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View Full Version : Why are so few cooks learning how to maintain their edges?



macmiddlebrooks
06-22-2012, 02:59 PM
So I work with about 12 cooks (incl. the head chef and 2 sous). Out of 12, only 4 have stones.Out of 4 with stones, 2 (incl. myself) understand how to use them correctly. I've turned on a couple co-workers to J-knives and they purchased good, inexpensive users only to come to me with multiple sharpening requests even after I've urged them to buy stones and showed them what to buy and given them one-on-one sharpening demos. Ugg!

I'd feel like a dick not sharpening their knives, but after a couple freebies, I'm about ready to say "Please buy a stone and let me show you again how to use it"...period. Anybody else run into this?

Deckhand
06-22-2012, 03:06 PM
Sounds like you about to start a knife sharpening service :biggrin:
I bet a lot of knife sharpeners started that way.

jayhay
06-22-2012, 03:07 PM
I usually suggest stones for people to buy at my work, and show them how to use it. But in all, I would say people are just lazy and they can get by in their day-to-day with a mostly dull knife. There are always the few exceptions, but people in general are LAZY!

DwarvenChef
06-22-2012, 03:11 PM
Every kitchen I have been in is like that. I've come across 2 people that wanted to do it all themselves and ask me to teach them, the rest could care less or wanted me to do all the work. Funny cause the two that want to do it all are at my current job, one is western knives and the other just got turned onto Japanese knives.

I'm working on a class for next month to teach in our in store classroom, see how that goes :p

macmiddlebrooks
06-22-2012, 03:12 PM
I usually suggest stones for people to buy at my work, and show them how to use it. But in all, I would say people are just lazy and they can get by in their day-to-day with a mostly dull knife. There are always the few exceptions, but people in general are LAZY!

I'm thinking you're right....I'd love to to finally find that green kid who's eye's light up and who take's edge maintenance seriously.

macmiddlebrooks
06-22-2012, 03:14 PM
I'm working on a class for next month to teach in our in store classroom, see how that goes :p

This sounds like a good idea! I have the space available as well, perhaps I should include the general public and make it an in-store demo.

bikehunter
06-22-2012, 03:15 PM
But in all, I would say people are just lazy and they can get by in their day-to-day with a mostly dull knife. There are always the few exceptions, but people in general are LAZY!

Plus 1 and bear in mind that they will NEVER learn to sharpen if you keep doing it for them. Stop being a soft touch as you are not doing them a favor...you may not be around for them forever. I keep my knives sharp, and I know there are many here who get all Zen like with regard to sharpening....but to me it's just a necessary chore, and I wouldn't do it if I had someone to do it for me. ;-)

echerub
06-22-2012, 03:17 PM
I've been to two free sharpening info sessions held by local knife stores around here, and in each case you could tell who were the ones who really wanted to know more and who thought the info was already more than they bargained for. There's already self-selection at work in terms of who chooses to be at a session like that - and then within that group you can see differences.

DwarvenChef
06-22-2012, 03:18 PM
The hard part is getting the info DOWN to the avg users understanding while keeping the info and demo's up enough to keep the mid level people interested. I'm still working on my rough outline, I keep finding more info I want to put out and battle with myself on how/where to fit it in LOL

jayhay
06-22-2012, 03:22 PM
I'm thinking you're right....I'd love to to finally find that green kid who's eye's light up and who take's edge maintenance seriously.

Tell me about it. And maybe I'm just being harsh right now, as I just got off work.

I find most line cooks these days are a bit spoiled, of course ymmv, and don't do a lot of their own prep. Which, in-tern means they don't really need a great knife. They slice proteins on the line and chop herbs, the not tough knife work. And, after getting off work at 11 or 12pm, most people are tired and just don't have the energy or drive to sharpen after their shift. And after the half-handle they drink after their shift, they don't feel like doing it in the morning either. I'm really not trying to come off as jaded, it's just the industry I know.

