I have added three images. They are as close as I can approximate what a typical chef would have used in about twenty year intervals. So assume you graduate in 2010, your dad worked in 1990 and your GrandPa worked in 1970.
Tell me what you see. . .
Now lets take a closer look. . .
GrandPa Chef probably turned heads with that brass bolster utility knife! He could use it on the line, French ribs, Supreme citrus, Turn buttons, Filet fish, Quarter chickens - whatever he needed to do, he did it well.
GrandMa Chef got him that cool diamond steel for his last birthday. She didn't like the yucky tri-stone that he maintained his knife on for thirty-five years in the industry... there was something better than his stone,,, there is ALWAYS something better than what you have now, always. GrandPa Chef was a big believer in silver spoons. He said the technology didn't interfere with delecate sauces and, well... GrandPa Chef knew how to disassemble an entire cow with that chef's knife - so who would argue the point?
Daddy Chef had a different way of doing things. He put two kids through college and paid off his house with an old 10" Sabitier in his hand. He was hard-core too - He made a honing steel out of a broken handle and an old Crock Stick. His plating spoon was just some random large tablespoon he found along the way and he didn't care much for wire wisks.
The only thing Daddy Chef held dear to his heart was a little spoon that GrandMa Chef gave him as a little boy, when he helped GrandPa Chef in the kitchen back in the day...
Mommy Chef thought the black handle on his "old" knife was ugly, and gave him a trendy new white handle knife for Christmas one year. Daddy Chef couldn't break his loving wife's heart, and used the knife until the day he retired. We will probably bury Daddy Chef with his slotted turner and (secretly) his old 10" Chef's knife. I keep the tasting spoon - yay me!
Baby Chef was all about technology. He had the latest in Japanese Super Steel, he had a rockin' GK plating spoon as a gift from another chef, he had a super-rad smooth honing steel that didn't shred his blade like the crappy one in your knife block...
Baby Chef learned how to work a fish with a palette knife, just like GrandPa Chef - and it was a good thing too, because Daddy Chef banned tongs in his establishment. But Baby Chef, being the man of culinary technology that he was, opted for the most expensive steel spatula he could find. Because they are really THAT Awesome... In spite of the fact that GrandPa Chef used the same old fifty-cent spatula for 30 years, and it worked Just Fine.
The point of this little story:
When you start looking for better equipment, super-awesome knives and little things that drain your pockets of hard-earned cash... Remember how GrandPa Chef did it first. Better yet - Remember how they were doing it back in the era of the Guilds and Escoffier.
Every sauce we make, every fish we cook, every pastry we bake - in classical sense - was done perfectly 100 years ago.
And 100 years ago - they didn't have convection, silicone, super-steel or vita-preps.
If we can adapt, incorporate and effectively use new technology and methods to do a better job than we did 100 years ago, it is worth considering how to do that. You are the future of where this craft is headed.
But never forget: If you lose the arts and methods that were perfected 100 years ago - if you abandon those skills - if you do not teach those skills and methods to your future students.... Then this art will be lost forever. The world will be doomed to eating from frozen cartons and pizza boxes. Culinary Death.
If you want a shopping list, buy this stuff first:
1. A copper bowl and a high-quality whisk.
2. An olive or other hard-wood, long-handled spoon (or two). (No Bamboo!)
3. Super-high quality, comfy kitchen shoes/boots/clogs and nice Dr. Shoes liners and lots of good quality socks.
4. A heavy duty pepper grinder - Brass or heavy steel or super-quality wood. Spare no expense.
5. A heavy-duty Bain Marie to put all your goodies in.
6. If you buy any knife - let it be a pairing knife without a bolster.
- The rest knives you were issued in culinary school are fine.
7. A personal first aid kit with all the high-quality stuff you need:
- NewSkin, MoleSkin and non-absorbent white vynal tape.
- Finger Condoms, burn cream and neosporin.
- Everclear, Yukon Jack or other high-proof, grain alchohol.
You should be able to fit everything you absolutely need inside of a bain and a coffee cup. Maybe two bains max.
- Keep the aid kit and knife roll in your car unless you need stuff.
Save your money until you really honestly know what it is you really honestly need - and why you need it.