My first day on the job I took a look at what knives all the chef's were using and sure enough everyone had Japanese cutlery. After questioning the saucier about whether or not Japanese knives really do make a difference he put it to me like this:
"It's your profession. You use a knife all day and you should have one that you can sharpen easily and that stays sharper longer. Japanese knives are expensive but it's like – why race in a Pinto when you can win in a Porsche? Why wear a Timex when you can sport a Rolex? If you're cooking at the top level then don't you want to have the tools to take you all the way?"
Why, yes I do want to have the very best tools.
So I took his advice (and many of you who left comments on my last post) and headed to Korin's knife store in Lower Manhattan.
Wow! I knew nothing about Japanese knives. I mean, I had heard of Shun (which they don't even carry) and Global (which they do carry, but they don't display) but Masamoto? Nenox-Honyaki? Misono?
These knives have tradition behind their names. Serious tradition. In some cases dating back over 800 years. Many of these families made samurai swords and now have turned their attention to crafting knives.
I asked the sales lady to show me a range of chef's knives in different prices. She pulled down a ridiculously expensive Ninox that was beautiful but out of my budget. The next one she displayed was a Masamoto Virgin Steel (first press steel that is handmade and not reformed over) that was sharp enough to split hairs but also too pricey.
And then she laid down a mid priced one and I knew immediately if was for me. Yes, I might be a sucker for marketing, but the dragon etched in the blade caught my eye. I had heard of the name, Misono, which is known for making excellent blades with pure Swedish steel – some of the purest steel in the world right now.
I picked it up, felt it in my hands, and handed over my credit card.
My knife is amazing. I had no idea how much difference it could make in daily preparation, speed, and accuracy.
It's true they require a little more care. Mine is carbon steel which can rust and should not be used to cut acidic foods. Also, they need to be sharpened on a wet stone preferably at the end of ever 12 hour day to keep the edge sharp.
Any sharp knife serves it's purpose. And nothing is more frustrating than a dull knife in the kitchen. What might be right for me, is not necessarily going to work for a home cook.
But after using Japanese knives I will never go back. Now I open my after shift beers with my Wûstof knives – at least they're still getting some action ;-)