A knife is more than a blade with great edge geometry. In restaurant kitchens, knives are extensions of cooks’ hands, instruments of precision. They’re also symbols of mentorship and milestones. Japanese or Western, stainless or carbon, in the high 50s or low 60s on the Rockwell hardness scale—these factors may sometimes be beside the point (though the staffs at Anzen Hardware and Ross Cutlery might disagree). Never mind the faux wootz steel (see the whorled pattern on trendy knives). What makes a knife a cherished tool? Four local chefs tell us.
1. Shunji Nakao
Nenohi 8-inch deba filleting knife: “A deba is made for cutting huge fish like yellowtail and cutting through the bones.Another deba was a present from my father about 32 years ago, around the time I came to the United States to be a chef. It was originally quite big, but [with use and sharpening] it has become petite. I always carry it in my bag for my memory.”
2. Ludo Lefebvre
Global 8-inch Ukon knife: “I remember when I came to the U.S. and finally started to make more than 12 cents a day, I really, really wanted a Global knife. As a young cook, I dreamed of getting a Global knife. When I finally got one, I used it all the time. Now it’s the oldest knife in my kit, showing the wear and tear of around 20 years.”
TramontiNa 4-inch bird’s beak paring knife: “I never pay a lot for fancy knives—I’ve probably lost most of my knives over the years—but the bird’s beak is my favorite; I use it more than any other. It’s perfect for fine details like cleaning, scraping, and trimming vegetables because it’s so
Jean-Louis Palladin MAC limited-edition 9-INCH bread slicer: “This knife was gifted to me by the chef Jean-Louis Palladin. Many young people don’t know him anymore, but he was one of the true greats of his day. He signed it and passed away within a year of giving it to me, so it’s very special to me.”