Monthly Archives: December 2013

Ethan Powell and Tobias Hogan – the Northwest Duo Behind EaT: An Oyster Bar & The Parish

As HIC, Harold Import Co. grows in the food service and restaurant supply industry, we see our products benefiting chefs across the country. Recently we spoke with two dynamic chefs that have been using unique smallwares to make their dishes stand out. Ethan Powell and Tobias Hogan opened EaT: An Oyster Bar, offering “A little bit of the dirty south right here in the Northwest” in 2008 and later The Parish, an upscale Cajun and Creole concept in the Pearl District of Portland, Oregon, working direct with small family run farms to source their ingredients. They journey to estuaries from Northern California all the way up to South Western Canada to source oysters with flavor profiles unique to their habitat.

HIC is thrilled to see Ethan and Tobias work with many of our products such as our Porcelain Oyster Plate to display their beautiful dishes and HIC Essentials Silicone Spatulas to appropriately taste and develop their sauces. We’re excited to see them grow and be a part of their experience. If you’re an oyster connoisseur, with an interest in an establishment that values supporting local producers, you just might want to put EaT: An Oyster Bar and The Parish on your bucket list.

Oysters Served by Ethan and Tobias at FEAST Portland, a Northwest Culinary Event. Porcelain Oyster Plater Made by HIC.

Oysters Served at FEAST Portland, a Northwest Culinary Event. Porcelain Oyster Plater Made by HIC.

The Interview – Getting to Know Ethan and Tobias

Nicole Herman, of HIC: Let me start by thanking you for taking the time to share with me. I think our readers are really going to enjoy meeting you and learning about your experience. Let’s start by learning more about you and how you became involved with cooking.

N: When did you first know you wanted to be a chef?

Tobias: When I was a kid, I used to cook meals for the family and I was always in the kitchen with my Great Grandmother and my Grandmother cooking instead of the den with the rest of the guys watching football. I guess it was always in me I just didn’t realize it until the late ’90’s.

Ethan: I used to cook for my family on Tuesday night in elementary school. It consisted of slice pickles, tomatoes and sliced Kraft cheddar for appetizers, beef stroganoff Hamburger Helper for entree, and angel food cake with Cool whip for dessert. I was 8. I guess about that time.

N: Who or what has been the most influential factor in your life, personally and professionally?

Tobias: I’m always thinking about Nona (Great Grandmother) and my Grandmother when I’m working on new recipes. Professionally my business partner Ethan is very influential.

Ethan Powell

Ethan Powell, Oyster Shucking

Ethan: Personally my parents have been the most influential in my life. They gave me every opportunity to do what I wanted to do in my youth. Professionally, Jels Mcauley I worked for in the NYC and in Portland, OR. I worked for him longer than anyone else in my career. He also gave me the opportunity to run the busiest kitchen in the busiest restaurant in Portland at Andina Restaurant. That was a wonderful learning experience.

N: What is your favorite meal to make and to eat?

Ethan: Ceviche for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The Peruvian style and this is important. Take fresh Ono, fresh squeezed key lime juice, habanero, red onion, cilantro, really cold distilled water, and salt. Make the leche de tigre first and it marinates only for a few minutes. Serve with roasted yams and fresh corn.

Tobias: I really enjoy making fresh pasta and sauce when I can carve out the time I bake bread as well. It’s probably the meal that’s most soul satisfying for me and I find myself cooking for most big events in life.

N: Where were you raised? Does that have an impact on your cooking style today?

Ethan: I was raised in Texarkana, Arkansas. It borders Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana. I do Southern food so yes it has an effect on my cooking style and my pallet.

Tobias: I grew up in Eugene, Oregon but I don’t feel like that has any impact on my cooking. I feel like the way my mother raised me has more impact on my cooking than where i was raised. She was very good about using raw ingredients in all of our cooking at home and we always had a garden so I’ve always used fresh ingredients because we didn’t have processed food in our household.

N: What is your cooking philosophy?

Tobias: Simple, don’t try to make things too complicated, let the ingredients show through.

