You chefs are a funny bunch. I know, because I was one for many many years. It’s my opinion that “once a chef, always a chef”. We see the world differently and demand more of our knives. Chefs need knives that are crazy sharp, stay that way for a long time. The same way we sometimes as more of our best friends than everyone else, (help with moving, council us about our love lives, etc…) we also want our best friend in the kitchen to do a little more work and take a bit more of a beating.
I’ve found that the default size for chefs is 240mm, sometimes 270mm and a few even like a 300mm knife. Longer blades make cutting 200 pounds of potatoes into hash browns easier as the extra length makes a bigger fulcrum and you need less force to cut….or something sciency like that. Here is my list of knives that fit the bill and should be considered by any chef looking for a number one knife.
Some folks want a knife that has that carbon steel look, but is actually easy to care for stainless steel. It is one of the heaviest knives we carry and is perfect if you prefer the feel of a German or American knife. The handle is very ergonomic, especially for those with larger hands. Layered Damascus stainless steel, uniquely paired with a black kurochi finish? What more could you want?
Either you have a large mitt like mine and love this handle or you have a small hand and hate it. If you’re like me this rugged, good looking and slick feeling knife is what you are after. I often use this for the Cut Like a Chef classes we teach.
I couldn't decide between the two because they are both rad. Both lines are exclusive to Knifewear and they were designed by our own large-knife enthusiast, Naoto Fujimoto. We picked this workshop to forge these blades because each craftsman in the factory has a specialized skill. One guy forges, one guy sharpens, one guy puts on handles, etc. This focus allows them to far exceed the accuracy and consistency of many blacksmiths, but also to work more efficiently and make more knives for a lower price.
Let's face it, kitchens are hard on knives. When we designed this blade we choose Blue Carbon Steel for its obvious benefits; great edge retention and insane sharpness. As much as we love the steel we knew it would get terribly rusty in a professional kitchen, so we had it clad in stainless steel. Now only the edge is exposed high-carbon steel, and the knife is much easier to keep from rusting.
Alright, even I can admit it; some people just prefer a small knife. This is my compromise. The Hammer Tone carries the weight and heft of a larger knife while being an extremely manageable 210mm long. The steel has a high carbon content but is stainless, so you get the best of both worlds in regards to performance v.s. maintenance.
If you’ve ever heard me talk about Masashi-san you will know I am a huge fan of his. There are many reasons for this. He likes nihon-shu as much as I do, he likes great restaurantsalmost as much as I do and I love how seriously he takes his craftsmanship. He is the craftsman’s craftsman. He makes knives for chefs that are rugged, mega sharp and look great.
Okay, half the reason I chose this knife is purely because of its looks. But that's not all, it's also an incredible performer! Super Blue Carbon Steel cuts incredibly well, has crazy edge retention and features a layer of stainless protection to keep maintenance in check. The heavier blade and forward balance mean that this knife does some of the work for you, a serious benefit for overworked chefs.
Okay, I had to have a bonus knife. This is the blade I recommend when a chef comes in looking for a knife that they'll take to the grave. Holding the notched blade is like getting a handshake, and it gives you incredible comfort while you cut. Fujiwara-san manages to make this steel harder than most blacksmiths can, giving it insane performance in both professional and home environments. This one is well-worth saving your pennies for.