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Just how important is your choice of knife to you?

post #1 of 30
Thread Starter 
The new knife debate thread is quite focussed on sharpening, polishing etc. at the moment, so rather than interrupt it I've opened this thread. I think a lot of folks coming to choose a knife for the first time can find the amount of choice and information overwhelming, and from personal experience there's a definite concern initially about making a wrong choice - or at least not making the right choice. I wonder if assuming the appropriate type of knife is chosen for the task (Chef/boning/petty etc.), if there actually is such a thing as the wrong choice, just how much should the first time purchaser worry?

If I proposed the existence of a state whereby there was only one manufacturer of chef's knives, producing the one 10" model designed and built to the standard of a MAC say; Do you think that would change anything in the way chefs would work?

I can imagine some would perhaps make personal adaptations like the one BDL suggests about easing the corner on the Knife's spine to minimise the risk of calluses.

Otherwise, assuming acceptable steel, I expect that given all the talk about how a knife feels before choosing one, and why you prefer one over the other, that if there was just the one model of chef's knife not much would actually change. There would be the same amount of really sharp knives, kinda sharp knives, poorly kept knives etc. and chefs would just get on with it and make it work without noticeable loss of production or sleep.

Just how important is it to you that you have your choice of knife and would/does it affect you when working in a kitchen with somebody elses choices.
post #2 of 30
Andy, I would say that as you gain more kitchen experience the choice of knife becomes progressively more important to you.

The fact is, any competent cook can make any knife work. Most home-cooks (and probably professionals, too) started cooking with cheap knives because 1. that's what they could afford, and 2. they don't know any better. As you continue to develop your cooking skills, however, you realize that your knives are the single most important tools in your kitchen.

You can take a cheaply made knife that doesn't hold an edge and which feels awkward in your hand and still create a fantastic meal. But using a quality knife that does its job while remaining comfortable to use for hours on end, just makes the task easier and more efficient.

That said, I will repeat what I've stated in the past. Once you enter the world of quality knives, a key criterium is how they feel in your hand. Their weight, balance, shape of handle, thickness of blade all contribute to comfort.

It's easy, too, at this forum, to get the idea that most cooks and chefs obsess about their knives. That's because there are many here for whom knives are a study of their own. So they delve deeply into materials, and the Japanese v. German argument, and methods of sharpening, etc. Nothing wrong with that at all. But don't get the idea that it's the normal approach. The majority of cooks do not get that deeply involved.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
post #3 of 30
I think KY Heirloomer nailed it. Don't worry about what any one else thinks or about the "best" or the vague descriptive's that get tossed about as absolutes.
Yesterday I received a package straight from Seki with a new WA Gyuto. Love it. Nice and sharp but but very thin as it should be. Perfect for some tasks. Next to useless as an all purpose knife. Even a winter squash might damage it but the Wusthof would split it and not break a sweat.
When you get into the detailed debates I often find that the "knife geek" in some gives them tunnel vision. In some cases that's because they have never worked in a professional kitchen. Other times I think there is a tendency to just post what ones own belief is with out taking the time to really consider the experience of the individual asking the question or how the knife will be used.
As much as I like the new one that arrived yesterday a noob could probably do a lot of damage to that knife in about five minutes and would likely wind up with an unfavorable view of Japanese knives. The tool needs to match the use and the users experience level.
I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
post #4 of 30
The idea that there's one perfect or a single best knife of a given type, even for a single person is overrated. The trick, when buying, is to reduce to the pool to a group of choices which are all good.

The hypothetical you used of all knives at MAC Professional quality was a good one. MAC fairly represents a level in stainless where prices are still sort of reasonable, knives are made from alloys which take excellent edges, and knives have reasonable fit and finish (even by western standards).

There are a lot of excellent stainless knives clustered in the same price range, including but limited to: Sakai Takayuki Grand Cheff, MAC Professional, Kanetsugu M, Masamoto VG, Togiharu G-1, Hattori HD, and Akifusa.