Ethan: I believe in big, bold, and balanced flavor and utilization of the entire product. The insides of the animal taste the best.

N: I know that supporting local producers is important for you. Do you find that supporting local growers is catching on in and outside of Portland?

Ethan: I think the Portland area is the leader when it comes to local, organic, and sustainable. There are hundreds of small farms in the Portland metro area alone. I believe this is the direction the country is going. Some areas will be a little slower to catch on however.

Viridian Farms

A tour at the local Viridian Farms in Dayton, Oregon

Tobias: It certainly is important to us at the restaurant and in Portland overall. When my girlfriend and I are traveling through France and Spain we love to stop at rest stops along the motorways, that’s where you find a lot of cool stuff, regional products. That’s the way I feel we’re heading and it’s great. People are starting to take real pride in their regions around the country. We were just visiting some family in the mid-west and all we heard from the restaurants was about what farm this or that was coming from. I feel the local grower producer thing is really the new trend, and that’s amazing!

N: What do you see are the biggest challenges chefs face when trying to support local growers?

Tobias: Prices. It’s still very difficult to pay some of the prices these local growers are demanding. It’s one thing to load up at the farmer’s market and head home to cook dinner than it is to make something at the restaurant when you still have to make your margins to stay open. There’s price resistance from the consumer who is still getting pummeled by Applebee’s selling “local” or “organic” food for $11 an entree that’s big enough to take home an additional portion. These farmers are growing amazing product and they deserve to be paid for it but the consumer is putting huge pressures on the restaurant for pricing.

Ethan: When using small farms you are working with really small businesses, some of these with only one employee, so they tend to be less efficient than some really large purveyors. They also work on smaller economies of scale so the prices tend to be higher. That being said you are almost always getting a better product. Some do delivery and some don’t which can sometimes be a logistical issue. However, supporting a local small business is a win-win in my book. (Pictures from a trip to Hama Hama Oysters on the Olympic Peninsula.)

N: What ingredients are you enjoying experimenting with right now?

Tobias: Right now Ethan just picked up these tiny Spaghetti squash from a farm in Forest Grove that are fantastic. We’re roasting them and scooping out the meat, and serving it back in the shell with an heirloom tomato sauce, it’s delicious.



Ethan: Chilies. We have been fermented chilies for hot sauce for a while now. They are all given to us by one of our farms. They ferment in salt and get really stinky for 2 months. Then we strain and bottle. When all is done you have a hot sauce with a delicious and unique flavor full of healthy pro-biotics. We give a third back to the farm and they sell them at a farmers market.

N: Are there unique tools that you rely on in the kitchen?

Tobias: Obviously we have a lot of tools in the kitchen but good spoons and tongs are so important and often overlooked. When you have a really good spoon that you can use for saucing a dish it makes a big difference in speed and accuracy.

Ethan and Tobias' Texas Pete Hot Sauce, Prepared for the FEAST Portland Food Festival. HIC Essentials Silicone Spatula Used to Prepare.

Ethan and Tobias’ Texas Pete Hot Sauce, Prepared for the FEAST Portland Food Festival. HIC Essentials Silicone Spatula Used to Prepare.

Ethan: Sharp chefs knife is a must. Also Japanese mandolin and spoons. Tongs are great also.

Oysters Spotted on a Trip Through France

Oysters Spotted on a Trip Through France

N: Are there any tasks that you haven’t found a perfect tool for? (If you could invent a perfect kitchen tool, what would it do for you?)

Ethan: An oyster opener. They come in all shapes and sizes so a uniform opener doesn’t exist

Tobias: Wow, that’s a good question. If I could invent the perfect kitchen tool I guess I’d sell it to Harold Import to market. We’re still working on that one; we haven’t found a task that good knife skills can’t handle yet. Tobias Hogan teaches us how to shuck an oyster.

N: Do you have favorite cookbooks or kitchen tool that you would recommend every home cook own and why?

