KKF level Chinese cleavers don’t get used by Chinese chefs

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gcsquared

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I sometimes wonder — it is sort of a pity that there are so many high quality Western knifemakers making absolutely amazing Chinese cleavers (Dalman, Yanick, Leseur to name a few), but seems like they aren’t really being used by traditionally-trained Chinese chefs. This is just a sense I got, not an official census, so would be great if anyone (knifemakers who sold their cleavers to said chefs, other KKF members) can correct me! I would love to hear from Chinese chefs how they would review western-made Chinese cleavers. They obviously cost more than the CCK, Leung Tim, SBZs of the world — do Chinese chefs also see the value differential that we do?
 

gcsquared

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For most Chinese kitchens, I would probably agree with that. But there are some really high end Chinese restaurants in both the west and the east. And a lot of chinese restaurant establishments have kitchens that are more akin to higher end western kitchens, so I would think, in those situations, an expensive kitchen knife wouldn’t be out of place.
 

tostadas

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For most Chinese kitchens, I would probably agree with that. But there are some really high end Chinese restaurants in both the west and the east. And a lot of chinese restaurant establishments have kitchens that are more akin to higher end western kitchens, so I would think, in those situations, an expensive kitchen knife wouldn’t be out of place.
Kinda like the gang boss with the gold-plated AK47
 

stringer

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Who knows about Chinese chefs but I can tell you that there are probably about the same number of rich Chinese people as there are American people. They buy all of the same stuff that rich people do anywhere else.
 

stringer

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Who knows about Chinese chefs but I can tell you that there are probably about the same number of rich Chinese people as there are American people. They buy all of the same stuff that rich people do anywhere else.
And there are very very few western kitchens where the cooks are using anything nicer than factory stuff too.
 

superworrier

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I imagine for Chinese chefs in China those knives are unaffordable. CCK/Dengjia/Shibazi are probably the "nice" ones there, and are probably even cheaper there. But I'm sure there are other brands there we are simply not aware of. IDK if someone can ID this but he's a popular chef in China, doesn't look like anything special but looks can be deceiving:
 

superworrier

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Who knows about Chinese chefs but I can tell you that there are probably about the same number of rich Chinese people as there are American people. They buy all of the same stuff that rich people do anywhere else.
Yeah, if you look at Cat's Kitchen (YouTuber from Shanghai, or probably more accurately whatever is popular/allowed in China), he has a lot of the same stuff rich Americans have: Shun, Tojiro, Wusthof, etc. But to his credit, he has quite a few TFs as well. No doubt there's a fancy knife store in Shanghai that has everything.
 

stringer

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Yeah, if you look at Cat's Kitchen (YouTuber from Shanghai, or probably more accurately whatever is popular/allowed in China), he has a lot of the same stuff rich Americans have: Shun, Tojiro, Wusthof, etc. But to his credit, he has quite a few TFs as well. No doubt there's a fancy knife store in Shanghai that has everything.
After I lost my job at the start of the pandemic I took a side gig tutoring wealthy Chinese kids. Something the government recently made illegal btw. I realized that there are millions and millions of rich Chinese people. And they buy all the same stuff as rich people anywhere else.
 

bsfsu

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Yeah, if you look at Cat's Kitchen (YouTuber from Shanghai, or probably more accurately whatever is popular/allowed in China), he has a lot of the same stuff rich Americans have: Shun, Tojiro, Wusthof, etc. But to his credit, he has quite a few TFs as well. No doubt there's a fancy knife store in Shanghai that has everything.
I worked with a Chinese chef in London years ago. He told me of a restaurant he worked in, 150 chefs per service (300 in the changing rooms at shift change) it took 20 min to walk from his section to the chiller, 40 min return journey. It had 6 or 10 outlets from high end restaurant to mid range food in Shanghai, 5000 covers per service. I would have taken my cheaper knives.....
 