On the other hand, "the next step up," to knives like Ikkanshi Tadatsuna (western), Misono UX-10, Hattori FH, and arguably MAC Ultimate, is one worth taking for those who are extremely critical about fit and finish, and can afford to spend somewhat more for a tiny bit more performance.

Everything after that high level (in stainless) you hit extremely expensive and very limited edition knives (like Hattori KD) and customs. The gains are almost entirely cosmetic and performance gains are miniscule. The improvements are typically cosmetic and "pride of ownership.," and often come with limitations on how the knives can be used. That said, some customs are excellent knives. A Haslinger, to name one, is as close to a perfect all around chef's knife as you can name.

The gateway to high performance Japanese knives opens a bit below the MAC level, and again there are a number of very useful lines to consider. Togiharu Inox, Fujiwara, and Tojiro, by way of a few examples. However, almost all of these involve some compromise in fit and finish.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with the level of quality represented by Forschner Rosewood and Fibrox, and Dexter-Russell. Those are good knives which can be easily sharpened to usable levels, and easily maintained. Indeed for some tasks like butchering, you can't beat them.

The same can be said (minus the butchering) for the top end Europeans. And, by the way, that class includes a lot more than Wusthof and Henckels. It's a crying shame more poeple don't realize just how good Messermeister, F. Dick, Gude, and Lamson Sharp are. These knives represent an unmatched level of fit and finish. Unfortunately they're limited in edge taking by the alloys the big western manufacturers limit themselves to using. And, by and large, they're very heavy.

We haven't touched on carbon vs stainless. It isn't a good time. Let's just say, that although carbon knives provide signifcantly more performance at any given price than stainlees, they're not suitable for most people. So, when I get into a "what do you recommend" conversation, I mention but don't flog my personal choices.

To my mind the quality of "balance," is incredibly overrated. Only two large makers, Global and Gude, pay enough attention to balance to bother making knives which retain their balance throughout the line. If you want knives that are consistently back-heavy get Gude Vikings. If you want knives which are consistently neutral, get Globals. It's that simple. And yes, it's that limited.

Besides, most, 8" - 10", full-tang chef's knives balance very close to where the blade meets the handle, bolster or not. Anything longer tends to be blade forward. Anything shorter tends to be handle back. Thin tangs (like "rat tail" and traditional Japanese) get blade forward sooner, that's all. FWIW, traditional Japanese knives (and "Nogent" type Sabatiers, for that matter) are so much lighter that their imbalance is not problematic. At least for anyone with decent knife skills.

Mad skilz takes us to the grip. Your grip is a huge part of your knife "system." And although it's my grip, I'm not proseletyzing for the pinch grip. The better your grip, the more tolerant you are to different styles and even sizes of handles. A good grip not only increases the number of knives you can enjoy, it makes a huge difference in how much you'll enjoy using them. Precision, comfort, productivity -- you just can't beat them.

This is getting pretty wordy, so maybe I should bottom line it. It's pretty much axiomatic that the single most important aspect of any knife choice is the degree to which the knife can and will be sharpened by its owner. A dull Haslinger HCK doesn't cut any better than a dull Dexter. If you can't sharpen and won't learn, or are going to send your knives out once a year, will use something harmful, don't bother buying an expensive knife.

post #5 of 30
I'm going to interpret the pronoun "you" as not being the editorial 'you,' but meaning 'me' as the individual.

In this regard, I'm a barbarian. I admit I have no class or decorum in this area of culinary pursuits. I often glom onto the knife in arm's reach, or one that I know is sharp.

One time I wanted to cube some dog treats for our mutts, so I grabbed a little used large size santoku my wife seldom needs. I figured if I dinged the blade the damage would be of a minor loss.

On Saturday mornings my Harley shop serves free food. Then I use whatever EDC is in my pocket.

As funny as this might sound, just because I am on the fringe of the food industry doesn't mean I actually know what I'm doing in its preparation.
post #6 of 30
Thread Starter 
Right guys, loads of good information and thoughts there, thanks.:cool:

Because of the quality of the information here, I enjoy the discussions about choosing knives as much as I appreciate those that discuss maintaining them. I do however think that for the home chef wanting to step up their options, that the depth of information can disguise the useful target - simply that of need. I occasionally think that somewhere there should be a 'Don't Panic it's just a knife' thread.

