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Culinary student looking for upgrades

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 
I'm about to begin an externship at a Michelin One Star restaurant outside of San Francisco and figure I should upgrade the Mercer set I've been using throughout culinary school. To begin I will be working cold kitchen (garde manger) and charceuterie, but want knife upgrades that will last me.

I don't have a ton of money, so I plan on upgrading individually...starting with the big purchase (10" chefs knife) and then filling out with the cheaper pieces (paring, boning, fillet, etc)

I went down to the local cutlery shop and tried out a couple. Here is what I liked:

Kikuichi Gyuto Western Chef's Knife 9.5"
Kasumi Chef's Knife 10"
Wusthof Grand Prix II 10" cook's knife
Messermeister Chef Knife (can't remember the series)

I wasn't impressed by the Shuns and didn't like the handle of the other Wusthofs or Henckels (I have pretty large hands, so I prefer a thicker handle).

Any suggestions for quality knives that can handle heavy daily use would be greatly appreciated.
post #2 of 8
You may want to look into Nenox, Korin and Mac knives. Solid, well built and very well balanced.
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Taste: The sensation derived from food, as interpreted thru the tongue to brain sensory system.
Flavor: The overall impression combining taste, odor, mouthfeel and trigeminal perception.
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post #3 of 8
If you like the Kikuichi Western series, VG-10 steel I think, and want to save about a hundred bucks, check out the Elite Carbon here. I have an Elite Carbon 270mm Sujihiki and love it.

Edit: Subjective review of several Gyutos.
Buzz - with a Short Pilot Story

One day, long, long ago there was this Pilot who, surprisingly...........
was not full of crap....
But it was a long time ago.... And it was just one day. The End
Reply
Buzz - with a Short Pilot Story

One day, long, long ago there was this Pilot who, surprisingly...........
was not full of crap....
But it was a long time ago.... And it was just one day. The End
Reply
post #4 of 8
Plan on putting together an appropriate sharpening system as you put together your new knives, and budget accordingly. This is going to go somewhere north of $200, but you don't have to spend it all at once.

What chefhow said: Nenox are out of your price range. Nice, but forget about them. Korin doesn't make Western knives under its own name anymore. They market Togiharu knives, more about them later. MAC might be an excellent choice for you. More later.

What buzz said: Kikuichi use a variant of VG-1, not VG-10. They're good, but not excellent knives. On the other hand, their carbon Elite series are excellent (for the money) -- if you're considering carbon.

The Kasumi knives, are essentially Shun Classic, i.e., a VG-10 core laminated in a cheap suminagashi, san-mai cladding. The core steel is very good quality, the heel a little thick, the cladding will scratch very easily and the pattern will disappear. Better geometry than the Shun, and overall better than the Shun. Considering the other competition, the only good reason to buy the knife would be if you really loved the handle.

A word about carbon: Carbon in the professional kitchen is not for everyone. It's not that big a deal either. Ordinary, good habits are all that are necessary to deal with the corrosion and staining issues; otherwise it takes and holds a better edge and returns more and better feedback in the cut. I grew up with carbon in professional kitchens, used it catering, and still use it in the home. Over the years, I've certainly had my share of stainless, and much prefer carbon. But if I were in your shoes, moving into my first line slot in a high end kitchen, I'd stay with stainless for the time being. Why create issues?

Like you, I've got big hands and have always considered this an issue in choosing knives. However, the last couple of years I've really dissected my grip and worked hard to perfect it. Most of the adjustment has come from further relaxing my already soft grip -- especially the back three fingers. The better the grip gets, the less the handle seems to mean. This isn't advice, so much as an observation. Here's advice: Get a knife that screams "comfortable" right now.

European Knives: When it comes to the chef's, don't bother. This is not meant to "dis" the German knives -- they're very good, will serve you long and well, so on and so forth. But this is an exercise in choosing the "best," and not the "good enough." Japanese knives get much sharper, stay sharper; they are also significantly lighter -- all of which go to efficiency and fatigue. Furthermore, once you're into the "star" level of kitchen, you just don't see a lot of German steel anymore; it will make you look like a chump.

