Cédric Lévesque: The knife pro

Cédric Lévesque has been sharpening knives for a dozen years for his own company, Aiguisage CL. From his home in Centre-du-Québec, he doesn’t shy away from traveling the miles in his green van to meet his customers, who include individuals and renowned chefs scattered throughout the region and beyond. In fact, it was in a Montreal café that we met at 9 a.m. on a cold January morning. At 8:35 a.m., my phone rang: “Hello, this is Cédric. I’m already here”.

A few minutes later, I meet a well-dressed, courteous and discreet young man in his forties. “In fact, I arrived at 8.05am,” he tells me, satisfied that the journey took him “only 2 hours and 20 minutes” this morning. His punctuality is matched only by his professionalism: he insists on being formal with me, despite the informality of our discussion. Yet as soon as he starts talking about his job, his initial seriousness and reserved manner turn into big smiles and animated gestures.

“When I was young, I wanted to be an engineer, like my father,” he says. Fascinated by metals and the precision required to handle them, he launches into a starry-eyed monologue on the elaboration of alloys of various metals, followed by ancestral steel forging techniques.

In the end, he never obtained his engineering diploma: “I’ve got my fifth secondary, that’s all”. But that didn’t stop him from making a living from his passion for mechanics over the years, holding down a succession of jobs in the field.

In 2010, he met a knife sharpener going door-to-door in his neighborhood and started working for him.

In fact, many customers still tell him about the knife sharpeners of their youth, and the famous siren that announced their arrival. That way of doing things has all but disappeared. Fortunately, says Cédric, because the quality wasn’t always there…

He takes the example of his ex-employer: “This gentleman used super-fast machines and cheap abrasive belts. Having your good knives sharpened by a street knife sharpener whose aim is quantity rather than quality can reduce their value from $300 to $2”. Disillusioned, he will only work for him for six months.

However, he was so fascinated by the trade that he decided to set up his own company, vowing to restore knife sharpening to its former glory. He relied on his knowledge of metallurgy, better quality tools and machines set up to work more slowly, but with greater precision.

A self-taught sharpener of garden tools, scissors, saws and knives, Cédric Lévesque has built up quite a reputation over the years for his dexterity, patience, meticulousness and legendary efficiency. “We go to customers’ premises and do everything on the spot in a matter of minutes,” explains the entrepreneur.

In the early days, he filled his address book by going door-to-door. Since 2020, he no longer does this: he doesn’t need to, since his customers are recurrent, and his website provides him with the rest of the clientele he needs.

In addition, part of his schedule is devoted to regularly sharpening the cutlery of chefs at renowned Quebec establishments, including the restaurants of the Ritz-Carlton and Queen Elizabeth hotels in Montreal.

He mentions another of his customers, the Leméac restaurant on Laurier Avenue, whose practices he admires: “Everything is good in this restaurant because the team has impeccable attention to detail, right down to the monthly sharpening of kitchen and table knives”.

Cédric, who in his spare time likes to get behind the stove (or rather, in front of the barbecue!), takes advantage of his good relations with chefs to discuss his personal culinary projects. Some of them are so generous as to offer him advice… but also organic meat and veal stock!

After criss-crossing the streets to sharpen his customers’ blades, the knife pro spends most of his free time playing outside with his children (a 12-year-old girl, a 5-year-old boy and a brand-new baby).

With a twinkle in his eye, he adds that his oldest daughter is already showing great interest in his work. “She’s been coming to help me since she was 10. In the summer, I take her on tours with me. She puts the addresses in the GPS, she enters the customers’ availabilities in the calendar. I give her a small salary”, explains the father, admiring his pre-teen.

Retirement is nowhere near Cédric’s horizon, but now the company’s succession may be assured.

Written by Virginie Landry