I recently stole a cheese grater from Craig Livingston, our CEO at Arena. Since the incident occurred during a yankee swap gift exchange at the Arena holiday party, I’m hoping this will not turn out to be a career limiting move. The gift I stole was no ordinary cheese grater however — it was a Microplane®.
Microplane® cheese graters rock. Growing up in an Italian family I grated hundreds of pounds of Pecorino Romano on a box grater as a child. I scraped my knuckles constantly when my hand slipped as I pushed the cheese hard against the grating surface. The box grater was made through a punch process. The cheese was torn apart by the rough edges of the pierced metal. Microplane® graters, on the other hand, are made through a photo-etching process that creates tiny knife-like blades throughout the surface of the grater. The cheese is literally planed as it passes over the cutting surface. Using very little force, you get fine, light flakes instead of small chunks of cheese.
I like the Microplane® cheese grater not only because the product works so well, but also because it has a great design story. The Microplane® was originally created by Grace Manufacturing in 1990 to be a woodworking tool. That tool was the first product designed and built by Grace, which before then had been a contract manufacturer and not an OEM.
In 1994 a woman in Canada, frustrated with her zester, grabbed a new tool her husband had brought home from their hardware store. After using the tool on an orange, she promptly changed the product description in their catalogue and Microplane® had found a new market — kitchen gadgets.
Change is hard. I admire a company that can build on its strengths to take big steps in new directions. Congratulations, Grace Manufacturing. I love my Microplane® graters and thanks to Craig, I now own five.