And, we have a intern at my work now that is a good kid. I suggested some knives, a deco stone, and a ceramic rod. His eyes don't light up, he's kinda the medicated-mellow type, but I like him. Quiet, hard working, will do anything asked. I'm trying to show him there is more to the culinary industry than the grind.

macmiddlebrooks
06-22-2012, 03:25 PM
The hard part is getting the info DOWN to the avg users understanding while keeping the info and demo's up enough to keep the mid level people interested. I'm still working on my rough outline, I keep finding more info I want to put out and battle with myself on how/where to fit it in LOL

Funny you say that. I was just going over what I'd say and was struggling with how much content to deliver. "Along with fire, and edged tool is mankind's most important achievements..." :).

macmiddlebrooks
06-22-2012, 03:29 PM
And, we have a intern at my work now that is a good kid. I suggested some knives, a deco stone, and a ceramic rod. His eyes don't light up, he's kinda the medicated-mellow type, but I like him. Quiet, hard working, will do anything asked. I'm trying to show him there is more to the culinary industry than the grind.

Better than some of the "give-a-****" people I work with :). Keep "cultivating" him, you never know what interests may blossom.

SpikeC
06-22-2012, 03:34 PM
There is a well respected chef here that is the head instructor at a local cooking school. I sent one of my knives with him to get some feedback, and he took it to the school and let the other teachers use it as well as the students. He told me that no one used it without supervision, and when I got it back the blade had to be completely reground as it was ruined. This was an O1 blade with the heat treat regimen that I got from Hoss, very hard and tough. When he gave it back to me he had no clue that the blade was ruined. The surface was pitted and it looked like it had been drug across the street behind a car.
This is the teaching that some guys are getting.

jayhay
06-22-2012, 03:38 PM
Better than some of the "give-a-****" people I work with :). Keep "cultivating" him, you never know what interests may blossom.

Thanks man. Honestly, I wish pro kitchens cultured a more professional attitude and a common respect for all. I try myself, but I'm only one person. I work with a lot of young/cocky/arrogant people who have ultimately very little experience. It's hard.

I do my job, treat people with a professional attitude and let my work speak for itself. That being said, I never sharpen anybody's knife. I'd happily show them, but I wouldn't do it for them. And everyone has shun's where I work. I genuinely dislike those blades. I figure, if they knew what a sharp knife was, and wanted one, they would have it.

bikehunter
06-22-2012, 03:42 PM
Honestly, I wish pro kitchens cultured a more professional attitude and a common respect for all.

.

Heh...why would a kitchen be different than any place else? These traits are hard to come by these days....no matter where you work. shrug

ajhuff
06-22-2012, 03:44 PM
Don't forget that a new 10" Dexter is like $15, so why bother sharpening.

-AJ

cnochef
06-22-2012, 03:46 PM
I think the problem starts in the culinary schools. The administrators and instructors generally know nothing about knives, steels, stones, sharpening and so on. Moreover, the German knife makers have them hypnotized in the past. That part of my culinary education was pitiful. So, the apathy and/or bad habits take root.

jayhay
06-22-2012, 03:48 PM
Heh...why would a kitchen be different than any place else? These traits are hard to come by these days....no matter where you work. shrug

True, true. But kitchens are generally worse than other professions, from what I've seen. And almost all my friends/family don't work in a kitchen. They think I'm lying sometimes when I tell them stories. They can't trump me :)

macmiddlebrooks
06-22-2012, 04:01 PM
I think the problem starts in the culinary schools. The administrators and instructors generally know nothing about knives, steels, stones, sharpening and so on. Moreover, the German knife makers have them hypnotized in the past. That part of my culinary education was pitiful. So, the apathy and/or bad habits take root.

Funny you say this...one of my younger co-workers attends a culinary school and says to me "You should totally do a knife sharpening demo at my school 'cause they teach us absolutely nothing 'bout sharpening, even honing..." Really? Your most important tool gets no attention?..Was it always this way? I find it hard to believe.

jayhay
06-22-2012, 04:11 PM
Funny you say this...one of my younger co-workers attends a culinary school and says to me "You should totally do a knife sharpening demo at my school 'cause they teach us absolutely nothing 'bout sharpening, even honing..." Really? Your most important tool gets no attention?..Was it always this way? I find it hard to believe.

I graduated from one of the better culinary schools in the US about 9 years ago and I can say this is totally true. I remember the CMC's being memorized by one of my knives and how sharp it was. These days, I would not even consider the sharpness I could attain then, sharp now. No one ever talked knives. Just rip 'em on a steel or pass 'em through an electric sharpener and you're good to go.

