Monday, November 22, 2010

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Saltyskitchenknives.com

My new website is up! saltyskitchenknives.com It's dedicated to kitchen knives, tools and communication. It will have features, reviews, knife sales and forums. Jump in on the ground floor!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

My Kramer on Ebay

Click on the title for the link.

SOLD!!!!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Gifts for Foodies

For those people that seem to have everything. The list contains several knives of course and some interesting tools for the serious cook.

(Gyuto is a Japanese chefs knife)

Masamoto 270mm Wa-slicer ($267.70)....@Japanesechefsknife.com (This happens to be on my personal list)

Togiharu hammered Damascus 240mm Gyuto ($149.50)....@Korin.com

Fujuwara FKM 240mm Gyuto ($82.00 @chefknivestogo.com, $75.00 @Japanesechefsknife.com)

Mizuno Tanrenjo Akitada Hon Kasumi 270mm Yanagi (slicer, $267.00 @japanesechefsknife.com)

Tojiro Shirogami 165mm Nakiri ($39.95..@chefknivestogo.com

JCK combination wet stone 800/6000 grit ($65.00 @japanesechefsknife.com)

Wusthoff fish spatula, ($29.95 @ chefknivestogo.com)

Sous Vide Supreme ($449.95)or Sous Vide Supreme Demi($299.95) @sousvidesupreme.com
(great little sous vide machines. The demi is the smaller of the two. You'll needs bags and the vacuum machine. The package deal might be the way to go.

Black Arare cast iron tea pot in various sizes @ Korin.com

Chop sticks or any Japanese accessories @Korin.com.

Zojirushi Rice Cooker @ Korin.com ($125.99)

Any Boardsmith cutting board @ theboardsmith.com (highly recommended)

Hand American stropping products for that confirmed knife nut @chefknivestogo.com.
(You'll need the stropping base, felt, leather, balsa (optional) and some sharpening compound like diamond spray or chromium oxide)

Chinoise, (a very fine strainer) can be found at several places but I found one @ foodservicewarehouse.com. (Royal Industries, $26.30)

I'll add to the list as the Holiday season continues.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Caledonia on a CVO Fat Bob

video

The sound is annoying unless you are a motorcycle junkie and want to hear the RPMs amid the wind noise. You may want to mute it and listen to the music or just mute it.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Me, JP and My Boy BF

Found these old photos the other day. Jacques Pepin, Bobby Flay and me at the Aspen Food and Wine Festival in June of 01 or 02. I have since lost 45 lbs.




Thursday, October 14, 2010

Dead People In The Morning

I'm an early riser so I often hear the rescue squad or fire engine responding from the fire house located across the street. It doesn't bother me me, I find it comforting. Not because I feel safer (I don't) but because it stirs old memories. Just now they went out, it's 6:30 am. It reminded me of those morning runs we used to get. The mornings are a fairly busy time of day. One of the reasons is people often don't wake up. A family member discovers their lifeless body in bed and calls 911 hoping what they think is happening isn't true.

I hate to say it but the positive side of finding 1099s (dept. code for dead) in the morning is they are usually stiff or their blood has pooled in the lowest part of their body, which means we don't have to do CPR because they've been dead too long. CPR isn't fun and it's not pretty. While your doing compressions or blowing oxygen into the patient all you can do until the paramedics get there is think and observe. It's one of the reasons I started saying a little prayer while doing CPR. You got nothing else to think about for a few minutes so why not say a prayer for this person? And I'm NOT a religious guy despite 12 years of Catholic education.

I've said that prayer at least a hundred times.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Duck With Audio (You may want to pause music)



I love to do duck in the cooler months. My preferred method is to serve a half duck done two ways, grilled breast with leg and thigh "confit" crisped on the grill. I use the carcass for duck demi, the fat for frying and the livers for pate. The same method can be used for chicken as well. (Except for the skin part, unless you like "cracklings".)

This video shows how I break down the duck. I might follow this up with a video tutorial on how to make the entire dish. It's classic but you can also put modern twists on it. A great wine dish as well.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Work in Progress


When we go antiquing I always have an eye out for vintage knives. There's a lot of garbage but once in a while I'll come up with a hidden gem.

