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Ochazuke

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Handle sanding is all about grip! It's pretty old school, but many Japanese-trained sushi chefs still do it. The reason is that Japanese sushi chefs don't use gloves and the oils from the fish can make the handle slippery in bare hands, even when you use tezu (and wash your hands) regularly.
 

Luftmensch

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His hands must be made of 120 grit sandpaper or something. (Lowkey call bs)
Cmon..! dont you think someone would have to REALLY TRY to get those handles that worn..?
It's probably a way of maintaining the balance of the knife as the metal gets removed. No way it's from use and wear.
I'm sure sanding the handle is part of his daily routine.
He probably just cleans the handle with something abrasive in order to maintain the balance of the knife as he removes metal from the blade.
"Maintenance"

@HumbleHomeCook has it

Don't I remember this being discussed here a while back and the general consensus among sushi chef type folks was that it was from using scrub pads? I seem to remember pictures of other veteran sushi chefs depicting knives looking the same. I thought it was both to maintain balance but also because traditional sushi chefs are super meticulous about a clean appearance and high polish.
Sushi chefs are super meticulous about both cleanliness and process.

A worn handle is visual language to patrons that good hygiene is employed (in a similar way to removing patina from knives). A sushi chef will end their shift by cleaning the station and tools. In the past, it is likely this would have been done with salt. These days rough scrubbing pads are used. You can imagine how that would wear down soft wooden handles after many shifts.

With modern conveniences like synthetic handle materials, detergents and bleaches... overly worn handles are something of a performative anachronism - a meme passed down as an unnecessary tradition. Given contemporary regulations and standard for kitchen hygiene, i'd argue that the 'message' is shifting from hygiene to tradition. A slightly crueler interpretation might cast it as a humble brag: the knife is worn down because the chef is dedicated to the craft.

Handles neednt disappear that fast. The bevels are different. There is no doubt a sushi chef needs to sharpen their knives frequently. Yet I can't help but think you can sharpen with finesse... or you can indulge in the performance and deliberately use a heavy hand and lower grits ;)

... but then... maybe I am being a tad cynical 🤡
 

Dendrobatez

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Most celebrity chefs a cmc's I've known have that one pretty knife for pics (anger, monolith, Mr itou) and then use glestain, global, or big ol German knives. A lot of the old school ones I knew would just use a cheapo serrated knife for everything (sliced scallions to breaking down whole salmon) and just toss them once they were dull
 

Ochazuke

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"Maintenance"

@HumbleHomeCook has it



Sushi chefs are super meticulous about both cleanliness and process.

A worn handle is visual language to patrons that good hygiene is employed (in a similar way to removing patina from knives). A sushi chef will end their shift by cleaning the station and tools. In the past, it is likely this would have been done with salt. These days rough scrubbing pads are used. You can imagine how that would wear down soft wooden handles after many shifts.

With modern conveniences like synthetic handle materials, detergents and bleaches... overly worn handles are something of a performative anachronism - a meme passed down as an unnecessary tradition. Given contemporary regulations and standard for kitchen hygiene, i'd argue that the 'message' is shifting from hygiene to tradition. A slightly crueler interpretation might cast it as a humble brag: the knife is worn down because the chef is dedicated to the craft.

Handles neednt disappear that fast. The bevels are different. There is no doubt a sushi chef needs to sharpen their knives frequently. Yet I can't help but think you can sharpen with finesse... or you can indulge in the performance and deliberately use a heavy hand and lower grits ;)

... but then... maybe I am being a tad cynical 🤡
My lived experience is somewhat different from your cynical musings...
I've been scrubbing this handle with a green scrubby for the better part of a decade. Scrubbing extra hard with a scouring pad doesn't excessively wear down handles. It's coarse sandpaper. We rough it up on purpose so it's grippy and not smooth.

Also the lower grits is because the average Japanese sushi chef doesn't spend long sharpening. I see on average less than 2 minutes per session. Go hard on the ara-to, clean it up quickly with the naka-to, and put your finish with the shiage-to -- each stone taking around 30 seconds each.

I'm by no means saying this is a great way to do it, but it is the way it's often done in the workplace. We sharpen every day, but it's not necessarily with the intention to make them pretty. We put a functional edge on our tools and use the slurry to remove stains. This is not a delicate ritual nor it is just for the sake of making them look worn for the sake of it. Anybody who runs a real sushi joint (especially a smaller, family-owned one) knows how much work goes in to sourcing, prepping, curing, cleaning, service, more cleaning and then closing up. If you want to sleep at all, you get the sharpening done and move on with your workday.
 

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ian

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My lived experience is somewhat different from your cynical musings...
I've been scrubbing this handle with a green scrubby for the better part of a decade. Scrubbing extra hard with a scouring pad doesn't excessively wear down handles. It's coarse sandpaper. We rough it up on purpose so it's grippy and not smooth.

Also the lower grits is because the average Japanese sushi chef doesn't spend long sharpening. I see on average less than 2 minutes per session. Go hard on the ara-to, clean it up quickly with the naka-to, and put your finish with the shiage-to -- each stone taking around 30 seconds each.

