I guess it is time for my yearly check-in!
First, to tie up an end to where the conversation let off;
That article, or a similar one another site mirrored, was posted a few months ago on the kitchen billboard by one of the chefs. They apparently got a kick out of that. I am not a chef, but *have* been a care aid, a teacher, charity worker, got my bachelor's degree in fine art (creative arts), and enjoy doing craft-type work, building things, woodworking, metalworking, etc with my art. Needless to say, I am pretty unhappy with my job in a kitchen. I have fallen into the 'family' with the common workers, who adore me, but cannot touch the 'club' with the chefs and their favorite cooks. I feel doomed to be a cook forever, which is a waste of time to me. If I am not learning, I really don't care to do mindless menial work. One of my many ideas and aspirations is to open a restaurant (and I have a FANTASTIC original idea for one too, if I do say so myself...), and use the success of that to expand it into a chain, and use the profits for my ultimate goal, starting my own unrelated line of food and grocery products that will help get nutritious, whole food to those who can't afford boutique organic and all natural products. Because, you see, I am not a sociopath. I don't need to make a dragon-pile of money, helping people is all I want from my ultimate goal.
But, before all that, I need to learn the food industry. And pay the bills, because I need a roof over my head and utilities. Neither is happening.
Unrelated tangent, sorry! On to knives!
Been working more with the Tojiro, of course. I am liking it a lot more after working on my grip. However, I still am apprehensive about bringing it out. It isn't a workhorse, more of a bust-out. It loses the edge too quickly, and seems to require more care and time to stop to hone than I can give it. I work with cases of tomatoes at a time. Halfway through a case, I need to stop and hone for a few minutes, which I just can't do. Tomatoes seem to be the hardest, next is dicing proteins or mincing very large amounts of herbs (a case of cilantro to go with that case of tomatoes...). I need that knife sharp for when I need a sharp knife, so I don't like to wear the edge if I don't have to. I use the serrated for as much as I can, slicing what I can with it and finishing the dice with the Tojiro if there is a lot to do. Otherwise, that Victorinox Fibrox is my real workhorse. I am not afraid to abuse the shit outta it. I will replace it next season, a solid $20 investment! Mostly, when I think about it, the reason I use mostly serrated has to do with what I mentioned previously; I am stuck where I am. I clean and cut case after case of fruit every single day. It is faster, easier, safer, and cleaner with the whippy serrated knife. I would say fruit is easily 60-70% of all the knife work I do. A lot of what I do does not even involve knife work, because my boss likes my presentation work. So, I do tons of cold platter arrangements and general menial condiment filling and simple recipes. The complicated stuff is left to the veterans.
Money is tight, but I always get a small amount of xmas, and knives are something I tend to consider. I have dropped all ideas of trying any kind of scalloped edge that *may* work, and want to keep it a bit more simple. A local knife dealer came by with some knives and sharpening service. I tried out a Mac Superior he had on display, and was surprised at the weight! It looked like a Santuku, was the same size, but had much more heft to it. I forgot what he said it was, but looking up the available models, it must have been the 6.5" cleaver. Looks like a Santuku, but feels more like a western knife in hand. Sharp as all hell, beautiful edge, nice weight and felt good in hand. I read a thread that talked about the Superior line, and how light they were compared to the heft of the Professional series. The Superior is less expensive, and I am not sure if the MAC Professional Santuku is comparable to the MAC Superior 6.5" cleaver? I seem to recall being quoted $85 for it by the local guy, but I might be remembering incorrectly, the price is much higher on the website. Just a thought, don't want to go much over $100 on this, and might change my mind again. :)
Speaking of the knife vendors with their sharpening service... I took them my serrated knife, which was on the way out. I figured they couldn't make it any worse, as I am ready to replace it anyways. They sharpened it, but oddly, the serrations were still rounded off just as bad. It's like they just went in the bevel and sharpened it, and didn't put the edge back on the serrations. Odd, but it bought a few months on the knife! Anyways, right after I dropped off the serrated knife, I had no intention of letting them touch my Tojiro with their band sharpening machine. I checked out the knives for sale, immediately looking at the MACs he had, the nicest he had out. He asked what I was using, I told him I had a Tojiro and I basically stopped for the particular knife I was holding. He excitedly said "Oh, so you are looking for the GOOD stuff!" and pulled out a knife case. He showed me the custom work they did, some nice carbon knives they forged in-shop. Not bad looking! He pulled out some Globals and told me he has lots of nice stuff at the store, but mostly brings the cheap stuff to the resorts, since that is what people want. We talked about Japanese knives a bit, he named off a nice list of good Japanese knives he carries, he explained the mysterious heft in the Mac Superior that looked like a Santuku I was holding, then my boss swooped into the room, bought the three cheapest knives he had, and shooed me back to work. Right before break, I thought about the fact he seemed to carry more Japanese knives than Europeon ones, and might know how to sharpen them. They had free sharpening, so it might not hurt to ask if he brought some stones and could work on my Tojiro, as it was overdue for a sharpening and I still am unsure if I am even doing an adequate job at it. I mean, he MADE HIS OWN KNIVES... He MUST know better than me!
