How To Choose Kitchen Knives
Of Chefs And Knives

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This is gonna be a rather controversial topic, but here's my take anyway. Chefs are the folks, which use those knives on daily bases, perhaps most of the day. So, in theory they should know a lot about them, and if they use a particular knife that must be good. At least, that is the perception a lot of knife researchers have, when contacting me with various questions regarding kitchen knives and their selection.
    Unfortunately, that theory is really far from the truth. In my experience, a lot of the pro chefs are neither a good example of knife user nor a role model for choosing your knife. Obviously there are exceptions, but as usual the exceptions just prove the rule. I for one, often quote iron chef Morimoto, and I think he's one of the very few chefs that understand their knives, respect and treat them well. On the other hand, I don't necessarily think Nenohi Nenoxes are the best knives in the kitchen, and chances are your favorite will be different too, unless you have to use whatever your favorite chef uses. In the end, chefs are people, just like us, and unless they pay attention to their tools and spend time on research and experiments, most likely, they'll end up with something that someone(most likely their culinary school teacher) told them about, or with the latest marketing hype.
    Another important and often overlooked aspect is that, the chefs in pro environments use whatever equipment was provided by the owner of the place. Very often that ends up being whatever was on sale, and it's hardly high end. Only a few chefs spend extra money and bring their own, better knives, and that is also a risk they take, because I've seen more than one frustrated report from such chefs, complaining about abusive coworkers, who whack delicate thin edge knives on hard surfaces or bones.
    Sponsorship - With the celebrity chefs, sponsorship is a very big factor deciding what they use (and promote). So, it is unlikely that the knife used by certain celebrity chef will work all that well for you, since you will be the one paying for it from your own pocket, not being paid to. Keep that in mind ;)
    The reality is that chefs, including very famous ones, are often pretty bad abusers of the knives, or judging by the knives they use they don't really care that much what they cut with. Another iron chef, Bobby Flay, who is a world famous cook uses high end Shun knives along with other knives and not in the best possible ways. Using chef's knife, to open a tin can, is a knife abuse, and just because he did it doesn't make it any less abuse. He's a good cook apparently, but as a knife user, he's one of the worst. I don't know how a man can disrespect his working tools so much, that includes his infamous walk on his own cutting board. I'm far from being religious on knives or any other tools, but still, it's an indicator of how much the chef respects his own profession, I think.
    Gordon Ramsay, another celebrity cook, this one from Brittan. His video on youtube, regarding knife sharpening, is a good display of both, his ignorance and arrogance. What he tries to pass as a sharpening lesson in his video is in fact steeling, not sharpening. And even when steeling, it is beyond me why would anyone repeatedly bang the knife edge on the smooth steel guard to make any point? On top of that he's using grooved steel, which is a bad idea at any rate. One more interesting detail, in his sharpening video he's doing exactly the opposite of what any steeling or sharpening rod manual tells you, let alone common sense and expert advise. In particular, he uses inward strokes, i.e. from the tip of the rod to the handle, to himself that is. In short, if you see his knife sharpening video, that is your guide of exactly what not to do when sharpening and/or steeling your knife.
    As Morimoto said, and I agree, just a good knife won't make a good chef. I have very good knives, and they're very sharp at that, still, I am nowhere near, in terms of cooking, to the pro cooks, or even good amateurs. Goes the other way too, good cooks often get by with whatever knife they have, and having the best and sharpest knife isn't the goal. May be, if you give them a better knife, they'd switch, but lots of them simply don't feel experimenting or got no time for it, who knows.
    Rachael Ray for example, she's a good cook, and whatever I've tried to cook with her recipes, it was really tasty. She's using the same POS Furi santoku knife 99% of the time. Shizzzz! I can't stand those orange, injection mold handled knives. I don't know where did she find them, but as knives they're no good. I guess it's the other way, the line carries her name. As Furi marketing brochure says: "Fully forged from finest German alloy, tampered to 56HRC", blah, blah. It's not even an ok performer, and according to many accounts, from respectable people, those Furis underperform severely. I've had a Furi cleaver for sharpening and testing a while ago, and it only confirmed other reports I've had before. Edge holding is simply horrible. That besides the really awkward handle and weird blade geometry. Furi site, is a perfect example of lots of marketing BS mixed up with some truth and half-truth. Edge holding is sub-par, even compared to the cheaper knives at the same hardness. No wonder they promote 40° angle, lower that, and oh so supreme Furi knife won't last long enough for Rachael Ray to finish her 30 minute show. If you're into that type of knives(why?), or you want them because she uses them, then the set of 3 can be purchased for around 60$, considering their performance, or lack of it, that is severely overpriced. Frankly, those knives belong to the garbage bowl she uses, not to the good kitchen. Still, she has her reasons to use them, and gets some profit out of it too, what's your reason?
    I don't want to make an impression that all chefs are bad knife experts or users. Morimito, Cimarusti, Matsuhisa to name a few, they are all fine chefs, and have very good knife sets. All of them are very good with knives, their cutting technique is nothing but amazing. Don't know about Morimoto and Cimarusti, but Matsuhisa is very good with sharpening too. As you see, there's plenty of good examples out there.
    Remember, knives are just the tools that cut, and the good knives make cutting easier for longer time and that's all. If you're a knifaholic like me, then a good knife is more important, simple as that. So, to summarize, if you're looking for a good knife, perhaps you'd be better off asking knife specialists or enthusiasts at least. Just because someone is a celebrity, or has to use a knife all day, doesn't mean he or she did the homework, and spent time researching the knives at all. One thing is an expert knife user, which most of the chefs are, due to circumstances, and another is the deeper knowledge of the knives, metallurgy and steel, which is a lot of theory and hard data as well. Chefs and other celebrities aren't the best source of the information most of the time, I mean strictly knife choosing aspects. Some of them have to promote or use particular brand, that is in the contract, there is also sponsorship, others may have vested interest, there can be bunch of reasons, as to why the chef uses whatever brand knife, and that isn't always the best choice for you.
    Speaking of youtube and chefs, have to mention the large number of self proclaimed cooks/knife experts, posting tons of videos about various topics, regarding knife use and maintenance. Internet is a double edged sword so, watch out! Use your head, and at least read the comments for those videos, before actually trying to do it. Very often, what you see there, is wrong or outright stupid, not to mention dangerous. Not all the comments are made by the pros either, but most of the time, you can see the worst stuff pointed out clearly. What can I say, if the celebrity cooks do stupid stuff and post it on the internet, what's to stop someone else from doing the same.

