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TOPIC: Knives in restaurant kitchens?

Knives in restaurant kitchens? 1 year 4 months ago #10678

  • mark76
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I was wondering whether anybody here sharpens knives for restaurants. Or knows about knives in restaurant kitchens.

I make it a habit when I go to a restaurant to ask them if I can have a look in the kitchen. And of course I want to know what knives they use.

There is a very good (Michelin star) restaurant very close to my home and they actually use quite good (Global) knives. So I've played with the idea of offering them to sharpen their knives.

However, I know very little about knives in restaurants. Particularly, I have no idea how many knives they have and how often they get sharpened. (Although... every time I was able to check the sharpness of a knife in a restaurant kitchen, it was plain blunt.) Also, do you know whether "usually" the cooks bring in their own knives or do they use restaurant knives?

Thanks to anyone who can tell me more!
Last Edit: 1 year 4 months ago by mark76.
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Re: Knives in restaurant kitchens? 1 year 4 months ago #10689

  • jendeindustries
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Good restaurants will usually have staff with their own sets of knives, and the quality can be anywhere on the map from cheap, entry level knives to very expensive, custom made knives. One thing for sure, most of them are dulled from maintaining (or attempting to do so) with a steel, which is usually the method preached in culinary schools.

They will usually have a variety of knives in their knife roll but most will definitely include the following:

Paring knife
Chef Knife
Boning Knife
Bread/Serrated Knife
Meat Cleaver (depending on the kind of prep)

The Chef knife and paring knife are usually the most used.

I'd start with restaurants you frequent- talk to the owners or chefs there, and see of you can't get into their knives. The process is the same as described below, but you'll have a much warmer reception initially from people who know you.

Pro Kitchens (especially Michelin) usually have some sort of hierarchy, and if the top guy says no, then you are dead in the water, but if he/she is impressed, then the world opens up for you. So here's what I would do - I would prepare a good quality chef knife on the WEPS, and bring it to the highest ranking person in the kitchen for inspection. You may need to schedule an appointment, first. Introduce yourself as a sharpener (maybe prepare a business card?), and ask about what services he uses, and if he's satisfied with them. Ask what kind of knives he uses, ask if you may inspect them, then discuss what you see on his edge, and what you can do as a sharpener. Then offer to sharpen a knife for free (you'll get the worst of the bunch, mind you!), and offer to leave the knife you prepared while you sharpen his to see if it meets his standards.

You'll need to do this in about 5-10 minutes, since chef's are always running during prep times, and you can't even think about talking during service times.

If you run into a kitchen that has "house knives", sometimes it isn't worth it (Usually hotels and chain restaurants) In the US, these kitchens are serviced weekly by a van that drops off somewhat sharpened knives and picks up the duller ones. Usually the kitchen rents the knives from the sharpening service company, and the sharpening is "free".

Either way, have fun with it. It's always great to see someone getting the courage to take their sharpening to the next level! B)
Tom Blodgett
Jende Industries, LLC

My Blog: jendeindustries.wordpress.com
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Re: Knives in restaurant kitchens? 1 year 4 months ago #10691

  • BluntCut
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Occasionally I sharpen knives for my relative restaurants. No fancy jknives involved.

In addition to Tom's points. Bring along a good loupe to inspect their knives & cutting boards. Looking at cuttingboard types + chop/slice/scrape marks + length/depth would reveal quite abit about their knife usage pattern. Your portfolio/sample knives: 1 crazy thin& sharp (don't leave this one there), 2 durable sharp. I made newb mistake with too thin & sharp, quickly rendered knives worthless dull (from rolled). If jknives involves, how's your freehand with bench waterstones & jnat?
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Re: Knives in restaurant kitchens? 1 year 4 months ago #10692

  • ApexGS
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This is a great thread for me as well, because I'm looking at ways to expand my sharpening repertoire later this year. York, PA hosts a rather reputable culinary arts academy which I might approach at some point, along with some of the local restaurants who I'm sure have their own cutlery and no one to sharpen it. I've actually asked the folks running the locally owned supermarket deli department but it seems they use those ceramic wheel machines to keep things... well, "not dull" I suppose!

