AHHHH!!!!! A scream ricochets up from the basement of REPUBLIC. The guests at booth #20 cringe at the sound and wrap their arms around each other while staring wide-eyed at the dark corner of the hallway, half expecting some Romero “Living Dead” guy to emerge!
What demonic creature resides down those stairs, they ponder – their imaginations fueled by vampire, zombie and slasher images now run wild! How long has he been there? What vile and dastardly deeds are in the works? Well … actually none. The scream, to be truthful, came from me when I saw the price of the day boat cod and organic, hydroponic lettuce that was just delivered, and I was holding a knife while I read the invoice. The two gentleman delivering the products, and bad news, had their eyes fixed on my right hand.
Back to point of the blog: long sharp objects. The singular most important tool for any cook is the knife. A bit of grey matter between the ears helps, but it’s the knife in your hand that does the work.
Back in the day, when kitchens were tyrannical and hierarchical, you visually measured a chef’s or cook’s status by the height of his toque (that silly chimney-shaped paper hat, and by the way no women allowed), and by the length of the blade they used. Some chefs carried what could only be described as a Roman short sword – 14 inches long and sharp enough to slice through armor. This enormous tool he used to cut tiny carrots and small onions into even smaller perfect squares. It was all about status and that “size” thing. Thankfully, today’s kitchens are a bit more egalitarian, and knives are more about fuction and a bit of style. By the way, those foolish paper hats!!
To be honest, one needs only three knives: A chef or cook’s blade; a serrated knife; and a small, very sharp paring blade. This assumption is like telling a TV Talking Head all he needs is one white button-down shirt, a red tie, and a black pinstripe suit. This way all men will look like Newt Gingrich! Ladies, pick three for yourself and include the shoes. Impossible! I agree and it is the same with cooks and our knives. Pick just one? No way! OK, so what to do and what to use? Let me tell you what is in my knife bag and what some of my line chefs use.
I have six knives. A seven-inch Wurstoff Santoko cook’s knife for cutting veggies (the one with the beveled edge – a cook’s knife is any blade under eight inches); a Wurstoff six-inch cook’s knife, because I just like the way it looks and feels in my hand; and an eight-inch boning knife for meat. I also use a Global five-inch utility knife for filleting fish, and a wooden-handled three-inch paring blade that looks like your grandmother’s, along with a bread knife.
Our line cook, Dave, to match his physical stature, once showed up with what can only be described as a saber, and Ricky just purchased a Japanese high-carbon blade with cool engravings on the steel. Does any of this make our food taste any better? No, but it is a lot of fun to look through the catalogs and shoot the breeze in the basement while we sharpen our blades and compare stitch scars.
Here are a few tips: Never put your knife in the dishwasher, every time you use the knife use the honing steel, store knives either flat or in a block, sharpen once a month at the local hardware or kitchen gadget store, and watch out for your ever-present thumbs!!!!
So next time you are at REPUBLIC, stop by the open kitchen and check out our “equipment,” and do not be afraid of what comes out of our basement. It will more than likely be me with today’s fish all cleanly portioned and our vegetables chopped in perfect little squares.
A good web site for knives: www.Chefsknivestogo.com
Hey!!!! We are almost a year old! Watch your e- mail for presents. See you soon,