Crothcipt
06-22-2012, 07:43 PM
Its funny when I started at were I work now, no one even wanted to use a steel on a knife. Now its one of the most used tools in the kitchen. Next is the pull through.

Baby steps, baby steps.

foreleft
06-22-2012, 07:47 PM
My school has some sort of contract with Mercer. They sell knife kits through the bookstore and some guy comes in once or twice a year to tell us how great their knives are and show people how to sharpen on the Arkansas tri-stone. I feel sorry for the people who spend their money on that junk.

Crothcipt
06-22-2012, 07:49 PM
Its a start. hopefully they go wonder what else is out there.

steeley
06-22-2012, 09:42 PM
The kitchen is a teaching environment by nature .
the more experienced should help and encourage the younger people it is part of the CULINARY CODE.
it only takes one guy in a kitchen with the knowledge to set the pace for the entire kitchen
everyday you should take upon yourself to learn and pass it on
I know it's not easy .... but who said the kitchen would be easy .

Steeley

brainsausage
06-22-2012, 10:23 PM
The kitchen is a teaching environment by nature .
the more experienced should help and encourage the younger people it is part of the CULINARY CODE.
it only takes one guy in a kitchen with the knowledge to set the pace for the entire kitchen
everyday you should take upon yourself to learn and pass it on
I know it's not easy .... but who said the kitchen would be easy .

Steeley

Very well said.

labor of love
06-22-2012, 10:32 PM
theres quite abit of misinformation out there these days courtesy of shun, henckel, chefs choice, furi etc etc etc. ive noticed recently a strong push in the market towards those lame electric sharpeners and many people that ive worked with past and present depend on them. and lots of cooks have just adapted to working with edges that have a 400 grit finish or so. i watch guys use both hands to force a slice into an onion over and over again...its a touchy issue, i would offer help but i dont really have a nice way of saying "all your knives suck and you really should just learn to sharpen correctly". when theyre ready to learn and ready to listen i show them what i know, until then ignorance is bliss.

JanusInTheGarden
06-23-2012, 01:45 AM
The kitchen is a teaching environment by nature .
the more experienced should help and encourage the younger people it is part of the CULINARY CODE.
it only takes one guy in a kitchen with the knowledge to set the pace for the entire kitchen
everyday you should take upon yourself to learn and pass it on
I know it's not easy .... but who said the kitchen would be easy .



I'm thinking you're right....I'd love to to finally find that green kid who's eye's light up and who take's edge maintenance seriously.

Seriously, where have you guys been! I'm still super green and I've been working 1.5 years in a high end kitchen. You'd be shocked the stations I've been working without proper tutelage. I do the best I can but the education is severely lacking at times. Granted it allows for great motivation to do research on my own. In knife sharpening, for instance, I'm 100% self-taught from this website and a few others on how to do this, and now people are coming to me (paying) for sharpening services. Weird stuff.

phan1
06-23-2012, 02:23 AM
Knife care isn't really something that is universally valued when it comes to cooks. And in there defense, why not? I've worked in places where no one even had their own knives and knife skills weren't really demanded of anyone. In most places, it's "cut this junk up and get this stuff done!". Even many michelin starred places don't demand good knife skills. Just because knife skills are important to you doesn't mean it's important to others. And strong knife skills is just one of the many, many aspects of cooking after all.

For the chefs out there, if you want your cooks to have good knife skills, you should treat knife work as a high level task. Can't cut those onions up to my standards? Well then you can peel potatoes, clean shrimp, clean mushrooms, clean the walk-in, and do all the other tedious, monotonous junk that no one wants to do. Get some knife skills and maybe you can start running a station. I mean, without knife skills, you've got the same skills as a dishwasher, right?

Crothcipt
06-23-2012, 03:04 AM
well said Phan1. Usually not like that at all in a kitchen.

JohnnyChance
06-23-2012, 03:31 AM
i watch guys use both hands to force a slice into an onion over and over again...its a touchy issue, i would offer help but i dont really have a nice way of saying "all your knives suck and you really should just learn to sharpen correctly". when theyre ready to learn and ready to listen i show them what i know, until then ignorance is bliss.

Not to mention people seem to think you are being elitist when you say that while carrying a bag with a few grand worth of knives in it.