I've had a lot of folks at these flea markets mention taking their knives a county or two over and getting worse results than even a basic WEPS edge, so I'm sure the word will spread! :)
Your friendly neighborhood gunsmith!
- Tom
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Re: Knives in restaurant kitchens? 1 year 4 months ago #10697

  • LukasPop
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I spoke with my friend who is cook in a restaurant. He uses cheap knives from local factory (about 51 HRC, 5$ for chefs knife) and sharpen them with steel. So I think sharpen them commercially on WEPS don't make sense - it will be more expensive than a new knife.
Last Edit: 1 year 4 months ago by LukasPop.
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Re: Knives in restaurant kitchens? 1 year 4 months ago #10699

  • cbwx34
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As part of a presentation to a restaurant or chef, you might also point out a couple of things Clay has talked about before...

Good Argument for Sharp Knives (how it improves food quality) and

Conservation of Metal

(Although this probably doesn't apply to a cook that uses a $5 knife). :dry:
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Re: Knives in restaurant kitchens? 1 year 4 months ago #10704

  • mark76
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Thanks, guys! Responses like these make me really enthusiastic.

Tom, we’re talking the Netherlands here :-). In the rest of the world we’re known as extremely blunt (and we probably are), but the advantage is we’re also very open. I’m sure there is some sort of hierarchy in the kitchen, but I also think I don’t have to make business cards. (Although, now I think of it, it would be fun.)

(Now we’re on the topic, one of the things that continues to fascinate me are cultural differences. That’s something that may not be the most appropriate topic for a forum of knife sharpeners, but it is one of the reasons I enjoy coming here. For example, Americans are definitely the most friendly people I’ve ever met. So much that – I’m European – I sometimes wonder whether all this friendliness is meant :-)

Tom, do you think every cook has a knife roll with all of these knives? It was my impression every cook only uses one or two knives on an entire evening?

Knife sharpening is a hobby of mine, not my profession. It is, what the guru Leo said it should be, my means of meditation, my Zen. Although the scientist in me sometimes pops up :-). I only sharpen knives for friends, family, etc. and I really enjoy it, but I don’t have to make a living out of it. Since about half a year I ask everyone I sharpen a knife for a small fee (EUR 2), but that is voluntary and I give it to a charity. So I guess I’ll sharpen the first bunch of knives for this restaurant for free.

But does anyone know how many knives I’d have to sharpen if I offer this? (The restaurant has about 25 tables and, from what I was able to observe, 6 cooks.) It’d be a problem (challenge <- that’s what I mean by cultural differences :-) if I suddenly had to sharpen 100 knives on a day. And do restaurants have a double set of knives for when they are gone?

And thanks a lot, Curtis, for reminding me of the celery pictures. I’d almost forgotten them, but they are a very good selling point for sharp knives.

I am having diner in this restaurant next weekend. I’ll keep you posted!
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Re: Knives in restaurant kitchens? 1 year 4 months ago #10715

  • jendeindustries
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We're opening up a great can of worms here!

I believe the warmth generated by the members here is genuine B)

You've hit the nail on the head with why you are sharpening - for Zen. It's different to do sharpening for money, and requires having the stomach for it. You will quickly realize that once you step out of your perfectly manicured zen rock garden of 3-5 perfectly sharpened knives, kitchen knives of the masses are generally horribly kept, and usually require more time and effort than the knives are worth, as Lukas pointed out. That's why there are belt sanders, too. ;)

However, if you are in a Michelin starred Kitchen, these guys are not your usual "ex-con line cooks" :silly: and will be very serious about keeping their knives in working condition. Which knives they have in their roll will depend on that they prepare and cook - again, the most common are the paring and chef's knives. These knives are usually "easier" to sharpen.