Some suggestions:

MAC Professional: This has been a favorite of mine since it came out. Extremely comoftable knife. Perhaps the best handle in the trade. Very stiff blade, if you like that -- and at garde you probably like it a lot. Good quality steel. Takes a very good edge, holds it well.

Togiharu G series (Korin): I've never used these personally. I'm told they might as well be Masamoto VG, at a slight discount.

Masmato VG (Japanese Chef Knife): I love Masamoto. You pay a little more, you get a lot more quality. There's never anything wrong with a Masamoto. Great everything. Uses a solid VG-10 (not laminated) blade. Like all VG-10 knives, takes an excellent edge with excellent retention properties. The one knock on this knife is that it's a little flexible.

Hiromoto G3 (Japanese Chef Knife): Handle on the small, slender side. (I bought a set of the AS, which has the same handle, and despite the size found it very comfortable.) Going back to the G3 (ginsan-ko), it's basically VG-10 from a different steel manufacturer. Overall, the knife is an excellent blade at an excellent price. Nicely styled, too.

Sakai Takayuki Grand Chef (Seito Trading): Made with AEB-L steel. Will take the best edge, and hold it extremely well. The overall knife quality is excellent and the ergonomics are too -- although not quite as good as Masamoto or MAC. If you're on the west coast, there are several knife stores in LA's J-Town who carry Takayuki so you can wave it around and pretend to chop if that's as important to you as it is to most people. Here's a link to the catalog: ???????????

Any other questions, just ask. The more specific you can make your questions the more likely you are to get useful information back. Pay especial attention to buzz.

BDL
post #5 of 8
Good post, BDL. It covers a lot of ground. Based on your recommendations I would narrow it down to either the 240mm (9.4") VG Masamoto for about $190 including shipping or the Takayuki Grand Cheff 240mm for about $150 shipped. They are both very easy to sharpen and yield excellent long lasting edges. The Masamotos are hardened to Rockwell 60 and the Takayukis are 58 but I don't believe this should affect one's choice.

I recently received two (one for a gift) Takayuki Grand Cheff 150mm petty knives and I'm putting one of them through a daily battery of testing with meats and vegetables. So far so good. They were sharper than most new J knives and all I have done so far is strop. Saturday I am planning on putting a sharper edge on the one designated for myself and see how it holds up. I've been doing some parallel work with a Ray Rantanen custom utility knife in L6 carbon steel for the sake of comparison. L6 is the steel from which many of the band saw blades used in the timber industry are made. It lasts like SKD-11 tool steel and that is saying a lot. So far it looks like the L6 has longer edge retention but from experience I know that it can not be made nearly as sharp in the first place. If edge longevity is a huge issue in a commercial kitchen then I guess I'd say get a 240mm Yoshikane SKD and be done with it. I have one and it's fantastic as well as being "mostly" stainless. As a home cook, retention means nothing to me. Enough blabber.

Your first statement about sharpening gear is very important and when Davey105 wants the info all he need do is ask.

Buzz
Buzz - with a Short Pilot Story

One day, long, long ago there was this Pilot who, surprisingly...........
was not full of crap....
But it was a long time ago.... And it was just one day. The End
Reply
Buzz - with a Short Pilot Story

One day, long, long ago there was this Pilot who, surprisingly...........
was not full of crap....
But it was a long time ago.... And it was just one day. The End
Reply
post #6 of 8
Thread Starter 
Great info guys!

I think I'm leaning towards the Masamoto VG 240cm. Seems like everyone that has used it, loves it. Have you ever heard of craftmanship problems or any waranty problems due to the language barrier (read: I couldn't find masamoto's own website)

I read the "how to sharpen" sections on japanesechefsknife.com, so I'll be investing in some whetstones. I have a little experience with them, but will have to practice a bit on some old knives before I try them out on the new knife.

For daily honing is a regular steel sufficient? I'm assuming a big money knife means big money upkeep.