I'm by no means saying this is a great way to do it, but it is the way it's often done in the workplace. We sharpen every day, but it's not necessarily with the intention to make them pretty. We put a functional edge on our tools and use the slurry to remove stains. This is not a delicate ritual nor it is just for the sake of making them look worn for the sake of it. Anybody who runs a real sushi joint (especially a smaller, family-owned one) knows how much work goes in to sourcing, prepping, curing, cleaning, service, more cleaning and then closing up. If you want to sleep at all, you get the sharpening done and move on with your workday.
Have you removed enough steel to change the balance much?
 

esoo

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My lived experience is somewhat different from your cynical musings...
I've been scrubbing this handle with a green scrubby for the better part of a decade. Scrubbing extra hard with a scouring pad doesn't excessively wear down handles. It's coarse sandpaper. We rough it up on purpose so it's grippy and not smooth.

Also the lower grits is because the average Japanese sushi chef doesn't spend long sharpening. I see on average less than 2 minutes per session. Go hard on the ara-to, clean it up quickly with the naka-to, and put your finish with the shiage-to -- each stone taking around 30 seconds each.

I'm by no means saying this is a great way to do it, but it is the way it's often done in the workplace. We sharpen every day, but it's not necessarily with the intention to make them pretty. We put a functional edge on our tools and use the slurry to remove stains. This is not a delicate ritual nor it is just for the sake of making them look worn for the sake of it. Anybody who runs a real sushi joint (especially a smaller, family-owned one) knows how much work goes in to sourcing, prepping, curing, cleaning, service, more cleaning and then closing up. If you want to sleep at all, you get the sharpening done and move on with your workday.
I think this is on par with how Chef Morimoto gets to that point with his knives - from what I read he sharpens and sands for every service (lunch and dinner) so that's a lot of "abuse."
 

adam92

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My lived experience is somewhat different from your cynical musings...
I've been scrubbing this handle with a green scrubby for the better part of a decade. Scrubbing extra hard with a scouring pad doesn't excessively wear down handles. It's coarse sandpaper. We rough it up on purpose so it's grippy and not smooth.

Also the lower grits is because the average Japanese sushi chef doesn't spend long sharpening. I see on average less than 2 minutes per session. Go hard on the ara-to, clean it up quickly with the naka-to, and put your finish with the shiage-to -- each stone taking around 30 seconds each.

I'm by no means saying this is a great way to do it, but it is the way it's often done in the workplace. We sharpen every day, but it's not necessarily with the intention to make them pretty. We put a functional edge on our tools and use the slurry to remove stains. This is not a delicate ritual nor it is just for the sake of making them look worn for the sake of it. Anybody who runs a real sushi joint (especially a smaller, family-owned one) knows how much work goes in to sourcing, prepping, curing, cleaning, service, more cleaning and then closing up. If you want to sleep at all, you get the sharpening done and move on with your workday.
My master sharpen the way liked you said, only less than 5 minute per session.
I also agree with your point, green scouring pad doesn't excessively wear down handles. At least I scrubbing
& washing my yanagiba often during work shift.
 

big_adventure

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DitmasPork

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Eric Ripert is an incredible chef. I've eaten a couple of times at Le Bernardin back in the day and it was the best fish I've ever touched to my tongue.
Agreed! I've eaten there a couple of times, but the last time was at least 15 years ago. He, Daniel, Jean-Georges, David Bouley, et al, were hugely influential kitchen gods, when I first moved to NYC.
 

Ochazuke

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Have you removed enough steel to change the balance much?
I kept the saya next to it for reference. It was a pretty good fit a decade ago.

As you can see it’s definitely a smaller knife, but I’ll add that since changes are gradual it’s easy to adjust to the weight shift over time.
 

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Luftmensch

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My lived experience is somewhat different from your cynical musings...
I've been scrubbing this handle with a green scrubby for the better part of a decade. Scrubbing extra hard with a scouring pad doesn't excessively wear down handles. It's coarse sandpaper. We rough it up on purpose so it's grippy and not smooth.

Also the lower grits is because the average Japanese sushi chef doesn't spend long sharpening. I see on average less than 2 minutes per session. Go hard on the ara-to, clean it up quickly with the naka-to, and put your finish with the shiage-to -- each stone taking around 30 seconds each.

I'm by no means saying this is a great way to do it, but it is the way it's often done in the workplace. We sharpen every day, but it's not necessarily with the intention to make them pretty. We put a functional edge on our tools and use the slurry to remove stains. This is not a delicate ritual nor it is just for the sake of making them look worn for the sake of it. Anybody who runs a real sushi joint (especially a smaller, family-owned one) knows how much work goes in to sourcing, prepping, curing, cleaning, service, more cleaning and then closing up. If you want to sleep at all, you get the sharpening done and move on with your workday.
Thanks! It is awesome getting a perspective from the inside.

Though, I don't think our perspectives are so far apart? Perhaps it was cynical ;) to use language with a negative connotation though!

I think you revealed an important aspect to this though:

Then again, I'm don't sharpen the way I described above - I'm describing the way my dad and the chefs I grew up with sharpened.
There are older traditions and there are newer practises. Perhaps I did not emphasise that point enough??

Your decade old yanagiba has less wear on it than one of Chef Morimoto's 6-month yanagibas (particularly the handles). Again... I am very sympathetic to sharpening hard and fast to get the job done (although I still think you can indulge in it). The wear on the handles?? I dont think that is necessary in the 21st century - surely it is more a function of tradition; one that some adopt and others dont? And similarly, one that you can lean into...?
 

chiffonodd

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Spotted pro cook youtube dude josh weissman using a kono YS-M recently. That knife is definitely on my list.





He's always giving shout outs to Bernal so I'm guessing he got it there.

Love that dude's channel btw.
 
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