Knives are a crucial tool when it comes to cooking; they come in different shapes and sizes, with different blades to slice a variety of foods. Having been a sushi chef for the past 10 years I’ve used knives a lot, especially sharp Japanese ones.
Japanese chefs show a lot of respect to their knives and take care of them like it’s an extension of their body, sharpening and polishing it at the end of each day. It’s because of this level of care and the expert craftsmanship that these knives can last for years. The knives are used to their absolute maximum potential.
Japanese knives are very different to Western knives. Japanese knives are often made with a harder steel, and are more often single-beveled knives. The bevel is the angled part of the knife that runs down to the sharp edge. The smaller the angle, the sharper the blade will be. If you look at you knives at home you’ll notice that most of them will be double-beveled knives; both sides of the blade angling down, most commonly in a V-shape, to create the edge. Most Japanese knives are single-beveled, meaning only one side is angled; this small angle makes the edge very sharp, and allows to be used to make clean, precise slices.
The techniques used to make them originate from how katana (samurai swords) were made. When I found out I held my knife and felt proud to be able to use a knife with such an interesting history, my respect for it grew. The katana was known as ‘the soul of the samurai’, and this belief in the blade being part of its owner resonates in modern day Japanese chefs.
When I worked at my restaurant it would be me and my Japanese knife together as a team, working hard to make sushi and sashimi dishes quickly and presenting them beautifully. Without my knives I wouldn’t be able to achieve such precision and quality, so I must treat them with respect and gratitude. I often talk to them while I’m working, my children have caught me doing this a few times, but it’s my work partner! (I’m sure I’m not the only person who talks to my kitchen utensils, right?) I know everything about my knife, and it must know a lot about me, too.