I found two vintage Dexters. I did some research and found out they were probably 50 to 80 years old. What brought my attention was the distill taper of the blade and the tang. The blades were relatively thin and especially so at the tip. The tips were also very flexible and sprung naturally back in place. I'm thinking who ever made these knives knew what they were doing. After further research I found they were made out of 1095 high carbon steel. A steel that is very hard to find these days.

I started with the one that was in the worst shape. It was a 330mm chef's knife with full bolster. It had been ground down tremendously and had a huge bow in it. I don't know what it would be good for in it's current state. I removed the handle and cut down the bolster before I began the arduous task of grinding it down. I still need to take a little off the heel to get a nice straight cutting edge and refine the choil. The bolster has a big gauge in it that will never come out. I'd like to get a better polish on it as well.

Once the blade is done I think I'm going to tackle making a handle. Wish me luck.




Monday, September 27, 2010

Compilation

Pause Playlist music before watching.


video

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Line

Pause Playlist music before watching.

video

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

About Those Tongs.........


I'm guessing over 95% of all professional cooks in this country use "white trash tongs". Most of the cooks in this country don't have the luxury of having a battalion of chefs hunched over plates making them "wonderful" (and room temperature). Professional cooks are faced with a challenge every day and they want to get it done as easily as possible. The tool of choice for a long time has been the cook's tongs. They come in varying lengths, styles and thickness. It is an indispensable tool in my opinion. It seems the fresh crop of chef's have been taught it's a mid-evil instrument that will ruin the food and it should be banished from the kitchen! I say, learn how to use it, then decide for yourself if it's the right tool.

When my mentor Claus Bienek first came to this country he would scoff at my use of the tongs. It took him three months to accept the fact they were a useful tool. You have to know how to use them and respect the product. To ban them is ignorant.

Cooks have a fondness for their tongs. In just about every kitchen I've worked in guys had their favorite tongs. Some were heavier duty, some were longer, some locked, some spread wide while others didn't open as much. Some guys would hide their tongs at the end of the night just to make sure they would be able to use them next shift. Hey, whatever makes you comfortable.

I've used the term "pussy tongs" referring to cheap flimsy tongs or real long ones to keep your arms away from the heat but that's not the same as disrespecting the majority of professional cooks in this country. Cooking is cooking whether it's in some trendy joint in New York or a supper club in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Nothing makes one better than the other.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

White Trash Tongs

To Michael, what ever the fuck your name is........Dude, I may use "white trash tongs" but you can bet your ass that when it's go time I'm showing up and have been for a long, long, time with my tongs. You elitist piece of shit.

White trash tongs refers to the old school traditional cook's tongs. In today's modern kitchens they are often banned by the elitist young chefs who have been taught they damage the product. It's true but only in the hands of a journeyman.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Chopping an Onion in the Dark

A little slow but with some practice I could be up to full speed.
(Be sure to view the entire video.)



Watch the hands. I pick landmarks on the onion for the first slices. Peeling is the easy part. Now the hard part. The horizontal slices. The first half isn't bad. I never lose contact with it. I use the edge of my cutting block as a guide for height. First slice, one knuckle, the second slice two. But you have to keep your blade level. I practiced the grip before doing it to remember how it felt in my hand. The second half is kinda scary. I have to retrieve it. I wasn't sure if the halves were the same size so I had to assume they were and go for it. Still fumbled a bit. Again using the edge and knuckles for height. The vertical cross slices are a piece of cake.

(After reviewing the Kramer and Onion video it appears I'm faster blindfolded)

I just watched episode one of Top Chef. The knife skills test. Pfffft, I'd smoke'em blindfolded)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Top 30!

So the phone rings the other day and I see on the caller ID that it's the Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel. I think to myself it's either going to be someone selling something or the food critic. As soon as the person on the other end started talking I new it wasn't an intern working the phone banks. I immediately became nervous. She quickly informed me that we made Milwaukee's Top 30 Restaurant list. I took a breath and relaxed, then I got real happy. It's been ten years since we've opened. It's been ten years of cussing under my breath when that list came out. The late great Dennis Getto, former critic at the Journal gave us a "worth the drive" blurb in conjunction with the top 30 once but it's not the same. He also gave us 3.5 stars out of 4. We were certainly worthy but I always felt that they may have considered us a Racine restaurant and not a Milwaukee restaurant, despite being only 30 easy minutes from downtown Milwaukee. (The route I take doesn't contain a single traffic light between downtown and the restaurant) So when Carol Deptolla informed me that we made the list it was a big deal. It means a lot to Patrice and I. I thank her for her insight-fullness and grasp of what dining is all about. Her intro to the piece was if I wrote it.

