It is a beautiful marriage of kitchen convenience. John Francis Welch is a skilled woodworker and wood carver. He also “absolutely” loves food, he says. And so it is that the accomplished cook makes his own utensils.

His hands-on efforts are translated into exquisitely-crafted spoons, housewares, cutting and serving boards and more, marketed through his label John Francis Designs, based in Chelmsford, Massachusetts, US. In this issue of Cuisine, Emilie Pullar uses his pasta moulds to stamp a flourishing finish on her own creations (see left photo below).

“We eat with our eyes first, so a visual appeal is a key to a delicious meal,” says John. Just take a look at what he crafts in walnut, cherry and maple. The designs are heavily influenced by both Japanese patterns and Art Deco.

This is not the sort of stuff you want to keep at the back of the cupboard; it’s artwork worthy of permanent benchtop prominence in your own kitchen. Says John, “I don’t believe in just taking out the fine china for special occasions; I think that the more beauty you can surround yourself with on a daily basis, the better.”

What began as a personal pursuit has blossomed into a thriving business. Chefs the world over just love his stuff – and he now takes inspiration from what they themselves are doing. He says that the way some of them are taking the “simple tool” he’s made, introducing patterned coloured dough, or cutting the ravioli in a way he’d never even considered, stokes his creative fires. It helps that he’s a committed pasta- phile, creating recipes both elaborate and easy. For one of his simpler ravioli dishes, he recommends his 2×2 moulds (for a smaller ravioli) with a ground beef and spinach filling and Marcella Hazan’s tomato sauce.

Imagine the satisfaction. You make your own pasta – from scratch – then you use your own implements to cut and imprint it. As John puts it, “Nothing brings me more joy than being able to make food for the people I care about with tools I crafted with my own hands.” Talk about the perfect touch. GERALDINE JOHNS

NOTE: We searched for a New Zealand maker of carved pasta moulds but were unsuccessful, so we are hoping John’s beautiful work may inspire someone here to take up the challenge.