As I don't have easy first hand access to the variety of knives that are talked about here, it became clear that choosing that perfect knife wasn't a useful target. I doubt I will experience a wide enough variety to know for sure what the perfect or even best knife is for me. I just needed a practical outcome that would enable me to develop holding/cutting/sharpening skills, and as I become more familiar with it, begin to identify the knife's own limitations. With a little time and effort, I should begin to understand those knives that fit into the range of being good choices for me.

Luckily, being a home chef I don't have any peer pressure, and as long as I'm respectful of the sharpness and how I store any knives, I needn't worry about how that choice defines me. For instance, nobody at home looks at my knives and draws conclusions about my likely ability or attention to detail etc.

As KYH has raised it, I would be interested to know what might best describe the overall attitudes towards choices of personal knives in professional kitchens. Is there an expectation that a chef will always turn up with their own roll of personal knives - or will a larger kitchen for example, provide a working set of knives that somebody is selected to maintain, and if so is that an option you'd feel happy to take up?

When a chef walks into a kitchen and starts to work with knives for the first time, what if anything do you look for in their choices that clues you in to how professionally that chef is likely to approach his/her work?
post #7 of 30
There is no way to describe an "overall attitude towards knives" in a professional kitchen. This changes with every crew. If you get in a kitchen with a European chef/crew you will see a lot of German steel. Go to a Sushi bar and your going to see a lot of Japanese steel. Most kitchens, at least those I have run and worked in often hire a service to bring house knives for the cooks and those who do not have their own tools. These are typically inexpensive Sani-Safes, Dexter etc. The sharpening involves no more than the knife guy coming in the kitchen on a scheduled time frame and exchanging all of the knives. Some just take them out to the truck and grind them but all the services like this I have used just use grinders. There is no hand sharpening involved.
Not to get carried away but you really have to separate cooks from Chef's. The example I gave is one reason you see people like Mark Bittman telling folks not to spend more than $20-30 on a knife as they do work and they are used in many professional kitchens. That may be a true statement but it does help to understand who is using those knives and why. ;)
However no one I ever met "wants" to use house knives.
A Chef should always have his/her own tools and that includes the pastry chef, The Sous Chef etc. A true Executive Chef doesn't handle a knife a lot but they often still have a tool box in their office.
I don't think you can tell much about how a Chef approaches his/her work just by their tools. No doubt Morimoto is a knife super freak but I expect he could impress just as well with my Masamoto KS Yanagi.
The real world of working knives is often worlds apart from what one might get the impression of on a knife forum.
I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
post #8 of 30
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the reply DuckFat. I totally get that the forum is focussed in a way that a kitchen may well not be. It is interesting to get some insight into what degree that focus dissipates in the working world.
post #9 of 30
Although I haven't been a professional cook (or "chef," if you prefer) in a lot of years, my more recent experiences in high-end "international cuisine/fine dining" restaurants is markedly different than described by Duck.

I've been in a lot of kitchens, either as a friend/interested guest or as an attorney (usually dealing with a messy partnership breakup). And at that level, most of the cooks are using one sort or another of Japanese manufactured knives. And, the exception is not Wusthof but Forschner -- either Rosewood or Fibrox -- and usually with the newer guys. You just don't see much new Wusthof (or the equivalent) anymore.

Of course, when it comes to specialty butchering knives -- Forschner and Dexter pretty much own the market.

Shun used to be popular with pros, but you don't see it as much the last couple of years. Other than Shun, you don't see any Hattori or other "damascus" at all -- at least not among western style knives. And of course, the knives take enough of a beating that none of the damascus pattern shows.

After an initial bout of popularity in high-end kitchens, Global's became practically non-existent. The reason seems to be repetitive stress pain attributed to Global's handle.

I know a few guys who work at the highest level who earn (or have) enough money to afford good knives, and all of them use Japanese made knives. Of the ones I know using western handles, MAC Pro and Misono UX-10 are the most popular with guys earning enough money to afford them -- plus a few Masamoto VG as well. Nenox S is a sort of ultimate status-symbol for owner/chefs.