I'd like to give the staff credit for their professionalism, patience and perseverance. They make this restaurant what it is. Whether they believe it or not, I love those guys.

This 9/11 is a bitter sweet day.

To my fallen brothers....."I'll see you at the big one."

Monday, July 12, 2010

Sunset Beach, Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin

This beach is aptly named. I try and stroll down and catch it when I can.
(Click twice for larger views.)

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Buster

RIP
02/13/2000 - 07/09/2010


Saturday, June 26, 2010

TC Blades 240 Gyuto

I recently took a 240 gyuto out for one of my late night sharpening and cutting sessions. (I don't have my camera available to me but will post photos soon.)

Tsil from TC Blades asked my opinion. Below was my response. Followed by his.

Hi TC,

Very interesting knife. The first thing that drew me to the knife was the appearance. That is one sexy looking knife. I love the rustic hammer finish and the matte black back. However I have a question, I noticed the grind marks in the transition between the mirrored bevel and the hammered finish. Were they left intentionally to enhance the rustic look? Just curious.

At first I gave it my usual sharpening progression. I was amazed how large a burr I raised on my two lower grit stones. I had no trouble removing the burr and the knife seemed to sharpen nicely.

I did my usual tests, push cut paper, tomato slice, onion dice and potato slice. The knife felt very sharp to the finger but I had difficulty push cutting paper. Despite this it worked very efficiently on the vegetables. You mentioned you leave a little extra material on the blade so the user can "train" the knife. With this in mind I went back to the stones and tried to thin out the edge a bit more and then re-tested the knife. It still wouldn't push cut paper but worked even better on the vegetables. I was a little confused because it worked so well "cutting" but couldn't cut the paper. I believe edge thickness may be why.

I understand some of the forum members weren't crazy about your knives. I think the reason is because they have tunnel vision. They are obsessed with "thin" and believe every knife should be a "lazer". This knife may have a thicker edge initially but over time this knife will keep improving. It is a very good knife for general kitchen production. Especially in a pro kitchen. It's thick and heavy which makes it ideal for an adverse environment. The blade is thin enough to prep darn near anything yet thick enough to prep many things I wouldn't normally use a gyuto for. If I were breaking down chickens, this would be the first knife I would reach for. It's stout enough to handle squash, root vegetables etc. It's an excellent "all around" knife. It may not be a great tuna slicer but anything else would be no problem. Including bone-in meats.

One thing I was particularly impressed with was how it handled potatoes. It sliced them thinly and consistently without the potato slices sticking to the blade. Food doesn't seem to want to stick to the KU finish. That also increases efficiency. (I've posted a video on my youtube channel, saltydog55252)

I'd say most chefs would be in good shape with one of your gyutos and a thinner knife for more delicate work. There would be no need for any other gyutos. You would have everything covered. I would also use it for tasks I might use a deba on.

In summary, it's a unique knife that is a workhorse and a pretty one at that. I love the saya the detailed pin and the satchel it comes with. It's a bit blade heavy but that's a matter of personal preferance. When I look at knives I try to keep my subjective opinions neutral. Not everyone cuts like me. The other criticism which isn't too big of a deal is the length of the machi. It does serve the purpose of allowing the user to "choke-up" their grip nearer the blade which is helpful with the heavy knife. The balance point is about an inch blade side of the choil which again is a personal preference. It is after all a heavy blade and darn near indestructible.

I've been using knives professionally for 35 years. I am not tainted by popular opinion or fads. I recognize knives and their potential uses. I immediately recognize a knife's strong points and tailor it's use accordingly. There are many tasks this knife would be well suited for.

Thanks for making it.

Scott

TC response:

Hi Scott,

I appreciate you taking the time to write to me. I think you have a great way with words, and I think you pin pointed exactly what these knives are all about.