Noodle Soup

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A cooking instructor I had in Chengdu and I once talked about high end Japanese cleavers. Great steel or not, he couldn't believe anyone would pay that much of a cleaver. From my experience in China, skill tops fancy equipment every time and believe me most of those chefs can work magic with a plain Double Sword, CCK, Shibazi etc. As for rich people over there, they don't cook for themselves, they eat out or have people for that.
 

timebard

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I haven't used any high end western cleavers but my CCK outperforms quite a few $250-$500 knives. Yeah, the steel could be better, but for the performance you get for the price spending 10x more for a fancier sharp rectangle is a tough proposition...
 

Hz_zzzzzz

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I imagine for Chinese chefs in China those knives are unaffordable. CCK/Dengjia/Shibazi are probably the "nice" ones there, and are probably even cheaper there. But I'm sure there are other brands there we are simply not aware of. IDK if someone can ID this but he's a popular chef in China, doesn't look like anything special but looks can be deceiving:
Chef Wang in the video uses something <$10 from a supply store. He has an interesting video showing where and how he chose his knife (by listening to the sound of the steel and he didn’t even bother to talk about the brand or steel type). Most Chinese cooks make less than 10000 yuan (about $1500) a month and they won’t use anything more than 100 yuan (about $15).
 

Jville

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I haven't used any high end western cleavers but my CCK outperforms quite a few $250-$500 knives. Yeah, the steel could be better, but for the performance you get for the price spending 10x more for a fancier sharp rectangle is a tough proposition...
CCKs are great and really fun and practical to use, but I see value in having nicer cleavers too. My Fujiyama share some similarities in blade profile and have Tanakas heat treat. Also I hear cleaver’s casually called giant rectangles as if they are just crude tools without grinds like chef knives. When you look at something like a Fujiyama cleaver you can definitely see the skill in the grind. That being said ccks work and I can’t blame anyone for not wanting anything else or more. And the Fujiyama are nowhere near 10x the price, although still 3-5 times the price, which is obviously quite a bit more expensive.
 

timebard

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CCKs are great and really fun and practical to use, but I see value in having nicer cleavers too. My Fujiyama share some similarities in blade profile and have Tanakas heat treat. Also I hear cleaver’s casually called giant rectangles as if they are just crude tools without grinds like chef knives. When you look at something like a Fujiyama cleaver you can definitely see the skill in the grind. That being said ccks work and I can’t blame anyone for not wanting anything else or more. And the Fujiyama are nowhere near 10x the price, although still 3-5 times the price, which is obviously quite a bit more expensive.
OP had refered to makers like Dalman and Yanick who are pretty firmly in the $600 and up range, as far as I've seen. If you know where I can get a Y Tanaka cleaver for half that I'm listening...
 

superworrier

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Chef Wang in the video uses something <$10 from a supply store. He has an interesting video showing where and how he chose his knife (by listening to the sound of the steel and he didn’t even bother to talk about the brand or steel type). Most Chinese cooks make less than 10000 yuan (about $1500) a month and they won’t use anything more than 100 yuan (about $15).
I'd actually be surprised if they even earned that much.
 

Jville

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OP had refered to makers like Dalman and Yanick who are pretty firmly in the $600 and up range, as far as I've seen. If you know where I can get a Y Tanaka cleaver for half that I'm listening...
Oh I didn’t mean it as an argument. There are definetely western maker and even Japanese cleavers that are $600-$800 and even more. The heiji cleaver I had was $1000, without sale price( I purchased on sale). And of course if you get something like a shig we are in unicorn price range. I was just saying it seemed like a lot of feedback has resulted in them generally passing on higher end cleavers in general. I was saying although something like a Fujiyama is still quite a bit more it’s not 10x more. You can get some Tanaka cleavers in that $400- $500 range. My first Fujiyama cleaver was $350(I think). I think I’m going to have a custom based upon a CCK large slicer, something big light and nimble with great steel, sexy looker, and comfy handle. My math was putting CCK at like $100, but in reality them buying them over there I’m assuming they are getting them way cheaper. So I guess I didn’t account for that and with that yeah I guess that could make them 10x the price.
 