As I was looking through your suggestions, I stumbled upon the MAC Pro 3.5" paring knife. From the pictures it looks like it has a slight "petty" style but not quite as wide as the traditional pettys. For detail work I prefer a narrower knife, but I like how it widens a bit toward the handle. Have any experience with this knife? Or a better suggestion for a parer?

How about boning knives? Should I stick with a European boning knife or are the Japanese angled boning knives superier? Or is it just preference?

I really appreciate the time and knowledge you've shared.
post #7 of 8
I've never heard of a QC, F&F or warranty problem with a Masamoto. Doesn't mean it hasn't happened, though.

Good idea. You can get buy with two waterstones and an inexpensive flattener -- as long as you don't want to put your own profile on the blade immediately (Buzz would, I would, you don't). You don't need the best quality stones, but better stones make better edges. When you want to talk money, we'll talk stones.

It's not either of the steels I use, but I'm very high on the Idahone fine (1200#) steel, which is widely avaliable for about $20. It's possible to buy a better steel, but you have to spend more than three times as much. The steel will carry you until you can sharpen, but you won't have a truly sharp knife until you get your own edge on it.

I'm generally a fan of MAC Professional. In the case of the little parer, it's an excellent knife. It's not a petty, though -- at least not in the sense that it will stand in for a medium length knife. You'll have to decide how you want to construct the core of your set. I use a 6" Nogent (carbon) slicer as a petty, and have a number of smaller specialty shapes for this and that. I use the petty quite a bit.

I'm not recommending the Nogent for you because of the issues involved with carbon -- especially at garde manger where it's a knife that will see a zillion lemons. I'd stay in the universe of the of the already recommended brands, and go cheaper on a few Forschner parers -- including a tourne, by the way.

They're really designed for different things. The European shape (desosseur) is most useful for boning out things like lamb legs, pork shoulders, whole kids, and other things where there's a lot of knife movement within the cut, and a lot of different angles. If you're working in the style of International Cuisine, you'll want this knife. I highly recommend the K-Sab au carbone which is currently ridiculously underpriced because of currency exchange rates. You'll have to deal with the vicissitudes of carbon but that's a small price for a knife that agile, that well made, which gets that sharp. Second choice would be the Thiers Issard Elephant Sabatier (which I use), which is just as good but not as favorably priced because of who imports it; third choice would be the MAC Superior; fourth would be a Forschner Rosewood or Fibrox. Don't underrate Forschner for specialty purposes generally. They get sharp, only downside is they don't stay sharp long.

BDL
post #8 of 8
I'm going to leave knife information to BDL. He knows a lot more about certain makers than I do even though we certainly share some interests, especially Sabatiers.

The one area in which I can help is in sharpening. I am into high end sharpening as you can see by the picture below and have good ideas of what you need to maintain Japanese knives at a relatively low cost. As I said earlier I'm going to be putting an edge on a Takayuki petty tomorrow, but not the edge I had planned. I'm going to put a basic edge on it using only two stones followed by stropping and see if the results would be suitable for your future knives. I'm expecting the positive, and assuming it works it would be a good place for you to start without breaking the bank. In time you would most likely be interested in getting finer stones for a more polished edge.

The equipment in the picture is not my total inventory by a long shot. It's just the stuff I schlepped up to my summer place to care for my half a dozen knives I keep there plus my wife's Chicago Cutlery beaters. Conspicuously missing are my "steels", ceramic, glass smooth, and borosilicate partially smooth, partially microgrooved. You asked "For daily honing is a regular steel sufficient?" The answer is no. The type of steel found in commercially purchased knife blocks will ruin a good edge. More on that later.



Buzz
Buzz - with a Short Pilot Story

One day, long, long ago there was this Pilot who, surprisingly...........
was not full of crap....
But it was a long time ago.... And it was just one day. The End
Reply
Buzz - with a Short Pilot Story

One day, long, long ago there was this Pilot who, surprisingly...........
was not full of crap....
But it was a long time ago.... And it was just one day. The End
Reply
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