Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Diamond Fingers

Our friends Peter and Jill Hertzmann visited us in September. This is the third or fourth time Peter's been to visit us in France. We enjoy his visits because he likes to cook, he's really good at it, and he always offers to make a meal while he's here.

Our new Victorinox chef's knife.
The blade's about 26 cm long, a little over 10 inches.

Peter has become an expert on la cuisine française in recent years. He shifted to French food after spending many years focused on Asian cuisine. He says he had a food epiphany on his first trip to Paris.

A close up of the blade. "Inox" is French for stainless steel.

Peter is a perfectionist. He insists on quality ingredients, precise measures (when called for), and the right tools for the job. He's teased us on many occasions about the sharpness of our kitchen knives, for example. As in they're not. Sharp, that is.

The Ozitech honer/sharpener. It has "diamond fingers!" Peter swears by it.

He notes that you cannot have a good knife technique if you don't have a good knife. And to say that Peter has written the book on knife technique is no exaggeration. His book, Knife Skills Illustrated, has recently been published, and he's done a round of interviews and talk shows (including a guest spot on Martha Stewart's show) to promote it.

He told us about the knives he uses, made by Victorinox, and that they're not fancy and not expensive, but that they are good quality knives for home use. We looked them up on the web while he was here and he showed us several options for our needs. I told him I'd think about replacing our knives in the months to come.

Well, imagine our surprise when, one day a few weeks ago, a package arrived in the mail from Peter. It was the very knife we had looked at online, along with a honer/sharpener to keep it in tip-top shape. Peter said that he's looking forward to using a sharp knife the next time he visits.

In the meantime, we are certainly enjoying it. It makes an incredible difference. Thanks, Peter!

If you haven't already, check out Peter's web site, à la carte. It's full of interesting stories and recipes.


  1. Wow, now that is a nice friend! I was working on a decent collection of knives in the US... too bad I did not pack them, so they are all stored in a box waiting for my return. Most of my knives here are very poor quality. :-(

  2. Cool. Thanks for the gift idea for my brother-in-law...

  3. Thanks for the link to Peter's 'à la carte' site. I love the clean simple look and the way he organizes everything. We should all have friends like that!

    Something tells me I'm going to be bugging my sister to send me the knife sharpener. I've been taking knives to a cutlery shop across the street (convenient) but their little gnome who does the sharpening only comes once a week and it costs a whopping 15 euros a pop.

  4. Must, must, must get a decent knife sharpener. My good knives are beginning to deteriorate through lack of a decent sharpener. That's a good looking knife, similar size and profile to my chef's knife, but different brand. You will love it, I am sure.

  5. I wish you could have seen my Dad's knives which were shapened to almost nothing. He was a poultry dealer and could cut up a chicken in a flash. His secret may have been always having a sharp butcher's knife.

    I enjoyed seeing your new knife. We can find really nice knives at our Dollar Tree stores here in Alabama if you can imagine that. The bread knives are excellent.

  6. Was Peter Hertzmann on a recent version of Martha Stewart's show (as in, an "after prison" version ) or her earlier "before prison" show?


  7. What are you going to use this small knife for? Peeling garlic? Or cutting up a whole beef carcass?

  8. Judy: It was post-prison—almost exactly one year ago today.

    All: Beside having a good sharpener, it's important to treat your knives well so they stay sharp—no to dishwashers; yes to wood cutting boards; store in sleeve, not loose; always slice, not chop. The Ozitech is a good sharpener for blades sharpened to a 20° bevel. Most Japanese knives have a finer bevel and the Ozitech would destroy them. Some knives are best sharpened only by the factory.

    Walt: Maybe you can post a picture of the storage sleeve I sent?

  9. justin, I guess traveling internationally with knives is not really a good idea...

    reb, glad I could help! ;)

    papa, yeah, 15 euros seems a bit steep to remove a bit of steel.

    susan, peter taught me the difference between honing and sharpening. Be sure to learn!

    evelyn, it's important to have a good bread knife, I think.

    judy, I believe Peter answered you below.

    chm, something in between.

    peter, sure, I'll post a photo of the sleeve soon. And thanks again!

  10. I do indeed know the difference between honing and sharpening. My knives need sharpening now, the edges are starting to get ragged. Once upon a time I could sharpen and hone a knife so you could shave the hairs off your arm with it, but I am out of practice. I'm afraid they get put in the dishwasher more often than is good for them (hangs head in shame...)

    I can remember a knife from my childhood like the one Evelyn describes, used by my father to butcher the home killed sheep carcasses. Wooden handle, steel blade. Steel holds an edge better than stainless steel, but it discolours, and has become unpopular and I can't remember the last time I saw a steel knife (or a steel pancake pan either...)


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