Tobias: I would say that every home cook needs a good Mandolin, it can make things a lot easier. Also, a lot of people just have regular old knives, I think that everyone should invest in a couple of good knives at least, again it make things a lot easier. We have so many cookbooks at home it’s hard to recommend a good one for everyone, some of our favorites are French books we’ve picked up traveling. One of my girlfriends favorite is from the ’70’s and has an entire section on flaming foods, it’s awesome! We’re having a party in January where everyone coming has to cook something from the flaming section!

Ethan: Again a sharp knife and books that teach technique. If you are at home how do you learn technique without studying?

N: What was the last meal you ate? 

Tobias: As with many of my colleagues, the last meal I ate was on the couch last night at 10:30 p.m. I took home a new addition to the dinner menu at The Parish, Wild Boar Gumbo with Wild Boar Sausage. It was delicious!

Ethan: House made Chaurice ( a spicy fresh pork sausage) with oven roasted broccoli, kale, brown rice and some fermented hot sauce. It was goood!!!


You can enjoy locally sourced oysters and the Cajun and Creole creations of Ethan Powell and Tobias Hogan at EaT: An Oyster Bar, and The Parish, in Portland, Oregon. If you don’t live in the area, enjoy tuning in to their culinary adventures and local sourcing journeys on their Facebook page.

Ethan and Tobias’ approach and energy is so genuine, and their medium – the freshest Oysters, along side Cajun and Creole cooking – is close to my heart. Raised on the Gulf Coast, fire-roasted oysters on the half shell became my first semi-solid food. Dad would build a barbecue from a metal drum cut in half lengthwise, with wire covering the opening to make a surface to hold the shellfish, spreading buckets of shrimp, crab, and oysters, over the top. Neighborhood friends would gather with us to enjoy this feast; consuming fresh shellfish sitting at papered picnic tables, the sweet juices running down to our elbows.

Interested in learning more about HIC? We’d love to speak with you. For Customer, wholesale, or press inquiries, please reach us here. Or, shoot us a note via Facebook.

Contributed by Nicole Herman, of HIC, Harold Import Co.

Reindeer Cupcake Recipe Using HIC’s Cannonball Ice Ball Tray

Reindeer Cupcakes made with the Cannonball Ice Ball Tray

Reindeer Cupcakes made with HIC’s Cannonball Ice Ball Tray

This holiday season we put our Cannonball Ice Ball Tray to the test, for baking as well as ice making… and feeling in a jolly mood, used it to make reindeer cupcakes.  (You could also create dog, cat, or bunny cupcakes… pretty much any animal with a head and body, just get creative with the decorations!) You can find a Cannonball Ice Ball Tray of your own, here, and in gourmet kitchen shops nationwide.

Reindeer Cupcakes Recipe:

First, prepare batter and fill both traditional cupcake cups (for the body)  and the Cannonball Ice Ball Tray for the reindeer heads.

See our Spice and Pumpkin Cake Batter recipe, and how to bake cake in the Cannonball Ice Ball Tray here. Or, you can use any flavor of cake you desire.

Assembling the reindeer cupcakes:

1. After cupcake cups and cake balls are completely cool, following the recipe found here, use a spoon to scoop a small amount of cake from the top, near the edge, of each cupcake. Create a small divot for the reindeer head to sit in.

Creating Divot for Reindeer Cupcake Head

Creating Divot for Reindeer Cupcake Head

2. Melt baking chocolate in a double boiler. We used Rose’s Silicone Baking Bowl.

Melting Chocolate in Rose's Silicone Baking Bowl

Melting Chocolate in Rose’s Silicone Baking Bowl.

3. Place the cake ball made in the Cannonball Ice Ball Tray into the divot, on top of the melted chocolate, and let cool. This will help hold the head nicely in place.

Reindeer Head on Cupcake Body

Reindeer Head on Cupcake Body

4. Decorate the face, as you choose. We used cinnamon imperials for the nose, dried currants for the eyes, and white icing for the feet and base of the eyes and nose.

5. Creating the antlers – put some melted dark baking chocolate from Rose’s Silicone Baking Bowl (find yours here) into a pastry bag fitted with a fine tip, and pipe the chocolate into antler shapes on a Silpat baking mat. Place in refrigerator to cool.