Japanese handled chef's knives aka "wa-gyuto," are becoming increasingly popular in western, high-end kitchens. Here in Southern California the most popular outlets seem to be a few stores in J-Town aka Little Tokyo, and e-commerce from JapaneseChefKnives. com.


PS. Of course, the Los Angeles megalopolis is going to be different than suburban Michigan. If you want to hear about what's happening in professional, big-city high-end kitchens from someone other than me (good idea!), I suggest raising the topic on Fred's Cutlery Forum in the Foodie Forums.

PPS. Just to be clear, I'm not saying a MAC Pro (for instance) is a better knife than a Wusthof Ikon (for instance). Whatever floats your boat is fine with me. I'm all about giving you the information to make your own choices, and as part of that I try and describe my prejudices; which include, by the way, the conclusion that a MAC Pro IS a better chef's knife than a Wusthof Ikon for almost every home and restaurant.
post #10 of 30
Let me just clarify that as a Chef my experience is not limited to Mi.,
Sub-urban or other wise. Noting the difference between a Chef from a cook is not a matter of personal preference but one of recognized skill. Irrespective of what forum you go on you are only going to see a tiny microcosm of those working in the culinary field. The vast majority, and I do meant VAST majority of cooks and Chef's are not knife geeks. That should be evident by how few participate on the knife threads in this forum. However if you want to speak to others actually working in the field I see a lot more cooks/chefs that are knife geeks at the knife forum. I'll leave a link.
I continue to see a lot of Wusthof. That's not much of a surprise with their advertising. Forschner has always been around and continues to be. They offer a lot of value. However most of the "newer" guys use house knives which aside from the sharpening are pretty much on the same level as Forschner. I have never noticed any significant improvement in the tools used by the average cook in a higher end restaurant and I've spent time under three CMC's. I've seen tiny kitchens where every one had very nice tools and fine dining where many used lower end tools.
Maybe if you want to talk about Ice carving tools they get better in the higher end hotels etc. but not typically the knives. Then again we would be talking about the Chef and not the cooks as not many cooks have a set of chisels.
Most cooks max out at around $150 on a Chef's knife and then they have one that they guard closely.
Shuns are almost never seen in a professional kitchen.
I rarely see Globals other than my own.
You won't get any argument from me that Mac Pro is a very nice knife. I just don't agree with the notion that German steel is harder to sharpen and the fact that Mac is more $ than Wusthof is a factor for many.
I totally agree on the WA gyuto being the latest trend. Not a great all around knife by any means and not a great knife for a noob.
Having said that I dig WA Gyutos.
I don't presume to know what the nation wide pulse is on knives. I can only share my hands on experience of roughly 30 years. I'm not the least bit surprised that my experience is vastly different from some one doing an occasional walk through. I don't mean that in a negative way but I think if your interested in knives you are going to notice what you want to see, what you like. In my experience there are rarely two crews in the same city or even the same genre that universally use the same knives. Try getting two sushi Chef's to agree which Yanagi is best! :lol:

In the Kitchen (Topic list) - - Intelligent Discussion for the Knife Enthusiast - Powered by FusionBB
I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
post #11 of 30
In many ways, Madison, Wisconsin is the biggest small town in the nation. We have one yuppie kitchen store that sells upscale Euro knives with fancy handles, and one west-side kitchen store that shows about six to ten Shuns.

A chef trained outside the area will seek me out for other stuff, but in most cases the first Hattori a local guy will ever see is the one I hand to him.

Unless the chef is cordon bleu down to his red neck, handing a decent laminate to an area guy is like taking a farm kid to his first Sturgis.
post #12 of 30
What do I look for?

Is the knife sharp?

Is the knife hygienic? Not wrapped in duct tape tape, butcher's string, etc.

So much for the piddly stuff. If he fails that, you don't want him around....

How does the Cook (Anyone who prepares food is a cook, the boss is the Chef) hold the knife?

