So You Want To Be A Waiter

The best book on waiting tables that you have never read – yet

My favorite kitchen tool

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This is my Shun 10 in. chef’s knife (technically, this is Shun’s stock photo).. I use it to smash garlic, slice meats, cut veggies and just to admire. It’s a sort of “faux Damascus” knife. Damascus is the process of folding two or more different steels many times to get a layered and stronger blade.  There are 16 layers of two different strength steels, but the layers that you actually see are just etched on the blade and not the actual “ends” of the steel. I’ve got a couple of actual Damascus blades in a pocketknife and a bowie knife and they are very cool because they’re made of carbon steel and not stainless steel, and this isn’t quite the same (they have a nice color and texture difference between the layers). A “true” Damascus blade would cost lots more. But this is a lot easier to maintain, and you get some of the advantage of a Damascus and that’s the fact that it’s stronger than a single type of steel (much like pine plywood is stronger than the corresponding thickness of solid pine). Plus, the etching helps with the prevention of sticking when cutting through a thick piece of meat or cheese (much the same way that scallops, or the “hollow ground” on a blade prevent sticking). It creates tiny air pockets that help the blade glide more smoothly.

I’ve got another 10 or so different kitchen knives like santokus, nakiris, yanagis, paring knives, cleavers, etc., but this is the one that I turn to the most. It’s well-balanced and has a nice heft. Every cook should have a nice chef’s knife, a knife that they feel comfortable with. Some people like the Global style, where the handle is actually a continuation of the blade and as such, is metal itself. Personally, I don’t happen to like the feel of the handle, but this is a personal decision that  everyone should make for themselves. The handle can’t be too thick or too thin and the knife itself should feel balanced in the hand.

This knife is more of a European style than the typical Asian knife. It’s a little more narrow than most European knives but it generally follows their shape. More and more Westerners are adopting the santuko, which is the more traditional type of Asian knife. The santuko is flatter on the ground edge, which gives more contact with the cutting board, but it’s not quite as useful when you need to do something like mincing parsley or anything operation that requires a rocking motion.

My various sushi knives are single-ground, whereas this chef’s knife is double-ground (unusual for Japanese knives). This also makes it similar to European knives but one also has to be aware that the angle of the edge is slightly different than the standard European knife. A typical Henckel or similar European blade has a recommended angle of between 12 and 18 degrees depending on your preference, whereas the Shun  is set for 20 degrees. I’ve got a special Shun sharpening steel that is set up to guide this particular angle when steeling.

Due to their single-sided edges (think of one side of the edge being more “l-shaped”  rather than “v-shaped”) the sushi knives are  wickedly sharp, but also a little more fragile. You want to use them for precise cuts and you don’t want to use them on things that have a dense mass.

We’ll talk about knives more in the future, and discuss why steeling a blade isn’t actually sharpening it, and talk about the various types of knives and their uses, so stay tuned for more geek talk about knives.

And I’ll also be talking about other tools that any well-equipped kitchens should have in future installments.

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