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Observations from a Kaiseki kitchen
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    Observations from a Kaiseki kitchen

    Hey everyone,
    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.

    peace

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    Yup... Many of my experiences echo that, except for the stainless knives. In the higher end places you won't see stainless much at all. Also, I'm guessing their gyuto a are all 270mm, right?

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    Yeah it's not in that extreme high end of kitchen where there's an array of carbon knives all task specific, mukimonos, hamokiris, etc.
    Funny thing about the gyuto, they all have different sizes, One dude has a 270 (Suisin IH), the sous has a 240 (Echizen), the exec chef has a 210 super laser (it's gotta be like 1.5mm at the heel, printed kanji long since gone), and the lead line cook, who just kills it with his knife work, uses only a suisin IH 180 petty!

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    That's odd to be honest... 270mm gyuto are by far the most popular size in Japan.

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    on the symmetric sharpening thing too, my sous chef stressed to me that gyutos are not 'wa-bocho'. there's some language barrier stuff going on but i took it to mean that they are not traditional single bevel knives and should never be sharpened as such. Jon i know you keep having to tell people this over and over again...

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    Yup... Wa-bocho refers to single bevel knives while hocho is a more general term for knives. And even though some more inexperienced Japanese chefs will sharpen all knives like single bevels (especially ones that have come to the us based on my experience), more experienced chefs in Japan know better (like the guys you're working with)

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    Senior Member Brad Gibson's Avatar
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    Very cool stuff. I'd really enjoy working in a Japanese kitchen and honing my knife skills to the maximum. I hope it can be my next move, professionally. Thanks for sharing!
    "A recipe has no soul. You as the cook must bring soul to the recipe." -Thomas Keller

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    What restaurant in NYC are you working at may I ask? Kyoya? By any chance?

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    Quote Originally Posted by edredlee View Post
    What restaurant in NYC are you working at may I ask? Kyoya? By any chance?
    I love Kyo Ya, Sono-san is the man! but no, i'm at Kajitsu right now

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    Quote Originally Posted by TheDispossessed View Post
    I love Kyo Ya, Sono-san is the man! but no, i'm at Kajitsu right now
    That is awesome. I read the NY Times review of Kajitsu. From what I read, you are making some fantastic food there.
    Michael
    "Don't you know who he is?"

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