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The Essential Knives I Learned About From ‘Kitchen Confidential’

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The late, great Anthony Bourdain became a household name at the turn of the millenium thanks to his memoir, Kitchen Confidential, which was published in 2000, and has been in print ever since. The collection of essays is famous for its strong opinions about everything from garlic (“Too lazy to peel fresh? You don’t deserve to eat garlic.”) to vegetarians (“Vegetarians are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit.”). And, of course, knives.

Like many culinary authorities, Bourdain believed you don’t need a lot of knives to do a lot of cooking. His bare essentials included a chef’s knife, paring knife, offset serrated knife, and flexible boning knife. (And unless you’re breaking down animal parts on a regular basis, you can skip that last one and manage just fine.)

When it comes to brand, Bourdain had advice about that, too. In Kitchen Confidential, he wrote:

Most of the professionals I know have for years been retiring their Wusthofs and replacing them with lightweight, easy-to-sharpen and relatively inexpensive vanadium steel Global knives, a very good Japanese product that has—in addition to its many other fine qualities—the added attraction of looking really cool.

At the time, Global was relatively young. It came on the scene in 1985—or, 171 years after Wusthof. Mino Tsuchida founded the Master Cutlery Corporation and hired Komin Yamada to design the first Global products with samurai swords in mind. While Western-style knives are sharpened with a beveled edge, Global knives take a straighter, pontier approach, which, as Smitten Kitchen blogger Deb Perelman explained it to NY Mag, “holds a sharp edge very well.”

Our senior editor Eric Kim, who was gifted a Global chef’s knife for his birthday years ago, says it’s one of his favorite kitchen tools for that very reason. “It’s so much lighter and sharper than anything I’ve ever owned,” he told me. “And it’s still my go-to knife today, even though I have never, ever sharpened it. Not just because I’m lazy, but because it’s still that sharp.”

Emma is a writer and recipe developer at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles “on the fly,” baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., reviewing restaurants, and writing articles about everything from how to use leftover mashed potatoes to the history of pies in North Carolina. Now she lives in Maplewood, New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma’s cooking column, Big Little Recipes, all about big flavor and little ingredient lists. And see what she’s up to on Instagram and Twitter at @emmalaperruque.

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