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Eileen O’Dea and Ryan Silverman carved out a perfect niche for themselves with The Wooden Palate, a company that marries their twin passions: cooking and woodworking.
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The Wooden Palate specializes in hand-carved pieces made from recycled, reclaimed, or sustainably harvested wood -- such as these gorgeous shallow oval bowls (from black walnut and mahogany). Like a good cast-iron skillet, these wood bowls only get better with use and time.
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A Cellar of Salt
Silverman, who learned woodworking from his father in Iowa, fabricates high-end flooring, staircases, celings, and cabinetry for such clients as Jennifer Aniston and Donald Sutherland. The couple launched the Wooden Palate soon after O'Dea started requesting specific items for the kitchen from Silverman. She knew what she wanted to work with but was frustrated that she couldn't make things herself: "I finally said, 'Just show me how!'" Now she works alongside Silverman and his crew in their Los Angeles-area studio.
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To craft their cutting boards, bowls, platters, and salt cellars, Silverman and O'Dea start with the wood. They use a variety of sustainable woods -- from oak to maple. They even have a limited-edition selection of cutting boards made out of the original Atlantic City Boardwalk.
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Carving by Hand
Each piece is handmade and will last for generations. "I get upset with our disposable society," says Silverman. I didn't grow up with heirlooms, so I feel it's especially important that our boards continue long after we do."
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An Artisan's Touch
To build an end-grain board, they piece together between 147 and 392 pieces of “perfectly milled” wood, which they glue, clamp, and set out to dry and acclimate, then sand and oil until “it feels like glass,” he explains. It’s a labor-intensive process, but according to Silverman, it’s worth it.
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Every product their studio creates has to be both beautiful and practical: O’Dea tests each one in the kitchen, and, says Silverman, "she’s harsh on the designs and won’t accept anything that isn’t just right.”