Reindeer Antlers Piped on Silpat Baking Mat

Reindeer Antlers Piped on Silpat Baking Mat

6. Press the base of each antler into the cupcake behind the reindeer’s head.

Reindeer Cupcakes Made with the Cannonball Ice Ball Tray

Reindeer Cupcakes Made with the Cannonball Ice Ball Tray


Interested in learning more about HIC, Harold Import Co.? Contact us here.

Contributed by Nicole H., of HIC, Harold Import Co.

Benriner – The History, and an Interview with Michiko, Granddaughter of the Founder of Benriner

Benriner Signboard from 1969

Benriner Signboard from 1969. This Signboard shows the Benriner made of tin from before the time of the plastic benriner. With the shift to plastic, mass production became possible, and the customer base expanded from restaurants to the home chef.

Raw, plant based, and vegan dishes are turning up in food blogs and on creative menus throughout the culinary world.  The conversation about this type of cuisine is evolving; preparing the dishes and eating this way is becoming less intimidating due to access to information and education about how to prepare this type of food easily, as well as culinary thought leaders and chefs influencing menus and making these food choices both delicious and available. Eating a more plant-rich diet is thought of as something that doesn’t have to be all or nothing, it doesn’t have to be approached in an extreme way.

An exceptional line of tools to aid in preparing this type of cuisine are the Benriner Japanese Mandolin slicers, from Japan. If you are not familiar with the Benriner name, you may recognize one of the Benriner products by it’s vibrant green color – often seen in the hands of chefs on TV, behind restaurant counters, and on store shelves in its authentic Japanese packaging.

Benriner Japanese Mandolin Slicer

Benriner Japanese Mandolin Slicer

We have had the great honor to interview Michiko, responsible for Benriner’s international marketing, and sister to owner Hajime and grandson of Benriner’s founder, Uyuki Yamamoto, who shared with us the history of Benriner and the company’s evolution.

Michiko and Hajime visited the Harold Import Co. booth at the International Home and Housewares Show in Chicago, in March of 2013; Hajime even demonstrated the Benriner products in person. (Though the Benriner is so simple to operate, we have never seen it used with the grace and finesse Hajime possesses.) We look forward to welcoming them back in 2014.

Benriner Product Evolution

Benriner Product Evolution

Benriner Product Evolution

Benriner Product Evolution

 The Interview

Nicole Herman, of HIC:   Michiko, Please tell us a bit about your role in the Benriner Company.

Michiko: My role is to assist the company’s overall international marketing today- I have not been so aware of Benriner and its exposure to the world market until I become an adult and see how other people and restaurants use it – until then I was using the cheap slicer for cooking for myself – but after using Benriner (I got the sample from my brother) I haven’t gone back to the cheap stuff- The blade in the cheap kind does not last but Benriner lasts.

N: What was the inspiration for your grandfather to start Benriner?

M: Around 5 years after World War II ended, our grandfather started a company in the 1950’s in Japan, that dealt with lumber and wooden products such as interior doors.  He gathered some skilled craftsmen in the city who were lumber cutting and crafting professionals as well as blacksmiths to start the company. Later he used the idea of Kanna (a small wood shaving device traditionally used in Japanese construction) and with the leftover lumber pieces,  he made a slicer that would cut the food (vegetable)- and  the Benriner Slicer was invented. After he officially built the company to make the slicer, He named the company “Benriner” and started production.

Benriner, 1960 -The year the company was founded.

Benriner, 1960 -The year the company was founded.

N:  What has your brother Hajime changed about Benriner, since he has joined the company?

M: Benriner was once created by our grandfather but after taking over the company, my brother has been making the effort for improving the product quality and also package designs, it has transformed from the “old” outdated design to the country-specific, different designs.  Also Hajime started our official website,

Iwakuni Castle

Iwakuni city, where Benriner headquarters is located, means “the country of the rocky mountain” in Japanese. This Iwakuni Castle was built by Governor Samurai Kikkawa in 1600.

Nishi River

The Nishi River, meaning “the patterns of sewing the decorated kimono which carries out beauty and goes” flowing through Iwakuni city. The Benriner factory is nearby.