As I have predicted this chapter was kindda controversial :) Although, I haven't received negative feedback on this, to the contrary. However, this part did piss off one of the chefs(apparently), and I got really irritated email(actually, 3 copies of it) harshly criticizing me, and my knife hobby too. Obviously he didn't specify return email address. All that wouldn't be worth mentioning, but interestingly, that email was pretty much a summary of the key points, mindset and position of the "other side" regarding the knives, and I thought it was worth quoting here some of it, and commenting on that. I've heard all the arguments before from various people, just I was lazy to collect all that, but since this email had them all together... Let's refer to him as Mr. X. since the arguments in the email were very generic, and see what he had to say. I have to admit, X correctly pointed out spelling errors with incorrectly using chef in possessive instead of plural ;) So, the quoted text will be in italic, unchanged, prefixed by Mr. X, with my comments below each quote.

Mr. X: Most Chefs are into their cooking, and they are usually in a rush during peak times. Their knives are just tools and they rarely obsess about them at all.
One doesn't have to obsess about his/her tools to show simple respect for the tools they are using, and more importantly, obsession has nothing to do with using the right tool for the job! Whacking lobsters or chopping bones with chef's knife is misusing chef's knife, as simple as that. Why would I or anyone else has to copy that behavior? I am not in the rush during pick hours after all. Yes, I do care about my knives, expensive or not, and have no intention to damage them pointlessly. That's not an obsession, but practicality.

