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 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.