Cut to the Quick
Japanese chef’s knives for kitchen novices and experts
Celebrity chef, traveler and author Anthony Bourdain knows knives. For Bourdain, equipping a kitchen, home and professional alike, need not be difficult. Forget elaborate knives of varying sizes and shapes, and stick to the essentials:
“Please believe me, here’s all you will ever need in the knife department: one good chef’s knife, as large as is comfortable for your hand,” he notes in his groundbreaking, culinary tell-all book “Kitchen Confidential.” A chef’s knife will perform all of the kitchen duties a home cook requires, using the tip for detail work and the remainder for larger jobs.
Additionally, he goes on to note that many professionals move away from noted brands like Henckel and Wüstoff for the more elegant and useful handmade knives from Japan.
Brandt Cox, local chef and co-owner of Coutelier NOLA, agrees with Bourdain’s advice. “Japanese knives, specifically the Gyuto [chef’s] knife, are thinner, lighter blades,” he says. “Many knives are created by small-time bladesmiths that have multi-generational knife-making heritage. The 8-inch size is the most popular for both chefs and home cooks. It is typically the style knife that we recommend for both home cooks and professionals.”
We visited Coutelier, an Oak Street shop which specializes in knives, boutique accessories for both home and professional cooks and blade sharpening services and classes, where Cox helped us select top options for all price points.
1. Starter Kit $80
Tojiro three layer stainless steel knife. Balanced, durable and easy to sharpen, the Tojiro is a terrific knife for a young cook who is entering their first professional kitchen or a home cook who wants great performance without breaking the bank. Also an easy line of knives to build a set or give as a gift for a culinary friend.
2. Modest Investment $150
Sakai Takayuki, hammered Damascus steel and red pakka wood handle. A thinner, sharper, lighter knife, the Sakai Takayuki also maintains its edge a little longer and features a tsuchime, or hammered, finish. This knife is appropriate for a seasoned line cook, a graduation present for a culinary school student or home cooks who want their knives to reflect the seriousness and thought they put into their food.
3. Top of the Class $465
Takeshi SAJI, rainbow Damascus carbon steel, Arizona Desert Ironwood handle. Handmade by Takeshi SAJI, this knife is a one-of-a-kind blade from one of the most highly respected bladesmiths in Japan. Decked out with rainbow Damascus steel, inlaid layers of copper and brass, an Arizona Desert Ironwood handle and mosaic copper and brass pins, this knife is an eye catcher and a jewel for the serious knife collector.
SHARP AND TO THE POINT
Coutelier NOLA offers professional sharpening, priced per inch, on Japanese water stones and leather.
All sharpening priced per inch, $1.25 double beveled blades, $2 single bevels and serrated blades. Coutelier also sharpens hatchets, meat cleavers, axes, food processor blades, mandolin blades, straight razors and restores antique blades. Coutelier NOLA, 8239 Oak Street, 504-475-5606, CoutelierNOLA.com.