The importers at Haus Alpenz specialize in bringing European vermouths, amari, quinquinas, and other specialty spirits and wines to the U.S. market. It may be surprising, then, to learn that their national sales manager, Jake Parrott, spends a lot of his time on the job slicing salami.
Parrott primarily works in the field, servicing accounts in a dozen states and hosting trade shows, training sessions, and occasional in-store tastings. He is known for assembling elaborate pairings of food and wine or spirits to showcase Haus Alpenz’s portfolio for his trade accounts.
Eric Seed, Haus Alpenz’s founder, explains that Parrott is “near famous” with their wholesalers and trade customers for these spreads. A typical sales call for Parrott might involve prepping lemon peels or chopping strawberries to showcase Dolin Blanc Vermouth de Chambéry to a customer, while trade shows and tastings might include an array of cheeses and charcuterie that accent the portfolio. The aim, says Parrott, is to show customers that Haus Alpenz’s products are versatile. While they can be enjoyed on their own, they also make great pairing partners for a variety of foods. That’s where the meat and cheese—and Parrott’s go-to tool—come in: “I can’t do what I do,” Parrott says, “without a Kuhn Rikon Colori sheathed paring knife.”
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A reliable knife is as important to Parrott’s day-to-day work as a good shaker is to a cocktail bartender. He has to be able to slice his food offerings gracefully and efficiently while chatting with customers and educating them about Haus Alpenz’s product line. Though Parrott has tried pricier knives, nothing has surpassed the Kuhn, which he first picked up at a Wegmans supermarket when he started his job at Haus Alpenz five and a half years ago. (He estimates that he’s purchased about 20 more of them since, mostly to give to Haus Alpenz’s distributor reps.)
“It keeps an edge and takes an edge back when sharpened,” he says. The knife comes with a sheath, making it easy—and safe—to take along on sales calls. And while high-quality cutlery can often be expensive, the Kuhn retails for about $9 and is available at supermarkets like Wegmans and Walmart and online at Amazon. That’s important, given the amount of time Parrott spends on the road. “It’s inexpensive and easily available,” he says, “so if I want to leave one with a sales rep or a retail customer, I can get another one without breaking the bank.”
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Gray Chapman is an Atlanta-based journalist who writes about spirits, beauty, and culture; she was formerly the managing editor of Tales of the Cocktail. Follow her on Twitter.