The grind marks are simply a product of the hand making process. Of course the blade could have been "super finished" and left spotless - but then it would loose a lot of it's external character - as well as that extra material I was talking about. Many of our knives show various marks associated with the making process, but we don't find these to detract from the aesthetic value of the piece. If anything, we feel it gives the blade it's unique character. Naturally, if we where ever asked to produce a blade that was completely mirror finished, we would most probably rise to the challenge - but it would be somewhat "against the grain" as far as our philosophy goes.

Regarding push cutting the paper, I would suggest stropping the knife on leather - just like you would a straight razor. I think you will be pleasantly surprised with the results.

Please feel free to share your notes about this knife with others in your field - I think there is far too much confusion about what TC Blades are all about at this point - and so many people out there simply don't know enough about knives to make an educated assessment.

Again, thank you for your input. I hope you enjoy this knife for many years to come.

Best wishes,

TC

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Ahhh, The 70's

I just added two new songs to the playlist. For anyone who was in their formative years in the 70's will likely remember these two songs. I can't help but smile when I listen. The memories come flowing back.

Green Grass and High Tides, by The Outlaws
Can't You See, by The Marshall Tucker Band

Damn, they could play.

P.S. I feel the playlist is an important part of the blog. It's another form of communication. I don't pick songs randomly, every one is picked for a reason.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sometimes It Hits You.

I'll keep this short.

The other day I was notified by a long time employee/friend that he was offered a job making much more money. He told me because he felt guilty being offered the job. He told me he wouldn't leave me because,(I quote)"you made me".

It's been days and I still think about what he said. I am humbled. Truly humbled. I forget sometimes of the impact people can have on other's lives.

Thank you for the reminder. Once again you've taught me another lesson.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Sparks Will Be Flying (Originally published March 2009)

My first full time job was cooking at a Victoria Station Station restaurant. It was an upscale boxcar themed National prime rib chain. It was the place that got me hooked on this business. As I've said in the past it wasn't food that got me into chefing it was the actual physical act of cooking that attracted me. Having been an an avid high school athlete I found myself craving the action, energy or adrenalin, if you will. Cooking in a high quality, high volume atmosphere provided that. You had clear goals, a prescribed path, tools and the team to do it. You had a game every night and you got paid to play. You were pushed to the extreme. Three line cooks would serve a thousand covers on a weekend night and three to four hundred during the week. It was a busy place.

Of those thousand or so customers 75% of them are going to have prime rib. They have a choice of four sizes, some with bone, some without and of course how well they like their meat cooked. Needless to say the prime rib carver is going to be a busy guy. Not only does he have to accomplish satisfying the customer he also holds the key to profit and loss. 75% of all revenue goes through this one guy. He has to be good.

We would use the expression "Sparks are going to fly tonight!" when we knew it was going to be busy. "Sparks" was more than fitting for another crazy night at V.S. The term was coined not only for the tempers that would flare on a stressful night but more so for the actual sparks that would fly on the cooks line at the carvers station.

Because of the value of the carvers the company would import experienced prime rib carvers to open up new restaurants and train their replacements. We had a couple guys out of Chicago. Bob Zoufal and John Holland. Man I loved cooking with those guys. Those were the crazy days when we'd dole out the white cross, black beauties or black Cadillacs before the shift to fuel the afterburners during the rush. Not to mention pick us up after a heavy duty night of partying. It was practically a daily event. This is the same era Tony Bourdaine talks about in his book Kitchen Confidential, I can relate, we were all a bunch of crazy pirates that lived for the fast life and cooking. In that order. Despite being hard core partiers Bob and John could slice some beef. Between seven and eight hundred slices on a busy night, each one weighed so the customers watching in the lobby could see the weight. V.S. had an open kitchen and the carver was positioned on the far left on the cooks "line" with a tile wall to his immediate left. We'd carve the PR horizontally slicing from right to left. (For right handers.) The customers would gather and watch us while they were waiting for tables. All 750 slices within a 1/2 ounce of 8,12,22(bone-in) and 32 (bone-in). When John was carving and we'd really get going he would be slicing so fast he would hit the wall with the tip of the knife on his follow through. When the knife hit the wall, sparks would literally fly. Hence the phrase, "sparks are going to fly". The first time I saw it I shit. Johnny just laughed and he would do it occasionally through the night. Coincidentally, when there were the most people watching. Then I noticed the tips. The more often the sparks would fly the more tips we'd make. I wasn't sure what the empty pitcher was for in front of the carvers station, now I do. It was my first lesson in selling the sizzle. Johnny didn't always hit the wall on purpose he would do it by accident too. We cranked out an unbelievable amount of food. When all you have to do is slice and serve 75% of your menu you can serve alot of people real fast.