I will gladly sharpen any japanese styled knife for anyone any time. That may change if and when there are more than 2 total jknives in our kitchen other than mine. German knives are way less enjoyable to sharpen, so I would just rather not do them. I will gladly sharpen it once and show them what to do, and help them sharpen from that point.

I just helped a new guy with his the other day. Well, sorta. His kit from school was really, really dull, our Chef called him out it and referred him to me. He later in the night dropped his chefs knife off at my station, which our chef again scolded him for, explaining I was not a sharpening service but I would teach him to sharpen. A week later I brought in my stones and at the end of the night asked if he would like to do a demonstration. He said sure and when I asked him to first show me how he sharpens already he said "I thought this was a demonstration!?" Seriously dude, are you so lazy that you can't sharpen for 10 seconds? Turns out his entire progression takes about a minute, on one stone (whatever one in the tri stone is pointed up at the time) and mostly involves him putting a ton of pressure on the blade and drawing it sideways across the stone and down over the corner. So even though I am a pretty fast sharpener, I am pretty sure the five minutes I took to restore his edge seemed like way too much time to spend sharpening to him. The next day, I see him cutting bread pudding in a hotel pan with the knife I just sharpened and slicing duck prosciutto with a house knife. To be expected really, the money spent on this dude's culinary education was probably some of the most wasted funds of all time. He's not the dumbest cook I have ever met, but he just doesn't have "it". No sense of urgency, no second gear, no common sense, no cook sense, etc. No way he lasts in this business, not even for another year or two.

Salty dog
06-23-2012, 05:38 AM
"No sense of urgency, no second gear, no common sense, no cook sense, etc. No way he lasts in this business, not even for another year or two. "


There it is. THE single biggest issue with the noobs. It is the first thing I look for and and if he doesn't have it, can he be taught.

Outside of the kitchen, people may think I'm an a$$hole for riding some of these guys. But the most valuable lesson I can teach them is to find "second gear". If they can't find it, I'm not wasting my time on them.

I've also noticed how many of the new guys have a habit of putting there hands in there pockets. (Pet peeve) It usually takes about two shifts to break them of that habit.

As far as knives go: The boys keep their stuff sharp. In this kitchen it's oart of the culture. Wonder why?

Dusty
06-23-2012, 11:08 AM
I hate hands on hips or leaning on a bench in the kitchen. Nothing worse. I also find knife skills pick up pretty quickly when any mise not cut to standard goes in the bin at ten minutes before service.

macmiddlebrooks
06-23-2012, 11:12 AM
I hate hands on hips or leaning on a bench in the kitchen. Nothing worse. I also find knife skills pick up pretty quickly when any mise not cut to standard goes in the bin at ten minutes before service.

This made me smile.

brainsausage
06-23-2012, 11:37 AM
I hate hands on hips or leaning on a bench in the kitchen. Nothing worse. I also find knife skills pick up pretty quickly when any mise not cut to standard goes in the bin at ten minutes before service.

:D

VoodooMajik
06-23-2012, 12:08 PM
I really shouldn't start.... I can tolerate using maybe 5 guys knives in our kitchen. Guys both green and vets don't seem to care about their knives. Hopefully that's something that changes with our industry in the coming years.

I try and make the odd suggestion "You might like to look at this, this or this instead of that Shun" or "I'm not an expert but I'd be happy to learn proper sharpening with you". Some people don't like when you try and open doors for them though.
I have been seeing a few more J-knives around the kitchen these days XD Even Shuns are a start.

On a funnier note, I work pretty closely with this Jamaican fellow who uses a bread knife for EVERYTHING. I honestly cannot understand how he produces some of what he does with that knife. Goes to show, it's 90% who is holding the knife though

ajhuff
06-23-2012, 12:22 PM
Funny I see a lot of former classmates defaulting to a bread knife when no one is looking. I don't get it either. Heck I rarely use a bread knife for bread!

-AJ

chinacats
06-23-2012, 12:28 PM
Funny I see a lot of former classmates defaulting to a bread knife when no one is looking. I don't get it either. Heck I rarely use a bread knife for bread!

-AJ

+1 That is funny...I just bought a Forschner bread knife a few weeks back and haven't used it yet...mostly cut baguettes and keep grabbing my chef's knife...

VoodooMajik
06-23-2012, 12:53 PM
I look for reasons to use my Tojiro Bread knife, I'm not gonna lie.

add
06-23-2012, 01:18 PM
Perhaps there may also be a generational component.

