Here at Restaurant Hospitality we're always hopeful the books we select for review will be of interest to a broad portion of our readership. We know no single book can appeal to everyone, but we've found one this month that comes as close to this ideal as we're likely to get. It's An Edge in the Kitchen: The Ultimate Guide to Kitchen Knives — How to Buy Them, Keep Them Razor Sharp, and Use Them Like A Pro (William Morrow, $34.95). Even though RH readers qualify as pros, who among you couldn't do a better job in one of these areas, if not all three?
Author Chad Ward certainly has his readership pegged. “Most of us are woefully uninformed about our kitchen knives,” he says. “We are afraid to spend too much. We are intimidated by our knives when they are sharp, annoyed by them when they are dull, and quietly ashamed that we don't use them well and can't keep them sharp.” Amen.
Ward goes into a tremendous level of detail to help his readers remedy these near-universal failings. The first four chapters — fully 100 pages of this 230-page book — cover the multiple considerations you should make when purchasing a set of knives for professional use.
Such as? For one thing, you probably don't want to buy a matched set of knives that comes in its own block, or even own more than a really good 10-inch chef's knife and paring knife. What you want is the best, or at least the best you can afford. “Mismatched handles in the knife block or kitchen drawer are a sign of a comfortable and assured cook,” Ward counsels.
Next comes a single chapter on essential knife skills, but it's followed by a bound-in 48-page bonus section that features full-page pictures that illustrate the key skills he's just written about plus some basic sharpening tips.
The level of detail about sharpening escalates dramatically in the remaining seven chapters of the book. So thorough are Ward's discussions that the motivated student could learn enough to open a profitable sideline knife sharpening business just by adhering to the precepts put forward in this book.
For example, after telling you why it's simpler and smarter to buy cheap serrated knives and throw them away once they become too dull, Ward soldiers on to present four methods of sharpening them for those so inclined.
Perhaps the most valuable information for the casual knife-user is Ward's tour through the many possible knife sharpening tools and aids you might buy. He goes in-depth on how to use these various devices and delineates how each works if you use it correctly. He even tells how you can create a low-budget sharpening system using an old mouse pad and sandpaper.
This book is an ideal gift for up-and-comers and it might convince less-than-concerned employees to improve their skills. Hey, even well-seasoned veterans can probably use a refresher course. All of them will profit from reading this one, likely to become the standard reference work on the topic.