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coffeelover191919

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Live in nyc and seen Chinese chefs at work. They all use shite knives and for chopping meats they'll easily raise the knife 6-10in above the food and slam down the knife on a cutting board that isn't flat at all.
 

Noodle Soup

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Oh I didn’t mean it as an argument. There are definetely western maker and even Japanese cleavers that are $600-$800 and even more. The heiji cleaver I had was $1000, without sale price( I purchased on sale). And of course if you get something like a shig we are in unicorn price range. I was just saying it seemed like a lot of feedback has resulted in them generally passing on higher end cleavers in general. I was saying although something like a Fujiyama is still quite a bit more it’s not 10x more. You can get some Tanaka cleavers in that $400- $500 range. My first Fujiyama cleaver was $350(I think). I think I’m going to have a custom based upon a CCK large slicer, something big light and nimble with great steel, sexy looker, and comfy handle. My math was putting CCK at like $100, but in reality them buying them over there I’m assuming they are getting them way cheaper. So I guess I didn’t account for that and with that yeah I guess that could make them 10x the price.
CCK isn't way cheaper in Hong Kong at the factory store. Maybe $40-$75 depending on model. When I was in Chengdu I was taken to what they said was the high end cleaver store. Lots and lots of models but they probably ran between $25 and $50. Local wet market vendor cleavers were more like $7 to $15. I have never seen a Japanese cleaver over there. That may be a matter of the government putting high import duties on top of the high price.
 

Matus

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I have CCK 1303 (though I pretty much as gifted it to a friend of mine). I live the size/weight/profile combination. I recall it weights around 280g - considerably less than what the 'nicer' Japanese or western made cleavers weight. I would love to get a cleaver from a better steel in similar weight range - but they simply do not exist. Custom piece would cost 600€+ (given once would manage to find a maker that (a) is able to make one and (b) does not have a huge backlog or does not accept custom orders at all). So for me the CCK (and similar ones) is the only game in town it would seem.

EDIT: I forgot Dao-Vua from Cleancut for about 100€. They recently switched to 52100 ... I am actually thinking of giving it a try.
 

Ochazuke

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I'd like to build on @stringer's point and just mention that with very few exceptions, most chefs aren't chefs because they want to be. I guarantee you if you offered most of those guys a steady paycheck with nights and weekends off, they'd take it in a heartbeat. Most people in the service industry aren't gonna drop a load of money in their equipment.

Also at the prices they're at now, most chefs couldn't afford any of these knives now anyways. KKF level knives are mostly used by enthusiasts with money no matter what cuisine or specialty they're in.
 

DitmasPork

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For most Chinese kitchens, I would probably agree with that. But there are some really high end Chinese restaurants in both the west and the east. And a lot of chinese restaurant establishments have kitchens that are more akin to higher end western kitchens, so I would think, in those situations, an expensive kitchen knife wouldn’t be out of place.
In the Chinese restaurant kitchens I’ve been into—dives to high end—cooks able to work with relatively inexpensive Chinese cleavers. High end expensive cleavers aren’t essential for producing high end food—good techniques and talent trumps expensive knives; a great cleaver doesn’t make a great cook. Just different values. Why get a top dollar cleaver by a western maker when a $50 cleaver is just fine? My cck 1302 probably considered a luxury by a lot of Chinese restaurant cooks; a $900 custom TF Chinese cleaver with ironwood handle a wasteful piece of extravagance to some fine Chinese cooks. Perhaps a different cultural philosophy also at play—Chuang Tzu wrote a butcher using a rusty, dull cleaver, but effortlessly broke down the whole beast, from knowing exactly where to cut. Frugality a big part of the traditional Chinese kitchen.
 