How does he hold the food to be cut?

How does he secure the cutting board?

How does he stand, place his feet, hold his head?

What type of organization does he instinctively use?

Say we're cutting beans. Does he line them up on the board, shuffle them with the ease of shuffling a deck of cards and push them against the edge of his knife, then top and tail about 10 at a time, with the ends automaticaly scooped up and put aside, and the beans in a clean bowl?

Meat? Does he drag the knife towards him when, say, portioning a tenderloin, or away from him?

How quickly can he bone out two breasts, (wing atached) two thighs and two drumsticks from a fryer? How clean is the carcass?

A 8 lb salmon? How cleanly can he filet it? Can he remove the rib cage in one fell swoop? How fast can he remove ALL of the pin bones? Remove the skin in one piece fast? How does he deal with the slime and scales?

Give the dude a whole red pepper, tell him you want diamonds for a garnish.
How does he remove the seeds? How much waste does he make? How regular are his diamonds? I'm not looking or millimeter precision here, but out of dozen they should all look about the same size.

Toss him an onion, skin on. How does he remove the peel? How long does he take?. Ask him for, say 1/4" dice. How does he go about it? How fast?

Time is cash, time is money. Don't care if the dude cuts meat with a ragged fingernail--albeit a clean fingernail. I only care how efficiently and how fast he does it. Time is cash, time is money. Accidents suck and cost even more money.

A knife is just a hunk of steel with a sharp edge. The magic is in the user's hands.....
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
post #13 of 30
Thread Starter 
Thanks guys.

Unless I'm referring to a specific individual, I use the term chef not to describe a specific rank, but to mean a professional cook. Someone who while not necessarily holding paper, is timed served and encompasses a wide variety of culinary skills/knowledge. I probably add to that an expectation of a good understanding of the big picture as it applies any kitchen environment they choose to work in.
post #14 of 30
Thread Starter 
Sorry foodpump - I'd written my reply but got pulled away without submitting it, then when I did come back, I submitted without realising you'd added to the thread meantime - my bad.

Thanks for outlining what you look for, I can see what you're saying from the commercial viewpoint. Note: I didn't even know cutting boards needed to be secured - I hadn't given that any thought.

I did have the idea that every now and then somebody like yourself in a hiring position and looking for a skill-set, might occasionally come across a mismatch. You know, where somebody turns up with his/ her kit and unrolls a collection that looks like something you'd consider to be a well rounded choice of knives, and showing signs of being used but cared for. Only to be disappointed as that individual wielded a boning knife for example, with all the deftness of an axeman in mittens.
post #15 of 30
While I agree with your overall theme, I believe this is a symbiotic association. Follow me:

The diner, the chef, the tinker, the knife and the revenue all connect. Lessen one, the entire equation fails.

After all, from my standpoint a chef is just a guy in an ill-fitting white suit. The magic is in the tinker's hands.....

And if the knife ain't keen, then the food isn't presentable, the diner won't buy it, and the revenue stream erodes.

One of the biggest problems I see with kids, money and motorcycles is that they tend to dump all of their revenue in fancy engines--until they need to stop. The cheap brakes lock, the front fork dives, the kid bounces down the highway...

It's a system. I put as much time and resources into my suspension as I do the motor.

A good chef is a skilled manager of people, purchases and the culinary craft. Somewhere in that mix he sits down with his tinker, they choose a good knife(s), and this association creates memorable signature dishes for the diner, thus securing his patronage.

For ethical reasons, I once had to "fire" a chef. What he is doing with his roll of expensive and dull knives is no longer my concern. In his case, a knife truly is just a hunk of steel...
post #16 of 30
The company I work for is a magnet for nOObs right out of culinary school. Almost without exception everyone one of them thinks Wusthof is the best there is. There must be an energetic and ambition joint brainwashing venture going on between Wusthof and the bulk of schools.
"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
post #17 of 30
In the context of knives in a professional kitchen on average the biggest disparity you will see is going to be between a Chef and a Cook. You really need to differentiate between the two.
As foodpump said:
"A knife is just a hunk of steel with a sharp edge. The magic is in the user's hands....."

