Hopefully you're familiar with the phrase "too many cooks in the kitchen." Good. Every cook in the world has their own way of doing things which makes them unique or gives them a certain style or flair or whatever. In school, it was easy to find something that the teachers disagreed on (especially if you asked our French instructor since he had his own French way of doing just about anything). For example, my baking instructor iced cakes with what's called a "quick icing" tip (cause it's quick, ha!) whereas most other, I suppose more traditional bakers, do it the more common way where you pile the icing on top then work it down the sides. I wish I had bothered to learn the second way as people tend to give me a weird look when I say I need my quick tip to ice a cake, but in all honesty I prefer the method I use and I'm glad I was taught that way.
So the moral of the story is, everyone has their own way of cooking and this journal is (for the most part) going to be strictly how I prefer to do things. My way certainly may not be the most preferred or the most common, but hey, if you don't like it, Google for a different technique, or leave an opinion in a comment. I'm always open to feedback, unless it's stupid.
Bah, enough of that crap! Let's move on to knives!
I received my very first "chef's knife" my first semester of community college because it was required that all students bring their own knives to class. (After seeing poor saps stuck with the house knives, I had no regrets.) This is also the first time I met John Cooke, one of the instructors, and the purveyor of knives to the greater part of Northern California.
He took one look at our bright eager little faces and said, "I will not sell you a good knife." Why? Cause we were students, and while I still have my first knife, it's scratched to hell, it's dull, and it makes sloppy cuts. (I'm too lazy to sharpen it most of the time.) So, if you're looking for a knife that's going to last a long time but may need sharpening now and again, I recommend the same knife I first got, an 8" Messermeister. It's a decent knive and I revered it like a really sharp god when I first got it, making sure I was the only one who washed it (because the rest of the people in class were not to be trusted!) and placing it loving back in my leopard print knife case.
But, you know, after a little while the charm wore off and I began lusting for a set of Globals. Oh. My. God. The Japanese had taken European knives and improved them! These knives are sharp as hell and take a while to dull. Sushi chefs in particular tend to use Global knives (if they're worth their salt) since they make a wide array of sashimi specific knives.
Well, since a single Global knife can go over $100 easily in retail, I waited and waited. And waited. In the mean time I heard a lot of good things about Mac knives which were not only slightly more affordable, but sharp and sturdy enough to warrant their price. They are good knives, definitely a step up from the Messermeister, and my knife seller swears by them. When I approached him and asked what his first recommendation for me would be he immediately replied Mac. Well.... they're ugly and they're not really what I want to spend my money on.
Moving on, my friend Andrew decided to let me use his newly sharpened... well actually I don't remember if it was a WÜSTHOF or a Henkels but my instinct leans towards Henkels. I asked him how he liked it and he said he had hated the thing until he had it professionally sharped because it was such a strong metal that it was too difficult for him to sharpen himself. However, after having said that he proceeded to tell me he'd fallen in love with it again because it had been keeping its edge really nicely since then. It was a bit heavier that my poor, old Messermeister and I liked it. It was sharp, too.
The only reason he let me use it is because he had bought a beautiful, new Shun. I will admit, when I first started hearing about Shun knives I was hard into Global knives and thought that Shun knives weren't any better. Then one day my teacher James convinced me otherwise. He grabbed a kitchen rag, folded it in half and then rolled it super tight.
"You know how you tell if a knife is sharp?" It was a rhetorical question as he immediately cut through the rolled up towel in quick slice. My jaw dropped.
A few months later, as sort of a graduation present to myself, I bought a 10" Shun Chef's Knife for myself and I have no regrets. I went with a 10" because I'm tall and knife length should coordinate with your height or you can mess up your arm and shoulder. This knife is sharper than anything I have ever known. My fiance was washing the dishes once with the knife on a cutting board next to the sink, barely grazes it, and nearly lost the top of her pinkie. (She came running to me crying, blood gushing from her finger and all I could think was, "Shit she cut her finger off." The nice thing about sharp knives is the wound will heal quicker and cleaner and hurt less than it would with a dull knife wound.) And I didn't go out and spend $130 on a knife I knew nothing about. Shun knives are sharp, they don't dull easily, and they have a "D-shaped" handle that allows the blade to rest comfortably and securely in your hand. Also, they are the choice knives of Alton Brown. You may have heard of him?
Now, here's where I remind you again that this is only my opinion and my personal experience. Everyone has their own preference of knife and there are a lot of other good knives that I don't know enough to talk about. If you're starting out I recommend beginning simply and working your way up. Learn about knife care, learn how to sharpen, learn how not to sharpen, and learn how to wield them.
Finally, here's a plug for my home slice knife purveyor, John Cooke. He has really fair prices and a lot of resources that include knife care and specs, so check him out!
I'll be back soon, so stay sharp! ♥