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First Year Apprentice: What knives should I get?

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

Hi everyone, 
I'm a first year apprentice chef in Australia, I only recently started my apprenticeship and I really need to get my own knives!
I've been looking around but I'm not 100% sure what sort of knives I should get to begin with and which brand.
I've looked at Mundial, Wustoff, Global etc and I've held all of them. The Scanpan knives feel too heavy in my hands, so they're out.
But I was hoping to get some advice off people on what I should get and what types of knives to get. I know I need a steel to sharpen with as well.

Thanks in advance,

post #2 of 10

Welcome to ChefTalk!


Generally speaking, you're going to need at least 3 basic knives: a chef's knife, a paring knife or petty and a serrated edge bread knife.


You are also going to need a way to keep the chef's knife and ther paring knife sharp.


And it wouldn't hurt to have a simple roll and some edge guards or protection sleeves to safely store and carry the knives.


As an individual in the United States, I must confess that I am not familiar with the Australian cutlery and restaurant supply sources.  So, feel free to check around and take what I may find with a grain of long-distance salt.


I looked at my generic (non-US) usual suspects and usually, that's Amazon and eBay.  Amazon Australia is a dud.  Nothing except books, software, and electronics.  No cutlery whatsoever.  eBay Australia seems to be a bit more promising, but still has some limits.  I am also suspecting that shipping costs listed on various eBay Australia pages may be reflecting my actual location across the Pacific Ocean, rather than as an Australian purchaser, so I would suggest that you take my eBay shipping prices with a degree of skepticism.


So, first the knives.


Let's begin with the chef's knife.


This is where you need to sink your money into.  This will be your workhorse.  The paring knife and the bread knife are small potatoes and you can really economize on them.  No so the chef's knife.


The first issue is the type of chef's knife.


 I'm going to suggest you specifically look for what is referred to as a gyuto - which has evolved as the Japanese version of a French Chef's knife.  Most Japanese gyutos have a somewhat flatter blade profile than many European-style knives, especially German knives.  That flatter profile will mean that you will be able to use more of the edge of the blade during cutting.


The second issue is length.


As an apprentice, I'm going to assume you will be doing just about everything that the chef and any other cooks in the kitchen will be doing.  So, the appropriate chef's knife should be the usual length for commercial kitchens - 225 to 270 mm in blade length.  I'm also going to make a flat out recommendation that you get a knife with a blade length of 240 mm.  That will not be too overwhelming a length (especially with a pinch grip) and will still be large enough to get serious work done.  It's also a standard length for chef's knives made in Japan. 


Looking at eBay Australia, I see that the Tojiro DP 240 mm gyuto (Model F-809) is available for AU $93 + AU $12.95 postage.  This is a basic workhorse knife with a laminated blade.  The core steel is VG-10 and is hardened to about 60 hRc - better by far than any of the knives you list above.  Tojiro's reputation of VG-10 is considered relatively good - they don't have anywhere near as many complaints about edge chipping as other Japanese VG-10 knives (though it's important with VG-10 to not use the edge against bone or with any frozen foods - either of those situations will immensely increase the risk of chipping).


As for a paring knife, my flat-out budget recommendation is for a Victorinox 80 mm fibrox handled straight edge (non-serrated) paring knife.  That will be fairly inexpensive, and for the money, uses a somewhat decent steel (X50CrMoV15, also known as 4116 steel).


As for a serrated edge bread knife, again, I would recommend Victorinox: in this case a Victorinox 250 mm fibrox handled serrated edge bread knife.


Local restaurant supply shops should sell those.


For sharpening, your best bet will be Japanese water stones.  look for a length of at least 200 mm and a width of at least 50 mm   You will need a 1000 grit stone for general maintenance, a 5000 grit stone for good polkishing of the edge of the Tojiro and a 500 grit stone for repair work.  Eventually, you will also need a flattening plate or stone.


As for a "steel", please note that the proper term is "honing rod".  With the Tojiro, you probably will be better off using the 5000 grit water stone to instead maintain the edge, rather than a honing rod.  When you do decide on getting a honing rod, you should look for a smooth (or very fine grit) ceramic rod.  The length should be at least as long as or longer than the longest blade in your kit.


As for sharpening techniques, begin by reading this post by Chad Ward:


It's a shorter version of his 2006 book, An Edge In The Kitchen.  If you can rustle up a copy through your library system, it worth a read.


For storing and carrying your knives, knife rolls have become standard. Check out your local restaurant supply shops or  Do measure the overall lengths of your knives before shopping for a roll, so you can put them into the roll (obviously, the roll needs to be long enough).


Extruded plastic edge protector sleeves work fine.  So do homemade sleeves made with cardboard and duct tape, though I question their durability if the knives are not properly dried when put into the sleeves.


Hope that helps


Galley Swiller

post #3 of 10

One little thing to add to what GS said. If you go the cardboard saiya/edge-protector, use staples rather than duck tape.  Well I did say it was a little thing...


For the money there's a hard time beating the Tojiro for a pro kitchen, but recent posts here will elaborate other comparable choices if you care to investigate.




post #4 of 10

This is pretty good advice. We all have different knife preferences but Galley Swiller's advice will serve you well.  Listen to it.  Act on it.  


The only thing I might add for a professional with a starter kit is a flexible boning knife.  But only if you are doing things like boning out chickens or french trimming chops etc.  


Pay attention to GS's advice on stones. For a toothy edge 6000 may be more than you need but is fine as a good polishing stone. If you buy Japanese knives with hard steel, a honing rod or steel is useless anyway as the knife will be harder than the "steel" and you will not be rolling the edge.  

post #5 of 10
Knives and stones is a local seller who stocks tojiros as well as sharpening supplies.
post #6 of 10
Thread Starter 
Thank you everyone! smile.gif
I'll be going to have a hold of the tojiro's this afternoon.
post #7 of 10
Good luck with your first set of knives! Your first knife is something that you will remember through your career (hopefully not with too much scaring) and you will judge your future knives on its orientation. When your ready for a something special knife wise check out CHEF KNIVES TO GO.COM. I'm bias to carbon steel and the edge it can hold (Blue #2) and do your research. Your knife, and how you maintain it, is a direct reflection of who you are in the kitchen!
post #8 of 10
As the OP lives in Australia shipping from the US will cost a lot. Better check JCK,
Flat shipping rate of US$7.
If one is interested in aogami #2, JCK offers it clad in stainless, hardness @63Rc, with a Western handle. The same idea of the former Hiromoto AS series. Excellent F&F at this price point, stone sharpened edge out of the box. Expect a remarkable edge retention. 210mm gyuto US$114 + $7 shipping.
post #9 of 10

One thing I will respectfully disagree with Benuser about is the length of the JCK Aogami Blue No. 2 gyuto - the length.


210 mm is just too short for basic day-in, day-out commercial kitchen work.  If you do get a gyuto, look carefully at 240 mm as an appropriate length.




Galley Swillerf

post #10 of 10
Oh, Galley, you're perfectly right. I just got a 210mm from JCK and gave it as an example. In a pro setting one should go for a 240mm.
Edited by Benuser - 3/7/15 at 4:07pm
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