I started there as a broiler man. I would stand immediately to the carvers right and set up his plates as well as cook all the steaks and expedite the line. It was a chore but I loved it. I touched every plate served and how well we did was dependant on me being focused and in "the zone". Which brings me to Bob. Johnny was an excellent carver but Bob was just fiendishly, savant-like superb. He didn't need to sell the sizzle, he did it the old fashioned way. He earned it. There was always a scale at the carvers station so the customers could see how much the slice weighed. Bob would have the scale completely facing the customer, he couldn't see the scale. He didn't need to. He'd weigh over 700 slices and never look. The customers loved it. 90% he was right on or within a 1/4 ounce. Never more than 1/2. His tip jar was always the fullest. Another thing about Bob was he wasn't physically able to hit that wall with his knife even if he wanted to. He was left handed. He didn't swing towards the wall, he swung.......towards me. My first time working with him he said, "don't worry, I haven't lost a broiler-man yet". He never did get me, came close many times but no matter how fast he was slinging that knife he never cut me. For that I'm most appreciative of his skill.

Over time I became the carver and began to travel the country opening new restaurants and training carvers. I was very good at it and logged over a quarter million pounds cut but I was never as good as Bobby Z. I still had to resort to the sizzle.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Boys From The Old Hood (Reprint w/ photos)

I originally published this last June. I found some old photos of my crew and thought I'd include them.


Man aka Johnny aka J Man


J Money aka Jermaine


Dre aka Andre
(Notice the color scheme of the clothing, red and black are prevalent, gang colors. I had to let them wear them because it's all they had. Also note hat tilted to the right. It's the reason today's kids where their hats to the side. To emulate gang culture. Back then, they'd get their ass kicked)


The title of the previus post made me think of these guys. It's a phrase we would use when I was "on". It should read, "On like a chicken bone" but it cannot be pronounced that way. It's "Own like a chicken Bown".

About 15 years ago we opened our first "restaurant". We were leasing a space in a small hotel that consisted of a nicely equipped commercial kitchen and spacious dining room. We used the space primarily for our catering business and only opened the dining room for lunch. One of the reasons we didn't open for dinner was the area had a stigma of being dangerous. The spot was great for a catering kitchen because it was located in the center of the metropolitan area but not so good for dinner business with all the pan-handlers, prostitutes and gang bangers. It was indeed a dangerous neighborhood. My wife and I were intimately familiar with it. We lived less than a mile away in a grand old Victorian we rehabbed, my wife worked in the hood as a community organizer and I was stationed in the neighborhood's firehouse. If I had a fire at my home or business while I was at work at the fire dept. I would have been with the first fire engine at both. As a matter of fact my wife was instructed to call 911 and say there was a fire for any emergency. I would be there in less than two minutes with four other guys.

When we opened the "cafe" it was tough getting help. I think we had five people apply. I hired four. I passed on the homeless guy who asked for money during the interview. I hired Johnny, Jermaine, Andre and Mary. Mary would be the waitress and the boys would be in the kitchen. (I use the term "boys" for all my male kitchen staff.)

Johnny, Jermaine and Andre were all related. Johnny, better known as "Man" was the obvious ring leader and thinker in the group. Jermaine, better known as, "J-Money" was the enforcer, tall, dark and covered in corn rows he was the sterotypical "gangsta". J-Money was living with Man's sister and was her baby's daddy. Andre, better known as "Dre" was Man's younger brother. He was the shy and demure one, lowest member on the totem pole. At least by the hood's standards. Man had held jobs before but the others had not. J-Money had been doing hard time for two felony convictions and Dre was getting disability money for a mysterious ailment.

These guys stayed with me until we moved to our current restaurant 30 miles away. They attempted to make the trek to the boonies when we opened but that didn't last long. Car problems and the law plagued them. In these parts there aren't too many black folks and they tend to draw attention from the local police. The last straw was when their car broke down on the way home and ended up at the "Southbound Saloon". They called the only white guy they knew to rescue them. When they told me where they were I rushed over to get them the hell out of there. The Saloon is redneck central. I wasn't worried about their safety I was worried about the law. No matter what the black dudes weren't coming out on top.