After WW2, most returning American GI's came back knowing (those that didn't already, ie farm & rural kids) the basics of gun handling and importance of care.
That applied to other tools soldiers used as well, including knives.

Kitchen knives, pocket knives, and hunting knives were tools best kept sharp.

And for the households of the late 1940's thru the 1960's that knowledge was either passed down or I'd venture to guess, most baby boomers were at least exposed to some sort of sharpening process by dad.

Now, we are a few generations beyond that combined with a disposable society ($15 Forschners) that heritage, for the most part, has disappeared...

bikehunter
06-23-2012, 01:35 PM
Perhaps there may also be a generational component.


Kitchen knives, pocket knives, and hunting knives were tools best kept sharp.

And for the households of the late 1940's thru the 1960's that knowledge was either passed down or I'd venture to guess, most baby boomers were at least exposed to some sort of sharpening process by dad.

Now, we are a few generations beyond that combined with a disposable society ($15 Forschners) that heritage, for the most part, has disappeared...

Excellent point. I've carried a pocket knife since I was six years old (My dad was a butcher...not a meat cutter)

Numerous times over the years students have been suspended for bringing a table knife to school, including a third grader whose mother packed a butter knife in his lunch, along with peanut butter and crackers. The hysteria over weapons and lawsuits has become so rampant that school officials have become so stupid and lacking in common sense that children are completely unfamiliar with everyday items of life (some students have been suspended for possession of rubber bands). In today's insane society, ALL knives are considered weapons rather than tools.

VoodooMajik
06-23-2012, 01:44 PM
This makes me sad... Kitchen Knives are a tool used to create. Not a weapon used to harm and destroy. Lovely rose colored glasses I have on aren't they?


Excellent point. I've carried a pocket knife since I was six years old (My dad was a butcher...not a meat cutter)

Numerous times over the years students have been suspended for bringing a table knife to school, including a third grader whose mother packed a butter knife in his lunch, along with peanut butter and crackers. The hysteria over weapons and lawsuits has become so rampant that school officials have become so stupid and lacking in common sense that children are completely unfamiliar with everyday items of life (some students have been suspended for possession of rubber bands). In today's insane society, ALL knives are considered weapons rather than tools.

bikehunter
06-23-2012, 01:47 PM
Heh...I sheepishly must admit that the sight of Gordon Ramsay motivates me to think of a 10" chef's knife as a weapon, but that's just me. ;-)

Crothcipt
06-23-2012, 05:51 PM
Lol I gave a knife to a 16 year old kid to try and make a saya for it. I told him to talk to his teacher and who ever else he needed to. A month later he tells me that he can't take the knife to school, because it is a weapon. Come on it was a santouku. Why are they even teaching shop class any more then?

hambone.johnson
06-24-2012, 02:57 AM
Yeah, after going through phases of learning myself, then wanting to spread the good word and then trying to spread the good word, and then reverting to only teaching those who are envious enough of my edges and knife work to care to presue it on their own i would say that knife maintenance is just like everything else that being a professional cook is. and i mean cook. not chef. professional line cook. ..

a professional line cook who could be a sous chef somewhere else but does the hourly line cook grind just to work in a better kitchen is gonna care about thier knives because they want every edge possible. and they will persue every aspect of their day, they will think and consider every step, every piece, every pan, every everything just to get it right and be the most efficient and the fastest they can. i guarantee most cooks you come across with great edges (not great knives, that just requires $$$) are the same people who check their pans for flatness and heat conductivity, check their boards for flattness, and have their stations set up the same way every day, well maintained knives to these people are just one more facet of their days as a well maintained searing pan, a seasoned cast iron, or a properly folded set of side towels at the begining of service. sometimes we look too much into one specific situation, because knives are what we are passionate about. for some ... its just another part of "the grind".

MadMel
06-24-2012, 10:33 AM
I think the problem starts in the culinary schools. The administrators and instructors generally know nothing about knives, steels, stones, sharpening and so on. Moreover, the German knife makers have them hypnotized in the past. That part of my culinary education was pitiful. So, the apathy and/or bad habits take root.

+1!! I have to show the instructors at school how to sharpen.. That's after the enormous fees they are charging...