The beautiful thing about wanting to venture out into sharpening other peoples knives is that you get to limit the number. You don't need to do 100. Start with one, and see if you like it, and if you do, take 2 next time, etc.
Tom Blodgett
Jende Industries, LLC

My Blog: jendeindustries.wordpress.com
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Re: Knives in restaurant kitchens? 1 year 4 months ago #10798

  • JillDufour
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Hi! I just started using the WEPS as a side business a few months ago and I do restaurant knives. Most use the NSA victorinox/Forshner types, but a few high end places have better German and Japanese knives. Ask if the cooks are picky about angles and what they use them for (rough chop vs fine work). I tailor my work accordingly.

I'm an avid home cook, so that helps a lot.

Numbers of knives vary greatly-types range from slicers to carvers to chef's knives to lots of small paring and prep knives.

Hope this helps.

Jill!

Ps. Thanks Clay!!! This is a great system.
Jill
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Re: Knives in restaurant kitchens? 1 year 4 months ago #11078

  • mark76
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Hi all,

I thought I’d give you an update. I love being a knife sharpener :) .

I went to the restaurant I talked about that weekend. During dinner I asked a waiter if I could have a chat with the chef/owner. We could and a week later I went there with two sample knives…

The situation in this restaurant is not as bad as I thought it would be (based on stories by professional knife sharpeners). Every cook has their own knives and they try to care well for them. Their only problem (and it was for me to explain that) was that they didn’t know what proper sharpening is. For example, the chef had a problem with his petty knife. He showed it to me. Black in some places. Sharpened with a belt grinder at about 200 grit, which completely ruined the heat treatment of the blade. I didn’t need any more sales arguments…

We agreed I’d sharpen two of his knives: his chef knife and his petty (ruined or not). When I returned he was pretty impressed. Because his knives were sharp, but also because I returned within two hours. So on the same evening we agreed I’d sharpen all of his knives.

When I came there next week, we had lunch together. (Well, not at lunch time obviously.) He introduced me to another cook who appreciated his knives. He was the only one with a carbon Japanese knife. I agreed to sharpen that one, too. And his petty.

One week later. I come there to pick up their knives. Then it appeared the WEPS had made an impression. They asked me if I could sharpen the chef knives of all of the cooks. (I thought there were six, but there are nine…) Uhm, yes, I couldn’t say no. But I was smart enough to say I’d only do this temporarily.

Back home I had more than 15 knives to sharpen. From scratch: I reprofiled all of them. Mostly using my 100K diamonds, but I did some with my 50K diamonds. (Sometimes you get less picky, but some knives were also damaged and really needed major reprofiling…) I finished every knife with at least my ceramic stones. (And the Japanese knife and the petty of the chef went up to my Shaptons 15K.) I still have to ask them whether they prefer this fine sharpening or a more toothy edge. (What I do know is that they all marvel a mirror edge - looks are important.)

This reprofiling was not really Zen. But the great thing is, and that is what I really like about the WEPS, that next time it’ll be a breeze. I don’t know how heavily they use their knives, but I think I don’t have to start with something more coarse than the 800 grit diamonds.

So now I am the sharpener for a Michelin star restaurant. Hahah, the WEPS brings you to territory you never imagined you’d ever be.

The thing I like almost just as much is that I was able to teach them a few things. (And I didn’t need the celery pictures, Curtis…) They’ve said goodbye to the knife sharpening service that ruined the chef’s petty and finished knives at 200 grit. He has actually bought a new petty. He wanted exactly the same knife I showed to him as a sharpening sample, a Konosuke. And they now know what a sharp knife is.

And the best thing (well, I can’t choose)… They don’t pay me for sharpening, other than the “voluntary” contribution to a charity. But I can eat there for free occasionally. Next month I’ll take my parents there to celebrate my father’s birthday. And I know almost for certain that they’ll be treated as special guests.
Last Edit: 1 year 4 months ago by mark76.
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