Close to four years those guys had my back. Four years! That's an eternity in their world. We became this weird little "gang". Eventually we hired their cousin Robert. Robert had just gotten out of prison and needed work. We'd been getting busier and I needed a dishwasher. Robert didn't have a nickname. He was just Robert. Not sure why, he was the hardest one of the bunch. He'd been convicted of shooting his brother five times. His brother! We'd work together for 40 hours a week, hang out in the hood after work and I'd see them when I was riding around on the fire truck. It was "our" hood. That's one of the reasons I managed to hang on to these guys for so long. When they went to work it was "the pack" or "gang" going to work. And work was in their hood. It was comfortable and safe for them. And as long as I was with them it was comfortable and safe for me. (Not unlike being on a Fire crew) I could almost sense why the gang mentality exists in the hood. It's that comfort thing. Most of Man's and J-Money's friends that I met and got to know lived in the neighborhood all their life. Most had never been outside of Milwaukee county. The anxiety of poverty, the ghetto, alcohol, the man and violence wears on you and knowing that circle of people you trust will have your back is important.

We never had trouble at our restaurant in the hood and I think a big part of that is that the boys worked there. They were also part of a larger network of "folks" who looked out for each other. They were all members of the Vice Lords. One of the two largest and most violent gangs in Milwaukee. They kept that on the DL when they were around me but I'd notice the pant leg rolled up when they'd get to work etc. They'd remove any colors or "signs" when working. Through their network the other members of the organization new not to mess up a good thing for the brothers. Pan handlers we can deal with, having connections with the real power in the neighborhood was priceless.

I've spoken with Man recently. He's still in the same hood, in the same house with the same family. Except it's grown by two since we last talked. He's been working off and on and Dre still collects social security for that mystery illness. I was relieved to learn that J-Money was in prison. I had previously looked up his criminal record online and noticed it stopped four years ago. That meant he had found God, died or gone to prison. I didn't think he found God. Being a three time loser he'll be gone for a while. It may sound weird but J-Money was a good guy. His basic human characteristics were sound. Sweet as an angel, hard working and loyal as the day is long. I miss that big dude. Unfortunately he had issues when it came to drugs and alcohol. Like many, it turned out to be his down fall.

I feel fortunate to have worked with those guys. They taught me lessons on the most basic levels. I hope they picked up something from me during the time they were with me. I take comfort that during that time none had gone back to jail, none had lost family members to violence, none abused drugs, most established a family foundation and hopefully came away with knowing a middle aged white guy they respectfully dubbed "Dawg" had their back for four years.

One of these warm summer days I'll take a ride up to Waupon and see J-Money. Bet he got fat.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

In the Trenches

I don't watch much TV and am unfamiliar with what's on these days so I'm surfing through the channels and come upon a show called, "Boss Undercover". It's a show where the CEO or President of the company is hired as an entry level employee and discovers what it's like to work in the trenches.

This episode followed the CEO of White Castle as he was hired and trained in the company bakery and pulling shifts in a unit. Bob, (I think) the CEO seemed like a nice guy. White Castle is a family company and Bob is the current family member to run the company. Probably had a privileged upbringing, good college, middle management job upon graduation and then be groomed to lead the company. (For anyone in Racine this story may sound familiar) It literally appeared as though Dave never stepped foot in a unit. He was completely inept at all the tasks he was supposed to perform. In the bakery he was tasked to package the buns. They had to toss 22,000 buns because he couldn't do it properly. I understand a CEO's job isn't packaging buns or working the drive through but you'd think anyone with any smarts could grasp the concepts.

