Today, I received a package from my friend, Sophie. I haven't seen her for a few years, we talk and correspond with each other every few months and she periodically will send me a knife or some antique kitchen tools from her travels around the world. She was on her honeymoon earlier in the year and I figured she would stay in France and not come back. What a surprise I got when she walked through the front door of my restaurant. Sophie has been very much a supporter and instigator of my restoration projects, she will seek out some of the best antique and vintage french knives for me and will dig out the history and story behind them. She is beautiful in that way that every French woman named Sophie is, she is smarter than me and infinitely more devious. In other words we are the best of friends. Ha! Ha!
Sophie was very close to Chef, equally as close to him as I was, perhaps more she was beautiful and made him feel young again I suspect. Were I would have some cheese, a few slices of apple and wine as my morning ritual, she would have a slice of tart citron and some Salignac with Chef as her nightly.
She still has some of his cast iron and unbeknownst to me until today some of his knives. After, we talked for awhile, she pulled out and old yellowed cardboard box, held together with masking tape and butchers twine( sound familiar) and handed it to me. I opened it and just about fell out of my chair, I was so overwhelmed. Inside of the box were four of the most beat up ancient looking, beautiful knives I have ever had the pleasure of never using. These were Chefs personal knives, they made my hands tremble touching them. I remember always staring at them and admiring them and every time I would reach to touch them he would yell in that remarkably gentle voice "no!" and I would freeze and he would say " not yet!" and leave it at that, no explanation ever. He was the Chef and never needed to explain himself.
I will use Chef's words " Not Yet!" in that I won't show you or even tell you about most of the knives in the box. I will however, tell you about one in particular. It is an old beat up Sabatier chef knife of some sort the makers mark long since rusted away. The blade is deeply pitted and mangled and the ebony handle is split all to hell, yet it shines like glass. The blade has some recent grinder marks, which surprised me. I asked Sophie what happened and she got this fiery look in her eye and said she was almost a widow before she was a bride. What happened, her fiance always heard her talking about Chef's knives, so he decided to take it upon himself to refurbish one for her with a grinder, she came home and caught him before too much damage was done. He says she didn't talk to him for a week. She was upset, because he didn't know what he was doing and because Chef had gifted them to me. That surprised me. Anyway back to the knife.
12in blade pitted like crazy ( story behind that) The pitting on the blade is most likely caused by a lot of blood from a brawl being left on the blade and never being washed off. A souvenir so to speak.
2 1/4 in at the heel
5 1/4 in ebony handle cracked all to hell
1/4 in spine at the heel
1/32 at the tip
This knife is at least turn of the century
The story about this blade. I used to see this knife hanging in Chef's office along with a meat hook, ice pick and a few other nasty looking things all of them rusty and covered in dark brown substance. I would constantly bug Chef to look at the big Sabatier and he wouldn't let me touch it, One day he decided to tell me a little history about the items on the wall. Apparently they were in the same kitchen brawl that the little nogent I posted earlier was in, Chef was a very young apprentice maybe ten years old, he say's in those days in France cooks and chef's really were the scum of the earth, they were murderers and thieves and they ran prostitutes and extorted people. This was right before WW1. The competition and rivalry between restaurants was fierce and there would be giant brawls one restaurant against another. Knives, meat hooks, ice picks and hammers were very common weapons. His restaurant got involved with a brawl with a restaurant down the block. The owners of both places were brothers they had a falling out over a prostitute or something and ended the business relationship. the one brother took half of the staff and opened his own restaurant across the block and named it the same name only he claimed his was the original and the fight was on. Chef wasn't allowed to participate because he was so young even though some of the older boys did (12 years old). Later that afternoon the stragglers and survivors returned and brought back souvenirs, apparently they won and destroyed the other establishment and a few cooks were killed and mangled. They lost a couple themselves and a few ended up missing digits and ears and one guy a nose.( Chef would always touched those parts when he told the story, kinda like he drifted back in time and could see and smell that day.) Chef says the older boys and some of the cooks felt bad that he couldn't come and fight for the honor of the restaurant, so they brought him some of the souvenirs and he hung them on the wall. The war came and he hid the things that were precious too him on his uncle's farm then the next war came and the items stayed hidden. When he came to America he brought a few things with and these were part of them. He said it reminded him of honor and loyalty. I could understand that.
Sophie brought these to me and said that since I was doing these projects that she felt it was time I had these. Chef told her to wait and see and she would know the right time to give them to me. So, here it is and the same deal applies as before. You do the wip, you restore or change it into something useful, make a completely different knife, do a wa conversion or keep it the same. All that I ask is that you create a WIP, and tell us what you plan on doing with it when you are done, keep it and use it for yourself, give it to an up an coming, or an old school chef. whatever you do you have to do something. If you are willing to these things I will give you the knife.