N:  The original Benriner looked different than what we use today. What was the first Benriner like, and what influenced the design of the new Benriner?

M: The transformation from a wooden slicer to a plastic version was inevitable due to the increasing cost of materials- also plastic is easier to maintain, and is durable, it is lighter weight, plus you can add product color variations. Also, advice on what changes could be beneficial are sought out from the users (customers) in order to implement the best possible design that would meet our various customers with different needs.

Benriner 1972

Benriner, 1972. The company started moving the production from wood-based material to plastic. This change increased the production level, though the company was located in the residential area, being unable to expand its plant site.

N:  Did your family use the Benriner in the home kitchen, when you were growing up? Do they still?

M: My mother used it all the time.   She made vegetable salad or dishes with vegetable using Benriner and Turning slicers and thanks to my mother; all family members are not picky veggie eaters.

N: Can you share with us any special meals, or traditional vegetable dishes most often prepared with the Benriner in Japan?

M: Any vegetable that can be used for salad, such as carrot, cabbage, or sweet pepper – Japan has many kinds of dishes with a variety of vegetables, so almost all kinds of vegetables are used – however, Japanese restaurants would make the thinly shredded cabbage using Benriner, or radish strands using the Benriner Turning slicer, which often comes served with the Sashimi dish. A combination of white radish and carrot slices is common too, especially for special occasions such as New Year cuisine, as red and white represents good luck.

Benriner Demonstrated in the HIC Booth at the Fancy Food Show, Circa 1998

Benriner Demonstrated in the HIC Booth at the Fancy Food Show, Circa 1998

N:  The Benriner has had a devoted fan base for a long time. Why do you think it’s maintained such popularity?

M: Cooking is fun and a “happy thing” to do no matter where customers live in the world. I think Benriner products help bring the happiness to their kitchen. Benriner products add variety, and the beauty to the dish – so not only are they versatile to use, but also they help bring the cooking quality to the next level – to some users, cooking is more than just cooking, it can be a creative work – almost an “art.”    The second-to-none quality of blades make it all possible and that is why Benriner continues focusing on the product quality and it is also the strength of the company and its pride.

Benriner Handmade Blade

Benriner Handmade Blade

The spirit is – in a way, like how Samurai takes care of their swards- our mother’s side of the family came from the Fujiwara Clan of Kyoto.  ( I keep the copies of family tree scrolls that go back as far as the 7th century- the original is kept in our grandmother’s house)   It is not overstatement to say that we have a Bushido spirit and takes the pride of the quality and take commitment to bring the goodness to people by doing the right thing.

Benriner Blade Inspection

Benriner Blade Inspection. Though automation has now come into play in making parts of the benriner, this last process of the blade making and inspection is conducted by the hand of a skilled person, even now.

N: Could you tell me what “Bushido” means?

M: It is like “Samurai spirit” that values justice, loyalty and sincerity. In my understanding, Bushido spirit itself is the shared value among Japanese people and their business, and it is instilled in our culture, which may have influenced in our high expectation for quality.

Japan has been famous for its great customer service- however we must not forget that it is supported by each individual’s loyalty and quality standard as I think quality of each individual makes difference in the organization and the society as a whole.

Benriner Craftsman

Benriner craftsman training the young employees making the interchangeable blades in 1970’s. Work site pictures of the years (1970s) back then are very rare so these are very precious pictures – according to Hajime.
The 1970’s in Japan were the years when mass production was enhanced by automation- however the blade making process still required the skilled craftsmanship by hand, and is still passed on today to maintain the supreme quality of blades of Benriner products.

Unless each individual employee commits to the value and high standard of quality, good products and service would not be achievable, so It all comes down to the individuals and their quality and the collective effort, that make the good final outcome-products.

N:  Has it surprised you or your family, that the Benriner is so popular in the US?

M: Yes, in a way- I think it is so especially for the employees in the company.   Those products that they produce day to day get imported to the countries all over the world, to the kitchen where they would not even imagine.   Also health awareness is increasing in the US and more people are eating vegetable and Benriner definitely supports their healthy lifestyle.

