Interview - Rebecca Klein - Eco Chopping Boards
Turning a weed into a coveted and highly practical kitchen tool seems like fantasy material. But Eco Chopping Boards are doing just that. When their local State Forests were trying to eradicate Camphor Laurel trees to allow the native trees to thrive, Manager Rebecca Klein tells us that they decided to give this weed a noble purpose in life.
FFW: How did Eco Chopping Boards come about?
ECO CHOPPING BOARDS: The idea of chopping boards originated when we made furniture and we often had leftover timber which we realised was perfect for a chopping board. Around that time State Forests were doing a large clearing operation of Camphor Laurel as it had been declared a pest/weed. The idea of Camphor Laurel chopping boards was then formed. We got the board tested at a university and it was proven that the timber had strong, naturally occurring antibacterial properties. We felt then it was ideal for a chopping board.
FFW: What inspired you to create a range of gorgeous, eco-minded chopping boards?
ECO CHOPPING BOARDS: The abundance of Camphor Laurel timber in the area and it felt good to see it being used rather than bulldozed over and burnt.
FFW: What are the boards made of?
ECO CHOPPING BOARDS: Single pieces of camphor laurel timber which have been kiln dried and then naturally shaped around the grain giving each piece its own unique shape.
FFW: Are the boards intended for home use or commercial use?
ECO CHOPPING BOARDS: Both are great in the commercial kitchen or at home. They are classed as food grade boards as long as the right safe food handling techniques are followed.
FFW: How are they being used in foodservice businesses?
ECO CHOPPING BOARDS: The boards have natural antibacterial properties which aids in bacteria not growing on or in the boards. This means that they are fantastic as a general purpose chopping board. We are happy to write/burn Meat, Vege, Fruit onto a board to personalise it, however this is a personal preference and not really necessary. The natural shapes and colours of the boards can bring out a person’s creativity when presenting food; each time it will look amazing and friends will think you are a professional.
FFW: What’s behind the ‘eco’ part of the name?
ECO CHOPPING BOARDS: Eco comes from the fact that we are using a weed and by working with the farmers and helping with the removal costs of Camphor Laurel it helps by not seeing the timber wasted. With the removal of Camphor Laurel our native trees can have a chance to grow. We also give back to the community by giving away free sawdust and off cuts for burning.
FFW: Can you make up chopping boards to order?
ECO CHOPPING BOARDS: Yes we often make specific sizes for commercial kitchens, cake displays, serving trays, sink boards and many just for personal use. Some people just want a certain size and we make that and we don’t charge extra for “one off” pieces.
FFW: What makes Camphor Laurel so special?
ECO CHOPPING BOARDS: Camphor Laurel is the timber used and it is so special because of its natural antibacterial qualities and there is a large supply of the timber. It is actually helping regenerate forests and local environment by removing the timber.
FFW: Is there any special care required in maintaining or preserving the boards?
ECO CHOPPING BOARDS: They only need a very simple wash in warm soapy water and to be oiled with a light vegetable oil every 3 to 6 months to keep the boards in optimum condition.
FFW: Do Eco Chopping Boards have to be oiled or otherwise treated to ensure their longevity?
ECO CHOPPING BOARDS: In a commercial circumstance we suggest oiling every week. The oil can be a vegetable oil or grape seed oil or rice bran oil, mainly something nice and light that soaks in easily and gives the board a drink. Oiling of the board will protect it from the elements and extend its longevity. We have customers from 2000 that are only just coming back to us now to replace their board – 15 years for a chopping board is not a bad life!
FFW: What kinds of retailers are stocking your products?
ECO CHOPPING BOARDS: All sorts from kitchenware, market stalls, grocery and fruit shops, galleries, bakeries, to give a few examples.
FFW: Do the boards crack or warp after a period of time?
ECO CHOPPING BOARDS: No, the timber is kiln dried onsite at our factory which means we monitor it closely to make sure we get the timber to the right moisture content for handling. This moisture content level allows the timber to be shaped and thicknessed and sanded to the beautiful end product that we produce. With very strict quality control we do what we can to make sure that there are no faults, however Camphor Laurel timber can be fickle and it is known as a “cranky grain”. If there is an issue and a crack or warp does appear and the correct care instructions have been followed we will either repair or replace the board. Sometimes timber will just want to do its own thing. On that note we dispatch 400+ boards a week around Australia and export overseas and we don’t get many returns. Make sure that the board has our Eco Boards logo branded on it to guarantee you are getting a top quality chopping board.
FFW: What differentiates Eco Chopping Boards from others in the marketplace?
ECO CHOPPING BOARDS: Our factory is purpose built with its own dedicated production line for the chopping boards. We have a large weekly production of boards, so supply is good with usually next day dispatch to customers, though special orders will take a little longer. We only send out the best quality boards. We pride ourselves on our customer service and we are contactable every day including weekends. We are reliable and will be upfront about timeframes and will suggest other options if necessary. Our boards are natural we do not stain them, they are oiled only with canola oil and the colour you see on the board is its true colour. The quality of our boards can be seen visually and felt and they are the best around.
FFW: Have you seen any fun or unique uses for your chopping boards?
ECO CHOPPING BOARDS: Restaurants using them for Caesar salad, tapas, antipasto plates, steak boards, sushi trays. We had a jeweller come in to get a board made to display his jewellery. One lady had her 50th birthday party with a board that was 350mm wide and 2.2metres long to display pizza on. We have just made some beer tasting trays in the shape of an artist’s pallet for Stone & Wood. Anything is possible. I love it when customers post food pictures onto www.facebook.com/ecochoppingboards.
FFW: In whose hands would you like to see an Eco Chopping Board as the ultimate publicity or celebrity endorsement?
ECO CHOPPING BOARDS: I would love to see our boards with all Chefs no matter what level they are. Currently Clayton Donovan is using and promoting our chopping board at some special food events throughout the year, recently at Noosa Food and Wine Festival and Sydney Easter Show.
FFW: Do you have any new products in development at the moment?
ECO CHOPPING BOARDS: Yes, a heart-shaped board for Valentine’s and Mother’s Day. Otherwise, nothing new at the moment, we produce 40 different sized boards and if we don’t make the size you want, we’ll do a special order.