Last week I went to Japanese Knife Imports to learn about knives.
What a perfect place!
First, I called Jon Broida and told him I'm a geek who doesn't want to just plop down money at that WalMart of knife sellers.
I need hand-holding.
I want to dive in and learn all about good knives, their care and feeding, and which ones might be for me.
He told me to just come on by and hang out as long as I wanted since he LOVED yapping about knives.
I scheduled a time when he was not conducting a sharpening class and I did just that, hung out.
I brought my parrot, and sidekick, who just sat on my lap quietly trying to remain invisible since Sara said some of the knives are perfect for poultry.
JKI has a wonderful location just a couple blocks from the beach in Venice, California.
They even have free parking in the back, unheard of around there.
The shop is spotless and minimalist with the knives safely tucked away in classy cases.
There was also lots of Sara's family's beautiful ceramic artwork on display.
Sara served us green tea and munchies as Jon asked about what knives I'm used to and what I'm looking for.
I told Jon I don't give a crap about appearance, status, or brand name recognition.
I don't care if it ends up with a patina that looks like the inside of my old wok.
I'm used to (and disappointed with) my 20-year old set of Henckels Four Star and I'm looking for knives that get and stay sharp, crazy-sharp.
I want a knife so sharp it scares food.
I want a knife that can slice a tomato into 743 tissue paper thin slices without even touching the tomato.
I want substance, not image.
Jon spent a long time patiently walking me through the steel choices, the processes of making the knives and the functions of the many shapes and designs of the knives.
Finally it was time to talk business.
For home use I want to start with two knives, an 8 to 10" Chef and a small paring knife, translation: a 240mm Gyuto and a 120mm Petty.
I decided on White #2 steel after being fully informed of the extra maintenance to prevent rust, and how it will develop a patina that only knife geeks will not be horrified by.
I am used to the western handles but after learning better ways to hold a knife the "apparently more ergonomic" western handle lose their edge.
So, I'm going to give the Wa handles a shot.
Jon asked about price and this is where it got difficult for me.
All my life I've been a tightwad with money, but when it comes to something important to me that will offer a lifetime of meaningful use and pleasure, I splurge.
I'm still using my set of razor-sharp 30-year old Nikkor lenses (see below) and a Guild guitar that cost me half a year's income in 1976.
I know from reading here "good" knives (whatever THAT means) start around $100 and go to up to, what?, $51,000? for a museum piece, or was that someone's joke?
I said I don't want to pay over $500 for a knife at this stage.
Jon said, "$500 is way too much. I don't want to sell you something that's not a good match for you.
Get a decent first knife, use it, sharpen it, learn over time and your experience will inform your next knife selection, if any."
I thought to myself, What a sweetheart!
I really appreciated Jon didn't go for my wallet and make a larger sale.
He easily could have.
He brought out sevaral gyutos some stainless steel, some clad and one solid high carbon steel White #2) priced from around $120 to $206.
I took home a Konosuke 240mm Hitachi White #2 steel, Wa-Gyuto and a matching 120mm Petty.
Sara packed them and wrapped them beautifully, lovingly even - if I can say that.
After my knife-safari I grabbed dinner at a local nice bistro and sat on the sidewalk patio.
Many of the clients were the local muscle-men of muscle-beach and Gold's Gym fame. (A whole subculture worth Googling)
Of course I had to unwrap my treasures when waiting for my tofu.
The waiter told the chef about my knives, who came out and went gaga so I told him about JKI.
This first pic is my new treasures on some Kimono cloth I got from a traveling Kimono seller. (Who knew there was such a thing? - but I KNEW I bought it for something!)