The most interesting part of the show was what Bob discovered while working in a White Castle. He discovered that the people that work there are dedicated, proficient, smart, hard working people. Generally speaking I'd say that covers most restaurant employees. A segment of society that many people look down upon. A close knit group that's foreign to people in the real world. Most restaurant workers are goal oriented who find real life frustrating or unattainable. You sink or swim on your merritts, the purest form of work. There are two kinds of people in this world, restaurant workers and the rest. If I were to build an army I'd recruit restaurant workers. We would crush the rest of the world while they were deciding when to have the meeting. Real life people just seem lazy to me. I also find it very difficult to socialize with anyone who isn't in the business. Not only do they seem lazy to me they seem to think they're owed something, or are above doing what we do. I guess sitting on your ass in an office or cubicle makes people think they're special. Well, I guess they are.............if they tip.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Knifeforums Protoype



Devin Thomas Knifeforum's Prototype
(You can click twice for close-ups)

Mark at Chefknivestogo sent me the Devin Thomas Knifeforums prototype knife to try out and share my thoughts. This knife was conceived and designed by some folks over at the knife forums. This is the prototype of a production knife that shares the qualities of a custom. It is currently in production and will be marketed by chefknivestogo.com. A Madison, Wisconsin based internet knife merchant. The knives are being made by Devin Thomas. A highly skilled Nevada based knife maker. They're referred to as "mid tech" knives. Meaning some of the process is done by other people other than the "bladesmith". The process and standard shape help keep the cost down.

Aesthetically the knife has a serious, no nonsense look to it. The bright hazy finish on the blade contrasting nicely with the dark cocoblo handle. The only ornament on the blade is the simple "Devin" mark. The octagon handle was a pleasant surprise. I prefer "D" handles because most octagons are too small for me. The handle is large and fills my grip nicely. It's also a little taller than most octagons. A very clean and seamless junction between handle and machi as well. The spine, choil and agi are all rounded and smoothed. The look and feel of a custom. The balance point is about a 1/4 inch in front of the machi. The knife weighs in at 232 grams. It has some heft to it and is a sturdy knife. I think the knives's other measurements have been documented on the forums so I won't bother with them for now. The spine tapers to a thin flexible tip and sturdy edge.



I sharpened the knife as usual and gave it a test ride. I have several videos on my youtube channel featuring the knife. (Saltydog55252) I had a feeling this knife was going to have promise. I know Devin makes a killer knife and was confidant this one would be no different. It screamed through a tomato. I posted a video of slicing a potato and immediately after slicing a tomato and it felt no different. That gives me reason to believe edge retention will be excellent. The thicker handle and well balanced blade gave me a feeling of confidence when slicing and dicing. The blade also has enough balls to slice squash. I did a video of slicing the squash much like I did the potato but it got lost in cyber space somewhere. Using the heel portion of the blade I was able to rapidly slice the neck of a butternut squash. The results were almost identical to the potato. Many of the knives qualities remind me of my Kramer, substantial blade and handle, superb fit and finish, strong yet flexible steel and well balanced. They both also get real sharp.

I didn't take part in the discussion or design of the knife because I had no interest in it. So I'm not familiar with the details of the design. For me personally, I'd bring the tip up a little bit. Some features about the cutting edge I really like is the near flat six inches starting at the heel. There is also a secondary straight (relatively) edge about an inch from the tip. A very nice feature. It gives this fairly big knife agility.


Pictured are from top to bottom:
Bob Kramer 240mm (263mm)(W 241g)
Devin Thomas 270mm (?) (232g)
Masamoto 240mm (265mm) (171g)

The steel is AEB-L,(I think) It's a stainless steel.


L to R, Kramer, Masamoto, Thomas.

As far as performance goes, this knife is easily competing with customs costing three to ten times as much. I compared it to two of my best performers (Kramer and Masamoto) and it bested them. Yep, that's right, at this juncture I'm going to have to be honest and say it out performed both my Kramer and Masamoto. Both of which I had sharpened and ready to go for comparisons. My Mizuno wasn't sharp so I didn't compare it. That would have been interesting. It sharpened with no hassles, not leaving much steel behind and obtained a super edge.(see videos)

Botton Line, I'm going to have to get me one of these. Dollar for dollar it may be the best knife I've handled. I understand that's saying a lot.









There's that sweet spot I talked about near the tip.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Wine Dinner Photos

I didn't get the Guinea Hen or the veal. Got distracted by having to serve food.
(Click photo to zoom. You can click on it twice.)




Curried custard filled pate brisee, English peas, asparagus, frisee, lemon gastrique, sherry elixir.


Soft shell crab, blue fin tuna, baby heirloom lettuce, "French" style horseradish dressing with fennel pollen.


