Adam Perry Lang is many things. He’s a chef, of course—one who’s been cooking professionally for 28 years in the kitchens of chefs like Daniel Boulud and later at the restaurants he opened in London and New York. He’s also an author, having written books about grilling, smoking, and other ways to make good meat taste even better (as anyone who’s gorged themselves at his barbecue pop-ups at the Jimmy Kimmel Live! lot can attest).
But the thing that most people don’t realize about Lang—at least until he opens the 147-seat APL steak house in Hollywood’s historic Taft Building this spring—is that he’s also really, really into making knives. Not just any knives, but ones forged from alloy steel and hardened with extreme blasts of fire and liquid nitrogen—knives that require hours of anvil-pounding at his metal shop near Temecula.
The choice of knife might seem like a tertiary detail when designing a steak house, but not for someone who has built a gigantic dry-aging room in his restaurant’s basement and sources prime cuts from the country’s most revered cattle ranches. “The knife is the last point of contact. It completely affects the experience,” Lang says. “There’s this cow that’s been raised for almost two years, then butchered, and aged, and cooked, and you blow it at the last minute by tearing the steak with a crappy knife.”
Lang, 48 and barrel-chested with a perpetually stubbly beard, realizes many diners might not pay close attention to the instrument used to carve their New York strips. That’s fine, he insists: “We don’t want to be preachy. Having a great meal—that’s the victory. If you’re interested in learning something beyond, we have that, too.”
Five years ago Lang took courses in bladesmithing at Maine’s New England School of Metalwork. His classmates were mostly survivalist types, and they learned to emulsify steel in ways that made Lang think of vinaigrettes and puff pastry. As his new restaurant took shape, he crafted acid-etched Damascus steel blades in the unfinished brute de forge style, which makes them resemble relics from Game of Thrones (“I wanted something that was balanced in the hand”). His goal is to make enough to supply the restaurant, though he’s mulling a system to ensure that the prized tools don’t disappear from tables. “Once you use a well-made knife,” he says, “it’s hard to go back to anything else.”
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