The difference between a Chef and a cook should be the level of their experience, the skills that put them in the position of Chef.
I think FP makes some very valid points about what I look for although I'm not sure for the most part they tell me much about their knives. To his list I'll add I don't want to walk by your station, look at the floor and be able to tell what you have been working on.
In commercial kitchens cutting boards are typically thin and made of what amounts to plastic. They are often secured by laying a damp kitchen towel flat under the board. It is quite comical to watch a noob do the board dance. Hopefully at home you are using an NSF maple board like those from Michigan Maple Block or similar.
I'm not sure I'd call it brainwashing (LOL) but like Phaedrus I see a culinary students with Wusthof's. It's pretty slick marketing for sure. Other companies do the same.
I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
post #18 of 30
Put me down for total agreement with pump. Also, the way he itemized made a lot of sense. So...

1. My own sense of fear. Does the cook use her off-hand properly? Am I scared she's going to cut her fingers off when I watch her work? (It happens a lot when I watch the early rounds of reality chef shows like "The Next FoodNetwork Star," and "H*ll's Kitchen." Assuaging the fear almost, but not quite, always means using "claw" techinque.

2. Sharpness. Is her knife ALWAYS sharp?

2a. Types. Does she bring the right types of knives with her? For instance, petty, boning, bread, chef's, etc.

2b. Other.

Are all her knives sharp? By "sharp," I don't mean "sort of sharp," I mean sharp enough to "fall through" an onion. Most of us have worked for chefs who would take a dull knife out of a cook's hand and tap the edge against his wrist while looking at the cook meaningfully.

Does she do her own maintainenance during the shift? How does she do it? (No coarse or diamond steels, they make for rough cuts.)

Does she sharpen herself? The last is less important as results matter more than technique. On the other hand, it's a blessing to have a good sharpener on the crew. "Many hands make a heavy load light."

3. Techinique.

3a. Vegetables and aromatics; garnish and mirepoix.

Block, plank, stick and dice... Batonnet, alumette, julienne; medium dice, fine dice, brunoise; etc. Are they regular?

Does she hold them square to her? Does she hold the knife square to the food and the board? (Very revealing.)

How quickly can she bang out a no. 1 pan of mirepoix?

The cuts. I want the cook to have the skill to produce the various classic cuts in whatever size the kitchen desires -- to a fair degree of precision. For instance, batonnet, alumette and julienne, should all be different, regular, and according to the chef's standard. In the kitchens in which I worked, all cuts were measured against various parts of the boss's knife's handle -- usually the rivets and the spine. When I ran a catering business, I did the same.

As an occasional knife-skills teacher, I suggest home cooks use thumb length, rather than "as long as you can handle" as the most convenient length for intermediate prep work like blocking before planking or cutting sticks. It's too short for restaurant speed production, but it's an intuitive length. If you find it inconvenient to measure food against your thumb, you can always cut it off and tack it to the board for a permanent reference. Is that your middle finger?

Almost everyone with good knife skills uses "pinch" and "claw." But, by no means everyone. In fact, the best knife skills I've ever seen close belong to someone who uses a sort of pinch, but way back on the handle. So, I don't really care about that. Fear and square are bigger.

3a. Butchering. When butchering meat or fish, does she understand the anatomy of the animal and work with it? Or is does she fight with it? For instance, when she breaks a chicken does she separate at the joints, or does she cut through the cartilage.

Does she waste too much? Does she trim completely?

Does she portion evenly?

Can she make a straight cut without an undue amount of sawing?

Are fish surfaces glass smooth?


Brand of knife or knives? Doesn't matter at all. Cooks with lousy knife skills often have good knives, and vice versa. Same thing with knife length.

post #19 of 30
BDL, incredible post! They ought to print up this treatise and make it an important part of every culinary syllabus! Boy, that was a fun read.
post #20 of 30
Thread Starter 
Cheers DuckFat, I use both a nice Maple board that for better or worse, I maintain with Catskill Craftsmen Butchers Block Oil (note the NSF standard isn't applicable to the UK, although I do know some of our manufacturers will apply it to export to the USA markets though) and I also use smaller plastic boards. I do use tea-towels for stability now and then, but I don't think I work aggressively enough to make boards dance.

