I have been working in a Kaiseki restaurant for a few months with four guys from Japan and i've noticed some things about their work habits, specifically related to knife use and care that i thought i'd share.
But first, I'd like to stress that i am not in any way suggesting that Japanese cooks and chefs are infallible in their knife knowledge and skills. Just sharing some observations here is all, as we are all clearly enamored with the world of hocho.
- Patina is not considered good in any way. It is simply seen as a dirty knife, period. Three of the four guys i work with favor stainless, and the executive chef who uses all carbon keeps his clean (not sparkling, like baking soda clean).
- Nobody rock chops anything, ever. Again, not saying that's a bad way to cut (though i sure as hell don't do it).
- Everyone sharpens their wa-gyutos and pettys symmetrically.
- I've seen a mandoline used once, for about three minutes. everything is done with a knife, including in hand peeling of vegetables. for really fine julienne, katsuramuki is used.
- Everyone keeps a wet towel on the side of their board and wipes their knives very frequently.(In fact, as a side note, the towel situation is totally different from a western kitchen. you get one, maybe two wet dish towels a day for wiping knives down. nobody uses them to pick up hot pans, they use forceps).
- Nobody uses a honing rod, ever. i don't think any of these guys own one or even know how to use them.
- and finally, NOBODY TOUCHES ANY ONE ELSES KNIFE without asking first for good reason.
There's more, but i forget now because it's my friday and i'm enjoying a Stone IPA.