Armed with this rudimentary knowledge, I continued to Sur La Table, where gleaming racks of Japanese- and German-style blades surrounded by high-end copper pots and culinary gadgetry had a more covetous effect on me. Within the store’s more extensive selection of Shun knives, I focused on a model designed by award-winning knife-maker Ken Onion. This high-end offering was designed with a careful eye toward ergonomics and balance. Resting in my hand, its perfect fit evoked a gleaming sports car, revving and ready for action.
Next up was a Santoku knife from Global ;a modern pick with a seamless one-piece construction. Not only was it sharp, it was quite easy to imagine it strewn elegantly next to a stainless stove while stylish guests sipped wine.
Fresh off the alluring Japanese knives, we moved on to some time-tested German classics: Wüsthof and Henckels. Both brands are well made and substantial, but the Wüsthof felt more balanced and suggested a little less fatigue during marathon chopping sessions.
I decided it was time for a chef’s opinion. Chris Israel and his partners opened the doors of Zefiro restaurant in the early ’90s, and Israel has since become one of Portland’s most accomplished chefs. His ability to be extravagant when necessary, and frugal otherwise, seemed like a valuable perspective in my hunt. “In a busy kitchen, knives take a beating,” he said, adding that keeping a knife maintained is fundamentally important. Elegance is nice, but for everyday use, Israel stands by his plastic-handled, high-carbon stainless steel Forschner knife. A solid workhorse of a tool, it performs extremely well, is easy to maintain, and will hold an edge through the toughest of culinary calisthenics.