I took it to him, asking if he had waterstones and could do a nice job with it instead of running it over the grinder. He laughed and said not to believe the 'hype' of the waterstones. He uses the band sharpener for all the high end stuff he sells, stuff much nicer than my Tojiro, sells all of his professional sharpening jobs off of it, and uses it to sharpen his carbon blades he makes in house, which did look and feel really nice. He said they have a 1200 grit belt for it (I held back a chuckle knowing I have the 4k combo stone at home) and it was a professional job. I figured a 1200 grit job was halfway there, and I could polish it at home once he got the proper bevel and a good start on it, because I might not be sharpening it right! I left it with him, he gave it the the sharpening guy and set it aside as special, and I went off to my break.
Came back, picked it up. He declared "That is what a sharp knife feels like!" I opened the sheath and my heart sank as I gave him a weak smile, mumbled a thanks, and left. I saw right off the bat there was zero extra care given to it. No stropping, no deburring, covered in carbon. Looking closer, immediately noticed how small the bevel was. I had a decent sized one on it before. No more. Closer look revealed scratches ALL OVER the bevel. 1200 grit?? Ya, right. He didn't bother to change the effin belt. It was sanded with a 600 grit, 800 grit if I am feeling kind. Luckily, it had a VERY light touch. They only worked over the bevel already there, from what I could tell. It was superficially sharp with a narrow bevel, just like all my coworker's knives, and what I thought I asked him to NOT do... I imagine they do that to give a super sharp edge that will wear out quickly and encourage people to go back and pay for another sharpening. And, I could SEE the burrs and metal shards! WTF?? I took it back to my station and cleaned it, deburred it, and worked it over my ceramic honing rod, immediately getting it sharper. However, the bevel was still super shallow and really scratched up (OCD thing, I realize, because i am used to the mirror finish I keep on it...), and it just... didn't seem as sharp as it could be. Took it home, 20 minutes on the combo 1k/4k stone, got my bevel back and it was sharp as I could get it. (the cut on my finder from grazing over it as I cleaned it still hurts, reminding me...) Which, of course, was MUCH sharper than the 'professionals' got it. And my edge was smooth and scratch free, like a mirror. It isn't perfect, as I am no expert (I could see the slight skids and flaws, but it takes very close scrutiny), but it sure helped my confidence! I KNOW the sharpening job *I* did was FAR superior to the shitty free one I got. Though, a professional with a waterstone and my nice knife I am sure could do much better, the little bit of amateur care I showed my knife gave FAR superior results to the lazy, careless 'free sharpening' I got from 'professionals' who ASSURED me they knew how to take care of a nice knife. I won't make that mistake again. I just hope to one day find a Japanese knife expert who can really give me a nice edge! I thought I found one, but was very mistaken, my poor Tojiro having to suffer for this knowledge.
All I have for now! I like my Tojiro better, might like it more if I had an opportunity to use it more. I am sure it would kick serious ass at home. And Victorinox Fibrox serrated bread knives, for the price, are the way to go! Super sharp out of box, replace it when it gets worn out, and you will always have a great bread knife you aren't afraid to toss around, lose, abuse, and replace! Cheap Victorinox paring knife is what I use (not often) but it is super sharp and whippy, perfect for the Garde Manger fancy fruit/ vegetable garnishes I carve, nice and sharp and easy to maneuver due to being thin and agile. I use a Zyliss small serrated knife for halving a few cases of grape tomatoes at a time, works like charm and EONS faster and better than a regular paring knife! Has held up just fine! I picked up a pair of Wustof shears, couldn't tell you which model. They were on sale. They get used often. They work great even though I cut through lots of grape stems with them. Messermeister serrated peeler. I need no other peeler. I use it daily. It peels everything; carrots, potatoes, ginger, squashes. It doesn't gouge at all and it easy to maneuver enough to get only skins off. And it does all this fast. It was $12 bucks. Easily the best peeler I have ever owned, and I will replace it as soon as it wears out (getting there, will need to be replaced by this time next year) None of the other knives are worth mentioning, as that is my regular arsenal.