I appreciate the reasoning for differentiating between status, I'm unsure how much we differ on the definition of chef.

Thanks BDL, I don't really understand why anybody would put themselves in the position of being interviewed like that, and not have bring knives that they know would represent them well, i.e. properly maintained and not held together with string and sealing wax.
post #21 of 30
Tourist, I really believe the maintainence of a knife is more important than the knife itself. In Europe, it is the Patron, or owner, or the CHef who engages the cutlerer to have all of his crew's knives sharpened. Sometimes the guy comes around, sometimes he has a store where you can drop them off. Admittedly, for the first 10 years of my career, I didn't know diddly-squat about sharpening, I only knew how to use a steel, and when that didn't work, to get the knife sharpened. The tactic that I and just about everyone else used was to have multiple knives, so always one was sharp. You'd get a kick in the shins or a weeks worth of morning shift if you cut meat with ragged edges too.

That all changed overnight when I worked in S.E. Asia, and anyone who called themselves a "sharpener" made Jed Clampett's work look great.

I have mixed feelings about the owner buying knives for the crew.

Air, water, libraries, good manners.

These are all free, or dirt cheap, and as a result get abused--badly.

Provide a decent knife for a cook, and you get attitude. A lot of the chains provide knives and sharpening service--but these knives are butt-ugly--neon pink or yum-yum yelow plastic handles, and of course dirt cheap. They get abused, then get ground down for boning knives. Crew dont know or care, they just use and abuse.

For what it's worth, every Cook's apprentice in Switzerland recieved fre in themail, usually a week after completion of his finals, a set of knives: 10" chefs, boning, meat knife, and paring knife. Some kind of Dreizack or Forschner brand, but the blade was etched with "Knorr-Chirat" a large food supplier. I've still got mine......
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
post #22 of 30
I'm with you for most of that argument. (I do use dry humor, BTW.) But this is also a debate, and every facet of the discussion should be viewed. And when I was a rookie tinker I imagined that every upscale restaurant would have nice, upscale knives. Yikes, I saw one sous-chef using a hunting knife her father had given her. To that, we have a bread and sandwich chain here in my area, their knives were worn out junk.

As part of my job I am engaged in "maintenance." I tighten handles, straighten tips, repair chips, polish out rust and corrosion, even supply replacement parts. But sometimes it's a losing battle. A cheap worn out knife--even with a mirror finish--is still a piece of junk.

It's the same in my area. Sometimes you have a scheduled route, sometimes you wait for the call. In most cases the knives are pushed too long and more repiar is needed than a simple sharpening.

Me, too. But I feel it's a matter of pride and professionalism, to boot. I have thousands tied up in sharpening supplies and I didn't wait for a welfare-Cadillac to drop off new stones and a fistful of food stamps.

Yikes, a good Japanese laminate gyuto costs about 100 bucks, often less than your monthly cell or cable bill. Even if that singular knife was pushed to the limit it would easily last three years. If you put one dollar per day aside as you worked--about the cost of a lottery ticket--you could buy a top-of-the-line Hattori from me after those three years.

Wow, that one has me on the fence. On one hand, I admire a work ethic, and it should be rewarded. On the other hand, a guy with that work ethic would feel compelled to pay his own way and not live off government taxes.

Ya' know, I work exclusively with Japanese stones. I buy Japanese knives, even folders utilizing Japanese steel. I buy Japanese history and knife sharpening books. I rep Japanese knives to other people. I even patronize Japanese restaurants.

And yet, during those two decades I have not received so much as one lousy Yen from The National Diet of Japan...:lol:
post #23 of 30
When taken to choose my knives to start college by my boyfriend, later to become OH, I was faced with a miriad of exquisite blades. My peers had steered me towards Sabatier and once I'd handled the 12" I knew that was the blade for me and I was treated to the whole range.
I can admire blades and listen to folk enthusing over preferences. But 22 years down the line, I still love my Sabatiers.
When OH is in the country he hones my blades for me with a wet stone. Bless.
"If we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?" Jo Brand
"If we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?" Jo Brand
post #24 of 30

Other Husband?