Mr. X: This goes double for celebrity Chefs who have all these knife manufacturers constantly pushing their free knives to them, so these Chefs treat them as throw away items.
:) What can I say, thank you for making my point. A lot of celebrity chefs treat their knives like throw away pieces, because they are sponsored. The article, and this chapter in particular was designed to explain to potential kitchen knives buyers as to why not to look up to those celebrity chefs when shopping for their knives. Unlike them, we are not sponsored, and can't afford to treat our knives as throw away pieces. If you want to, sure, go ahead.

Mr. X: Here is the main thing: IT IS ALL ABOUT COOKING, NOT ABOUT EQUIPMENT! Focus on learning to cook well not knife connoisseurship.
Well, thanks for the hint :) Considering that cooking is done with the equipment, I am not convinced that it (the equipment) can be ignored or neglected. Case to the point, in 2009, Stefan Richter, runner up in Top Chef show has lost the competition, simply because his knives were dull. To get around the problem he froze the fish, just to be able to cut it thinly. Obviously he was caught on that and that cost him first place and considerable amount of prize money too. Was it worth it? Of course not. Do I believe a chef with neglected and dull knives will make good food? Depends on the dish. No way you can make sushi, and yes you can probably make a simple soup. As for the rest, everyone has his choice what to focus on, mine is on knives, cooking is interesting as long as it involves using knives.

Mr. X: Many World Class Master Chefs prefer Forschner Fibrox stamped knives and could give a damn about VG-10, or Damascus steel, powdewered steel, edge andle or whatever
Strange argument. Ok, some prefer, others do not, and the reader doesn't have to. Either way, why Fibrox knives are ok to abuse? Edge angle is important, and will make your work easier, if you know what you are doing, so, what's wrong with making your work easier? Why preach ignorance in the name of I don't even understand what.

Mr. X: They come to work to kick a$$ and make art of their cuisine. Threy could care less about how the knife looks, prestige of brand, just so the blade stays reasonably sharp for a reasonable time without a lot of expense (they go through knives fast, and the illegal immigrant kitchen help often walk away with whatever is loose, including knives.)
For one, cooking in the rush hour hardly leaves time for an art. Second, picking a knife that will last you through a day, already implies knowledge of the knives to some extent, and no, Furis will not make though a day in a pro kitchen, not even a half. What I have very hard time believing in, is the cook making an art of his or her cuisine with a dull knife. I stated few times in this article, I am no pro cook, but whatever I've seen in the books and various shows, you simply can not achieve that with a dull, or even incorrect knife in many cases. On the other hand, this particular argument is in defense of the cooks using cheap knives at work, and theft is one of the valid reasons. However, that in no way justifies neglect or abuse of that knife, and second and more important, at home, where you do not have to worry about those things, why settle for a bad knife, if you can get a good one?

Mr. X: True, Chefs are often not knife experts, they are there to COOK, not obsess on mere tools.
Correct, so when shopping for a knife, it's better and more logical to ask expert opinion about knives.

Mr. X: Show me a knifeaholic and I will show you a mediocre cook.
I really don't like such arrogant and blanket statements. The belief that good cooks are all neglecting their knives is simply silly. I already mentioned several very well known cooks who state their great respect for their knives. I also know several very good cooks who hang out on the knife forum, in the kitchen section and on the foodieforums. One doesn't get in the way of the other. Besides, you don't have to be a knifaholic to take care and not abuse your tools. After all, it is simple logic and practical approach, you take minimal care of your knives, they last longer, cut better, make your work faster and more efficient. In case of food, it makes more tasty too :) A knife is a tool; it has its purpose and needs some maintenance, no different from any other tool. There are no excuses based on your profession, especially when your profession requires you to use that tool all day.

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Last updated - 05/19/19