“Our goal in creating this business was to create a local community of cooks.”
–Dan Saklad, owner and co-founder of Whisk kitchen store
by Jessie Ammons
photograph by Jillian Clark
Dan Saklad is admittedly not a shopper. “I’ve never really spent time in retail stores,” says the owner of Whisk, a retail kitchenware store in Cary. Nonetheless, when he and his wife Diana moved to Cary 11 years ago – a place he says they picked after Googling “best places to live” – they wanted to launch a business rooted in something they cared deeply about. “Cooking is what we’ve always done,” Saklad says. “I’ve cooked every day of my life since I was 5 years old, and Diana has done the same. It’s always been a passion of ours.” In 2013, the couple translated that love to Whisk, a kitchen emporium with a strong emphasis on cooking classes. Saklad says the experience has been less like a foray into retail and more like an investment in community. “We’re a very different experience.”
It’s one focused on doing, they hope, with shopping a happy side effect. “We have 35 to 40 cooking classes here every month, taught by 42 chefs from 15 different countries.” Classes range from themed recipes for beginners, a la “a night in Paris” and “Bollywood, an authentic Indian feast,” to in-depth technical classes like knife skills and master-level sushi-making. Wall-to-wall racks of kitchen gadgets and cooking accessories complement the skills being taught and supply specialty items for gourmands of all kinds.
“Part of the experience is the personalities we hire,” Saklad says. Rather than look for employees with retail experience, they look for employees who are “engaging and fun, the types of people you’d like to hang out with on a weekend at a party.” The employees’ attitude is contagious: “It’s amazing how the community has embraced us,” Saklad says.
Despite receiving offers to franchise and expand, the Saklads say they’re not interested. “The beauty of it is having one location. There’s a certain magic to that.” And this time of year, full of celebratory meals and gatherings, is especially meaningful to the Whisk team. “We love cooking and we love people who love cooking. We’re completely happy being here in Cary doing our thing. This is a place for people who share our same passion for cooking and entertaining.”