Overt Hedonist?

OCD Honda owner?

Oreo Hangover? (Yikes, I had a bad one last week. Over 32 cookies and four glasses of milk...)

Omaha Harbinger?

Okay, I'm out of ideas. It must be some twitter dealie I'm too old to understand. Just please, please don't tell me it stands for orange Harley...
post #25 of 30
Ha Ha

OH = Other Half

My husband takes great pride in looking after my knives.

my Paring knife was broken at the tip when someone tried to open a ringpull can with it. He made it good again, but apologised for the shape. I love the new shape. It's odd but I like it that way. Also it's getting very thin. I like that too.
"If we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?" Jo Brand
"If we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?" Jo Brand
post #26 of 30
Ahhh, that simple, eh? Here I thought is was something complicated like POSILQ. I'm probably on overload looking for puzzles and hidden meanings. Between "The Da Vinci Code" and a recent cable show on biker tattoos I'm seeing voodoo witchcraft in my morning oatmeal.

That must be nice. My wife seems to take great pleasure in taking a surgical Hattori and turning it into a putty knife.

Never loan a knife to anyone! I'd rather shop for a bargain colonoscopy than loan out a knife, no matter how cheap its cost, to a fool who doesn't buy his own.

With my luck the idiot would use my knife to perform a bargain colonoscopy...
post #27 of 30
>That must be nice. My wife seems to take great pleasure in taking a surgical Hattori and turning it into a putty knife. <

Hey, It works both ways. He'll borrow anything from the kitchen that will stir paint, mop up gunge, or do as a receptical for soaking paintbrushes.

I never lend knives and would like to think my lot had learnt respect. 2 of them are chefs. Never found the culprit.
"If we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?" Jo Brand
"If we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?" Jo Brand
post #28 of 30
UHhhh....... The free knives given to apprentices were supplied by "Knorr-Chirat", Kinda like the "Kraft Foods" of Switzerland. Musta had a good connection with the the Apprentices's board to get a list of of the names.

Swiss Gov't didn't give you anything, except the certificate.

'Course, if you passed your finals as an apprentice, that meant that you were now earning over the minimum, and THAT meant you were eligible for taxes. That aways got the Gov't excited....

It also meant you got a free train ticket to go to a football stadium were you got to pee in jars, get your eyes tested, and then got a free (Gen-u-whine) Swiss army knife, a free sleeping bag, a free piece of canvas called a "tent", a really cool looking dog tag that you got to wear at all times (or punishment ensued), a free pair of army boots, a free gas mask, a free..... Still got the army boots, 2o years now and I still use the freakin things.....
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
post #29 of 30
Ya' know, we refer to younger chefs and tinkers here at CT as "newbs." The idea of 'paying your dues' seems to be a recurring theme in most cultures. Many refer to this as "the rite of passage." And I believe it to be very important. It was for me.

As many of you know, I didn't leave my parents' home, I escaped. Granted, I was never beaten, but something had to give. Because of the divisiveness of the war, I never really considered the army. But I did join a motorcycle club.

I now believe that the organization you join is less important than the ideals, socialization and mores a newb must learn. For the rest of his life he must live in the unbending world of men. If a friend has a flat tire at 0300 in the rain, you'd better suck it up and go help, lest you be left alone in the future. Your word will define your character.

Yeah, my nose got broken. But I look back at those times as a paltry penance.

But the positive benefits here are the times when you step out in faith. I know lots of guys who depart from certain situations because "they would look like a fool."

Sure, everybody has felt that stare of an entire crowd as you walk across an empty dance floor to talk to a pretty girl. I've seen bikers hem and haw over talking to women.

I happened to watch "300" a few nights ago. The Spartans had a much better system.

Yeah, we would all be living in "Hhell's Kitchen." But think of all the delightful, daring food...
post #30 of 30
You lost me completely with that last post. Try it again?
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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