big_adventure

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In the Chinese restaurant kitchens I’ve been into—dives to high end—cooks able to work with relatively inexpensive Chinese cleavers. High end expensive cleavers aren’t essential for producing high end food—good techniques and talent trumps expensive knives; a great cleaver doesn’t make a great cook. Just different values. Why get a top dollar cleaver by a western maker when a $50 cleaver is just fine? My cck 1302 probably considered a luxury by a lot of Chinese restaurant cooks; a $900 custom TF Chinese cleaver with ironwood handle a wasteful piece of extravagance to some fine Chinese cooks. Perhaps a different cultural philosophy also at play—Chuang Tzu wrote a butcher using a rusty, dull cleaver, but effortlessly broke down the whole beast, from knowing exactly where to cut. Frugality a big part of the traditional Chinese kitchen.
To be fair, this can be said for literally every restaurant. One can cook anything at all with a stamped Vic. One might "prefer" the experience using something subjectively much nicer, but the quality of the output is, save perhaps for very specific situations, completely decoupled from the price of the blade one uses to produce said output.
 

Barmoley

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Apart from cultural differences and the fact that very few pros use fancy knives anywhere and skill rules over equipment in all cooking, do you guys think that you can just get away with more in a cleaver? I am a cleaver novice, but from the few I've used including customs and CCK it felt like as long as the cleaver is pretty thin like CCK it works well even when duller than a comparable knife would. Partially this seemed to be due to the weight, chopping motion and just being relatively thinner than the comparable knife would have to be. Something like CCK in a better steel would be great, but it didn't seem like going full custom or much more expensive would add much since CCK works so well already. I've also noticed that some much more expensive cleavers that use better steels don't work as well as cheaper ones because the maker also makes them thicker and messes with grind, etc.
 

DitmasPork

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Apart from cultural differences and the fact that very few pros use fancy knives anywhere and skill rules over equipment in all cooking, do you guys think that you can just get away with more in a cleaver? I am a cleaver novice, but from the few I've used including customs and CCK it felt like as long as the cleaver is pretty thin like CCK it works well even when duller than a comparable knife would. Partially this seemed to be due to the weight, chopping motion and just being relatively thinner than the comparable knife would have to be. Something like CCK in a better steel would be great, but it didn't seem like going full custom or much more expensive would add much since CCK works so well already. I've also noticed that some much more expensive cleavers that use better steels don't work as well as cheaper ones because the maker also makes them thicker and messes with grind, etc.
I'd agree with you. I bought my first Chinese cleaver in the mid-1980s, never felt a need to upgrade. Whereas, to me, there can be a much greater difference in performance between a cheap chef's knife and a higher end one.
 

Jville

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Apart from cultural differences and the fact that very few pros use fancy knives anywhere and skill rules over equipment in all cooking, do you guys think that you can just get away with more in a cleaver? I am a cleaver novice, but from the few I've used including customs and CCK it felt like as long as the cleaver is pretty thin like CCK it works well even when duller than a comparable knife would. Partially this seemed to be due to the weight, chopping motion and just being relatively thinner than the comparable knife would have to be. Something like CCK in a better steel would be great, but it didn't seem like going full custom or much more expensive would add much since CCK works so well already. I've also noticed that some much more expensive cleavers that use better steels don't work as well as cheaper ones because the maker also makes them thicker and messes with grind, etc.
Not to keep talking about the Fujiyama cleavers, but it does seem relative to your question. They are ground very thin like CCK. They have a different feel, of course, because they are heavier. You do lose some of that nimbleness that is quite attractive with CCK. But sometimes some would prefer more weight on a CCK and that’s something these Fujiyamas are really great at. You get the thin cutting ability of the CCK with great steel and some a$$ behind them. Honestly, I think the best all around cleavers are takeda. They are thin, light and nimble, sturdy, steel is tough and just generally excellent, and you get magical food release, which is the Achilles heel of most cleavers. I’ll be honest I really don’t use my cck, eventhough I really like it. I have gad the small stainless one for years and had a small carbon one that really liked but ended up selling. I didn’t end up using it much. I always knew that I would like the large CCK, so I bought the large slicer(I think early this year). But I have barely used it, eventhough I really like it. I just gave it a quick sharpening since it didn’t seem like a great ootb edge. It will be getting some work here soon. But if I had to do pick just a couple of knives for sure one would be a Takeda cleaver.
 
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