Page Content

The Cutlery Polisher and the Twelve Thousand Utensils

Sh3000 Aq28129

SH-3000 Cutlery Polisher. 1

Trade shows are difficult to explain to anybody who doesn't have to attend them, and as an effectively hidden part of an industry, they are not supposed to be interesting to anybody outside of it. Although, when the trade show in question has to do with food and service, this relationship differs, and the listener is prone to jump to the assumption that it is a festival, even though it is advertised as strictly industry-only. The assumption the show is a festival is most likely due to the familiarity of the sale of food in terms of festivals or markets, which do, it has to be said, exhibit similarities to the trade show. Indeed, the format of the food festival, and the artisanal market often manipulates the customer into thinking they have been let behind the scenes, to an industry-only area where the tables aren't set. It is an oft-used mode of psychological marketing to blur the line between a front-end public facing product or service, and the back-end, business-to-business side of its production. This can be observed in trends for food presentation erring towards the scattered and torn, or the way that from the highest end of restaurants to the most casual of dining there is a desire for the kitchen to be on show.

The trade show exhibits a strange mixture of transparency and artifice. Since all those in attendance work in the food and hospitality industry, they have a relationship with each other and the stall-holders that differs from that between a diner and a waiter. However, the trade-only attendees are also customers, who must in turn consider their own customers, and employees. At a recent trade show, amongst the huge variety of stands, from epos (till) systems, through to high-end cider and new diet popcorn snacks, there was a single stand demonstrating cutlery polishing machines.

About Silvershine

Still from the introductory video About Silver Shine 2

In restaurants, customers focus on the utensils while they read a menu and wait for their meal - they are a detail placed purposefully within the sightline. In this way, the customer can be distracted and made to feel observant for noticing a water or grease mark, or comforted by a high shine, hopefully oblivious to dusty corners and frayed edges. In order to provide a pleasing reflection, it is common practice to set a member of kitchen staff a-polishing with a cloth or blu-roll. At most a human will be able to polish about four to five hundred pieces of cutlery in an hour, depending on how thorough they are required to be. However, with a cutlery polishing machine a kitchen can polish up to thirty times that amount, or so the sales pitch goes, offering up twelve thousand knives, forks and spoons buffed to a mirror shine. This is just about cost effective, as suppliers of these machines are eager to point out, even when you are paying the minimum wage for sixteen and seventeen year olds.

Researching these machines, one company advertises its claims of high shine efficiency with an animated character. Taking the form of a personified spoon with forks for hands and arms the cutlery-man promotes the virtues of the polishing machine. Its mouth moves when it talks, but only the bottom line, and it's eyes stay stationary. This character is presumably supposed to appear friendly and reassuring, indeed, much of the Cutlery Polisher's appeal stems from the reassurance that comes with reliably polished and hygienic cutlery. And this reassurance is not just on the part of the restaurateur of course, as is stated in the marketing copy for the Spoonshine Cutlery Polisher; "Contented, relaxed customers are likely to eat and drink more, return earlier and more often and to recommend you to others, thereby directly influencing your current and future profitability". The animated spoon, however, is not reassuring. With its uncanny half moving mouth and pronged fork hands it resembles something more like a trickster or imp, with reassuringly shiny surfaces ending in sharp points, and eerily still eyes.

The cutlery polisher at the trade show runs constantly, with the utensils revolving noisily inside the stainless steel box of the machine. Other sales people dive into aisles offering samples, but the agents of the polisher stand smugly on either side of their silver box, from which emanates a shattering rush of sound. Usually, a delicate lull of slurping, tinkling and possibly sizzling is the correct background hum to evoke hospitality, and as such the cutlery polisher is able to draw prospective customers towards it's stand, with horrified fascination at the musical crash of knives, forks and spoons against galvanised cages. Neither does this machine need to open and close softly like the drawers and cupboards of modern home kitchens, it doesn't matter about jangling the nerves of those that will operate it. As such, the handle by which you can open the machine is a sharp lip, meant to be wrenched. This need not trouble the customer though, as when diners are allowed to see the inner workings of a restaurant kitchen, it is through sound proofed glass. Without the anxiety inducing shouting, crashing and heat, the frantic haste of a restaurant kitchen appears pleasingly busy, with everybody working just as hard as they should be.


Lauren Velvick, Cutlery Imp', 2015

End Notes

Go to footnote reference 1.

SH-3000 Cutlery Polisher produced by Frucoso, UK.  http://cutlerypolisher.blogspo...

Go to footnote reference 2.

About Silvershine an introductory video on the trade website CPI Shine

Lauren Velvick

Lauren Velvick is Co-Director of the Exhibition Centre for the Life and Use of Books, an artist-led curatorial unit based in Manchester that is currently engaged in a programme of research and publication around the work of John H Clark. She is a contributor to various arts and culture publications and was Web Editor for Corridor8 from 2013 to 2015. Lauren is also custodian of the work of Christopher Joseph Holme, and is coordinating a group residency project critically responding to the collection.