N: When did your family first become aware of how much the Benriner is embraced by chefs in the US?

 M: We have been aware of the fact that our products have been widely used outside of Japan by the amount of growing export to the various countries including the US; however as I happened to encounter celebrity-chefs using Benriner products on their TV programs and also saw some food magazines show the recipe indicating the use of Japanese/Benriner slicer, then it became more evident that our products had gained recognition throughout food business industry in the U.S.

I also know the majority of local Japanese and Asian restaurants and markets use and carry Benriner products  – just peeking inside their kitchen I can spot Benriner slicers sometimes.  Also our companies have been exposed to some media coverage either by TV programs and newspapers from time to time.

For example, Japanese TV programs last year lead us to know  some chefs from the top restaurants, such as the one in Mandarin Oriental Hotel to the hip and edgy restaurant near Union Square in New York use Benriner products – so we took a trip to New York to personally meet the chefs.   Also we visited  a couple of kitchen specialty stores in Chelsea and Greenwich Village to visit the store owner and got some good feedback about our products they carry.

Nowadays, individual bloggers and YouTubers post various Benriner related comments and videos, sharing their experience as consumers. Also Benriner products are widely used in the cooking schools as well, so we know “future-chefs” would probably continue using Benriner products, too.

Benriner is widely known as “Japanese Mandolin” but many chefs are using it for making casseroles,  desserts, and many other Western style dishes. I think Benriner as a company owes responsibility to provide more opportunities for US customers to eat variety of healthy meals using vegetables.   I see more people in the US shifting to the healthy diet and hope our products would help add variety of cooking options for their daily menu.

N: Yes, people are discussing the concept of eating more healthfully,  and making more nutritious choices, it’s a popular topic right now. The Benriner is a very useful tool for home cooks who are trying to prepare lots of vegetables. If there is one message or bit of information you would like people who use and love the Benriner to know, that they might not already be aware of, what would it be? Is there anything in particular that you’d like them to know about your family, the company, or the Benriner product?

M: I think the good quality of Benriner products are supported by the loyalty of the employees who stay in the organization for a long time and produce consistent quality products, since many procedures- such as blade making for example, are still done by employees by hand, so  craftsmanship and quality control matter most.

As a descendent of Samurai of Imperial Fujiwara Clan,  I humbly dare to believe that Bushido-spirit, which I respect, is what makes us Japanese people and our cultural/spiritual value peculiar and different from other Asian countries.

White Fox Shrine Benriner

A small shrine on site at the Benriner headquarters. The image of “the white fox” or “Oenari-San” is placed and deified on the right and left in the shrine. The photograph with the priest in white is taken when the head office transfered in 2011 and a shrine was reconstructed simultaneously. The festival of “the white fox” in performed in August every year, and the clothes for the Shinto priest are at this time orange.

Just like Samurai’s sword, it is not overstatement to say that we take our pride to the quality of our blades and no other counterfeit products (such as the one made in China) can achieve the same quality.

More about Fujiwara clan: Encyclopedia Britannica

Benriner, today

Benriner, in Japan, today.

N: As the Director of Marketing for HIC, I want you to know that I speak on behalf of HIC, Harold Import Co, when I say that this experience with you has been an honor. We keep you in the highest regard and give great thanks for the time you are spending to educate us about your history,  your contribution to the culinary world, and for sharing these beautiful photographs that illustrate the Benriner Company’s evolution.

M: Thank you! Cooking brings joy to the kitchen- whether cooking for our family and loved ones, or chefs cooking for the restaurants customers – it is all about making people feeling good & happy.   It would be great if Benriner can play a part helping bring joy and happiness to all our customers worldwide.   While being a small company in Japan, we have been maintaining the high recognition both in cutlery and food business industry for along time, we commit our responsibility to continue providing good quality product and services to our customers.

Article contributed by Nicole Herman of HIC, Harold Import Co.

Looking for a Benriner slicer of your own? Contact HIC.

Learn more about how to use the Benriner, from their original videos: 

*All images and photography in this post are the sole property of Benriner and HIC. No use of these may be made without the prior written consent from HIC.