Yanagi

Chef David Bouley – Bouley, NY

by Rui Kojima on April 24, 2011

Chef Bouley recommends the Usaba, Yanagi and Deba for those curious about buying their first traditional style Japanese knife!

David Bouley worked in restaurants around the world before opening his own in 1987. Located in TriBeCa, Bouley earned a myriad of awards and recognition and is the only restaurant to achieve a 29 out of 30 food rating in Zagat Survey. After 9/11, he opened “Green Tarp” at Ground Zero to feed relief workers 24 hours a day for four weeks. He has combined his love of French and American cuisines with that of Japan to open both a sushi section of Bouley Bakery and to work with the famed Tsuji Cooking School in his cutting-edge test kitchen.

 

You have been very involved with Japanese cuisine and the Tsuji Cooking School in your test kitchen. What are the most important things you’ve learned from the collaboration?

Eight years ago I had an opportunity to go abroad and cook for the royal family of Thailand. I spent 2-3 weeks beforehand with Mr. Shizuo Tsuji. We started with the basics: salt, types of fish, dashi, miso. I was fortunate to get this preliminary understanding – it was Japan’s Culinary Culture 101! Over the years I was able to build on that knowledge, learn more and go deeper into topics like the preparation for Kaiseki, regional cooking (we even studied Okinawa), miso…we made 70-100 dishes in a week with Mr.Tsuji in the test kitchen because understanding the basic elements of anything is key.

 

What is the most important aspect of cooking to you?

To be a chef you must star t out by gaining an intimate relationship with the products you are using and building solid technique to use them. Once you have these two things, you can go off and be creative.

 

What do you think of the recent popularity of Japanese food and Japanese knives?

Increased interest in Japanese food is a great thing in the fact that it makes it easier for us to get fine quality artisanal product from Japan now, but you still need the proper knowledge to use those ingredients, in the same way that you need to know how to use a tool like a traditional Japanese knife. I had four days of intensive training in Japan when I started using Japanese knives and was lucky enough to visit knife makers and see how the knives are made. This type of comprehensive knowledge is important.

 

Which is your most often used knife?

I use carbon steel – they remind me of the old style. The single-edged traditional Japanese knives are perfect for what they are designed to do. Take the Yanagi, for example. The one-sided blade pulls the meat up onto the long, flat edge as you slice and you can make a cleaner cut with less crushing of the cells of the food.

 

Do you have any advice for chefs who are thinking about buying their first traditional style Japanese knife?

The Usuba,Yanagi, Deba – if you are going to use a tool, you should learn how to use it. Read about the tool, learn how it works, what it’s made for. You have to learn to use a tool – a knife, a motorcycle, a product – to its full potential as it was originally designed. The well designed knife already knows what to do. You must learn to let the knife do its own thing. Then you will appreciate that knife. When buying knives you must understand yourself and your interests.You should know what your job is and understand what your knife has to do.You don’t need the most expensive knife; you need to learn how to use the engineering for what it was made for – and enjoy the ride!

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Chef Michael Romano – Union Square Cafe, NY

by Rui Kojima on April 17, 2011

"I noticed the lightness and quickness of the Misono blade right away"

Michael Romano studied and flourished as a cook at the New York City Technical College, then became one of the first Americans in some of France’s most important restaurants. As the Executive Chef of Union Square Café, which he presently runs with partner Danny Meyer, Romano has helped the restaurant earn a glowing reputation; for the past seven years the New York City Zagat Survey has ranked it ‘Most Popular’.

 

What are the superior qualities of your Japanese knives?

Japanese knives are sharp, reliable and beautiful. With different shapes and characteristics for different tasks, Japanese knives are very clearly built for specific work. You can tell they are made for people who are deeply involved in their craft. They also demand more of the user. I bought my first traditional Japanese knives, an Aritsugu Kamagata Usuba, a Deba and a Yanagi at the Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo in 1982 and I quickly realized these were very different! The Usuba got stuck in cutting board a lot and I had to learn what the knife would and wouldn’t let me do.

I bought my first Misono in the late 1970’s when Japanese knives were still relatively unknown to most in the US. Now when I go into my kitchen it seems everyone has a Japanese knife! It’s amazing! You know the popularity of Japanese knives is a reality and not a fad when German makers start making a ‘Santoku’ knife. I noticed the lightness and quickness of the Misono blade right away; it started out sharper and took an edge faster than my other knives. I started with using Japanese knives there and never went back.

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"Only my Japanese knives can be both artistic and functional."

Lionel Giraud is the son of onetime 2-star Michelin chef Claude Giraud. As a kid his favourite playground was his dad’s kitchen. After a diligent training at the Crillon, the Ritz and some time spent with Michel Guerard, he took off for Bucharest where he opened his restaurant La Villa Bucarest. In 2003, back in Narbonne, Lionel took over from his father at La Table Saint Crescent. The Gault Millau guide 2006 named him one of six “Tomorrow’s Great Chefs”, a welldeserved reward for this very talented young chef.

 

What does your knife mean to you?

It’s much more than just a tool. It’s like a link between the food ingredients and myself. It has something to do with the respect I have for the product. A good product can only be cut with a proper knife.

 

What are the superior qualities of your Japanese knives?

Their quality is exceptional. Only my Japanese knives can be both artistic and functional. I work better with Japanese knives. They are very efficient. From Korin, I already own a Masamoto Yanagi, a Glestain Gyutou, some Misono and Brieto. My latest acquisition is also my favourite: a Masanobu VG10 Santoku; so comfortable to hold and so sharp!

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Chef Ian Chalermkittichai – Kittichai, NY

April 12, 2011

Ian Chalermkittichai brought his brilliance to a new venue when he became the first Thai executive chef of Shintaro, the sushi bar and restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok. Nicknamed “The Golden Boy” in 2001 by the Bangkok Post, he created a modern Thai cuisine subtly enhanced by Japanese influences. He is now the [...]

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