Foie gras torchon, puff pastry, caramelized currants, green grape syrup, Shredded potatoes.


Manadarin orange cake, chocolate ganache, berries, creme anglaise.




Some of Salty's pirates. The gentleman holding the umbrella is Brad our garde manger. He is alergic to flourescent lighting and has to continually hold the umbrella during his shift. He still manages to get it done.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Bob Kramer 9 Inch Meji

I returned the original knife I received from Bob Kramer for what I saw as a flaw in the grind. It was strictly an aesthetic issue because the knife performed beautifully. Bob immediately offered to replace it with a perfect knife. At first I declined because the knife worked so good. I was thinking, "bird in the hand". Bob pretty much insisted and I agreed. I received the new knife about two weeks later. Not only did he replace it he replaced it fast.

I assumed he was going to make me the standard 9 inch meji pattern. He didn't. He asked me what dimensions and weight I wanted. I was kinda stunned. I get to design my Bob Kramer! wOOt! Besides the grind issue the only other complaint was the shape itself. Kramer's are tall. Some people like them that way. Over the years I've gravitated to Japanese knives with narrower profiles. So I shortened the profile from 2 1/2 inches to 2 3/8 and reduced the machi an 1/8 inch to 7/8ths. I didn't want another skinny mini Japanese knife. I wanted it to be decidedly American. Plush with some meat on it's bones. I often refer to the comparison of a sport bike and Harley Davidson. The Kramer has all the bells and whistles and screams style. And it's comfy as hell. As far as weight, the original weighed in at a hefty 267 grams. With the changes I suggested it may come in at around 240 grams. Damned if Bob didn't make that thing 241 grams. After inspecting it I grabbed the scale and said to myself, "If this thing weighs 240 I'm going to shit", 241, damn impressive. I wouldn't be surprised if my scale is off a gram. 241 is still a hefty knife but both knives are balanced perfectly. Right where the machi and choil meet. It feels light in the hand and with the shorter profile is more nimble than it's predecessor. Although it is a little more flexible and will have a slight learning curve to it. It sharpened up nicely and past the tomato push test with flying colors but for some reason struggled a little on the slicing tomato test. Given how sharp I know it gets it surprised me. I think it has something to do with the learning curve. Once I get to know this knife better it's going to be stellar.
( Edit: I just realized the original Kramer was tested with the blade cutting the longest part of the tomato. A big difference. I will re-test it with the tomato facing the other way and report back)




The above video is the new Kramer in the updated tomato test. It explains alot.


The Damascus pattern is called 'flip flop ladder". One of my favorites. The handle is snakewood which I requested. I think it came out beautifuly. Bob said he liked the pattern and was keeping one for the shop. I assume it will be available for purchase. Just ask for "Salty's pattern".

I've posted some videos on my youtube channel if you want to look. There is a link in my links.

The first photos are comparison shots between the two knives. Both are compared with the same 240 Mizuno Tanrenjo, one of my favorites. It has a relatively narrow profile.

As always you can click on the photos to blow them up. You can click twice. That's why I like to post them here rather than on forums.














Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Spring Wine Dinner Menu

Sebastian's Spring Wine Dinner 2010
May 17th, 6:00 pm pre-tasting, 6:30 pm seating.

Spring Tart
Lightly curried custard filled pastry with English peas, asparagus, micro tangerine lace, lemon gastrique and double solera sherry elixer.
Rutherford Hill Rose

Fried Razor Clam with Seared Big Eye Tuna
Shaved fennel, daikon radish, petite arugula with warm anise scented vinaigrette.
Rutherford Hill Chardonnay

Breast of Guinea Hen
Caramelized ramps, herbed jus, buttered orzo with fresh thyme.
Rutherford Hill Merlot

Foie Gras Torchon
Green grape syrup, red currant compote.

Veal Tenderloin with Morels
Cage free natural Wisconsin veal served with morels ala crème with
spring chive coulis and truffled potato puree.
Rutherford Hill Cabernet Sauvignon

Chocolate Mandarin Orange Cake
Crème anglaise, caramel, fresh berries.
M. Chapoutier "Banyuls"

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Devin Thomas




Click to bring up the single image then click again to blow up.








Wow is all I can say.
It's called a feather pattern for a reason.