KEEPING MY KNIVES SHARP: Why it matters so much to me.
This post will cover why metaphorically I liken blade maintenance to my blog or any endeavor. I throw in some links/resources along with photos of the last time I brought out my Japanese whetstones and went to work.
This is something that I truly enjoy and am adamant about. I cook, and sharp knives are essential. Without sharp knives you put yourself, and whatever product you’re working with in danger. All knives become dull after prolonged use, even by professionals with a respect for the blade, unless perpetual care is taken to avoid dullness. Novices in knife skills will be much more adept at cutting then sharpening or honing; even mid level professionals with adequate to above average knife skills have often times no clue how to take care of their knife and keep it sharp. I’m overly emphasizing one word so far keep/keeping. This is because like with other habits you need to continue or maintain it to notice benefits. Take this blog for instance (but this can very much be applied to any skill, habit or area of my or your lives). If this blog was a knife it may not be dull, since I’ve only published 5 posts and have not nearly put it to good use. But, does that mean that it doesn’t need to be cared for, analyzed, improved? I certainly haven’t been keeping up with it—and if I don’t hone/sharpen my blogging skills this will not be an effective tool going forward. So, I should put a vested effort into habitualizing blogging, just as I have with maintaining the edge on my blades.
At my last position in a high standard, fine dining kitchen I made the habit of maintaining my blades every day. At the end of service, I always (every single shift in over a year and a half) honed my knives. There are many reasons for this but primarily it’s simple: stay ready. No matter how intensely bad, good, or just straight up intense a shift was I disciplined myself to take care of my tools. There was a calming/zen aspect too that’s on the intangible side.
Now I’m waiting for another culinary project to get underway, but still use some of my knives regularly and aim to maintain and improve sharpness so that I’m ready to step into any kitchen and perform at a high level. That’s Mise En Place, the state of readiness. But, that’s another upcoming blog post in and of itself.
The actual skill of sharpening knives on Japanese Whetstones is something that I haven’t fully mastered. That makes it enjoyable, that I’m still in the raw learning stages where improvement is highly visible. These two videos help me and I often refer back to them to verify my technique. Bob Kramer and this Video from Global Knives
These are the knives I worked on most recently, and my stones. I like to work on a couple of the household knives as well as mine that get industrial use, because surprisingly the household ones are more dull and more of a challenge. [Notice the smaller stone: used to ensure a flat surface prior to running the knife on the stone.]
Upcoming I’ll do more of a how to with some videos that I produce, but that’s in the near future.
This quote from Daniel Boulud (one of the Best Chefs in America) from his book Letters to a Young Chef—specifically the 10 commandments of a chef (for the rest click here) is a good closing remark.
“1. Keep Your Knives sharp
Your most basic tool is your knife. To cut well, all of your knives must be sharp. Make sharpening a daily ritual at the very least. A knife is not like a car that breaks down. If it does not perform, you have not kept it sharp. Remember, it is never the knife’s fault.”
Thank you for reading, and please leave any feedback or questions for me.