Not every knife is right for every cook, insists Jonathan Broida of Japanese Knife Imports. So I give him a likely scenario: home cook in search of a knife. Reasonable knife skills. Passionate cook. What would he recommend as a first knife?
The first choice: a double-beveled gyuto, a Japanese version of a chef's knife — the 210-millimeter stainless Gesshin Uraku Wa-Gyuto with octagonal magnolia wood handle. "Nearly everything you're going to do can be done with this knife." Price? $145. That's a relative bargain in the world of high-end knives. A local chef recently came in and bought a $2,500 white steel knife.
As a second knife, he recommends a 150-millimeter petty knife, the Gesshin Uraku stainless Wa-Petty for $110. "I prefer this larger size because you can still do in-hand work with it, but it's large enough to trim a filet." He says this is a good entry-level knife, particularly tough and durable, "the Toyota Camry of knives. It's much thinner than Western counterparts, so it moves through food much more easily."
He shows me a couple more. I can't stop looking at the Gesshin Heiji 150-millimeter semi-stainless wa-petty with a burnt chestnut handle. It's about $300 and made by someone who is actually a saw maker but also happens to make knives. And it's seriously beautiful. "I love his knives," says Broida.
You can get into some serious trouble here, not because Broida is pushing you toward a more expensive knife (he won't) but because you begin to see the quality and the extraordinary craftsmanship behind each knife, its beautiful balance and integrity. And desire leaps in: You want to have that knife as part of your daily life.
But he cautions, "the more money that you spend, the more that's required of you skill-wise and experience-wise. You have to know how to use and care for your knives to get the most out of what you're buying."
I left with that knife.