It is no big secret that the hottest-selling kitchen knives in gourmet and foodie circles are Japanese-made “gyutos,” which are basically an Asian interpretation of the traditional European chef knife with heavy French influences. Most makers offer both the time-honored Japanese-style “wa” wood handles and “yo” grips (western pattern full tangs with scales). It almost goes without saying that “in” foodies usually claim to prefer the lighter wa handled Asian versions. Frankly, folks in this country can be a little on the snobbish side about the differences in knives and often have little reason to choose one handle over the other beyond thinking it makes them look more expert on the subject.
So along comes Mark Richmond owner of the web company “Chef Knives to Go” and upsets their entire apple cart by designing and having the old line American cutlery company Lamson and Goodnow (making knives since 1837) produce his own personal line of wa handled gyutos. Named the “Richmond Addict,” this 240-mm knife is offered in both the Japanese “D” wa grip and in an octagon rosewood handle. The blade’s steel is good old American 154CM stainless. Suggested retail $169.95, and for an added $20 Mark offers the knife with a hand-tuned edge from a number of sharpening specialists.
East Meets West
Japanese cutlery lovers are fond of calling their ultra thin, light weight gyutos “lasers,” as in they cut like one. To be totally upfront about this, the Richmond Addict is definitely not a laser. I think the best way to describe it is as a hybrid between western and eastern. Its wa handle certainly makes it lighter than the average European chef knife, but the blade is both wider (2.13 inches), thicker and more rockered along the edge than the currently “in” Japanese gyutos. Many foodies have a real problem with this curved belly on the edge, as they have completely given up on the classic rocking cuts taught in all western cooking schools. Instead, they promote the “push cut,” a technique that favors narrower, thinner and ultra sharp blades. Personally, it all depends on what I’m cutting, and I would rather have a blade that can serve as a general-purpose tool than one that is too focused on a single approach to cooking. If you exclude sushi and sashimi, just how much Japanese cuisine do most of us eat anyway? I’m guessing it’s far down the list from Chinese, Thai, Italian, Mexican, Indian, French, or, dare I say it, everyday American!