discussing the industry. I listen to what excites them, what projects they are working on and are involved in. I pay attention to their suggestions and make every effort to carry those items in our store.

DO: What are some unique or hard-to-find knives or accessories that you have in your store? 

EW: Broadly speaking, we offer small-batch, hand-crafted knives, tools, and accessories from small brands, smiths, and makers. We carry Kikuichi Cutlery, the world’s oldest continuous maker, which dates back to 1267 and once made swords for the emperor. They are allowed to use the emperor’s seal on their blades. We also collaborate with local blade-smith Heather J. Hass. Currently, she and I are creating a co-branded line of knives. We have a 60cm (24 inch blade) tuna knife, which looks like a sword, a katsuobushi grater box for making bonito flakes, a unique copper grater for grating fresh wasabi, and a Higonokami, a Japanese pocket knife that has been made in Miki City, Hyogo Prefecture since 1894, with the same patent.

DO:  What are the three essential kitchen knives every home chef needs and why?          

EW: No. 1, a chef’s knife or Santoku is the most versatile knife. It can accommodate fish, meat, and vegetables, and is comfortable to use for any cutting technique.

No. 2, a petty knife and a utility knife are ideal tools for general purpose tasks that every kitchen needs. The Japanese petty knife gets its name from the French word ‘petit’. These knives are great for intricate work, peeling, slicing, and even chopping herbs. The small design allows for agility and easy control.

No. 3, a serrated knife is a helpful addition to any kitchen, and it’s perfect for food products that have a hard exterior and a soft interior, such as crusty breads.

DO: What are some tips or tricks for maintaining and sharpening knives at home? 

EW: Avoid cutting on plates, glass, marble, and countertops, as they can damage the sharpness of the knife. The softer the cutting board, the better it is for maintaining the sharpness of the knife.

When moving food products, don’t scrape the cutting edge of the knife. Instead, turn the knife over and use the spine or set the knife down and use your hands or a bench scraper.

Periodically, hone the knife on a honing steel between having it sharpened. Have the knife sharpened about every three to six months. If not, use a pass-through sharpener.

When sharpening your knife, make sure to increase the number of passes and decrease the pressure. Only a pound of downward pressure is needed. 

Never put your knife in a dishwashing machine. The conditions—high heat, high pressure jetting and corrosive detergents—are too adverse and can harm the blade and handle.

DO: Can you give us a sneak peek into any upcoming projects or collaborations you have in the works? 

EW: I’m going to Japan in April for a bladesmith tour. It’s a hands-on tour, so I’ll get in the pit and hammer on some steel. I’m also collaborating with Rugby Scott Ranch (formerly known as Mile High Meats). We will be supplying them with knives for them to use on social media and in their space. They will carry our knives in their new upcoming retail space in Bonnie Brea. 

I’m also very proud of our newly finished Knife Buyer’s Guide. I believe it’s the most comprehensive guide available.                                       

DO: If someone’s stopping by your store in Stanley Marketplace, where else should they make a point to check out in the area? 

EW: Inside Stanley, for retail, they’ll want to check out Aktiv, Zero Market, and Trunk Nouveau. For food, they should try Annette, Elita (off premises, two blocks down the street on Montview), Mason’s Dumpling Shop. Then, just a little ways away, they should eat at Lucina

DO: Why is education such a large part of the Element Knife Company ethos? Who should sign up for your knife sharpening class? 

EW: Education empowers individuals and allows for self-reliance. It equips one for success and serves them in the long-term. It is my privilege to share what I have learned with anyone who is interested. My knife sharpening class is great for people who have an interest in learning the art of hand-sharpening, those who find value in a challenging and rewarding hobby and craft, and those who see the benefits of maintaining their tools.

DO: What’s in store for your takeover of DiningOut’s Instagram? What are we going to see behind the scenes throughout the day?

EW: You’ll see me getting to the shop, and I’ll show you around. You’ll see what we do, what we eat, who we see, and how we teach. It’ll be a day in the life of Element Knife Company. 

Element Knife Company is located inside Stanley Marketplace (2501 Dallas St Unit 104B) in Aurora.


Steph Wilson

Steph Wilson is a writer, editor, and creative maximalist in Denver. She makes magazines for a living and throws color around the world like confetti for fun.

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