Treasured: Jonathan Waxman
Originally published on Food and Wine, October 2013. Interview and photographs by Melanie Dunea.
Jonathan Waxman: "At the end of a TV shoot for Symon's Suppers in 2012, Michael Symon handed me this leather satchel filled with knives as a gesture of thanks and friendship. Some chefs love each other and we have an undivided love. So this leather case represents Michael and my brotherly love, but it's also about respect for each other as professionals."
"If the building was burning down, I'd take this case and gin. I'd carry gin over my one shoulder and this over my other."
"I don't get attached to one knife, because if you get attached to one knife, it gets dull, in every respect. Just like how a tennis player loves using a new racket, I love using a new knife. If I were really rich, I would only ever use new knives. Seriously, I just want ones sent straight from the factory. The engineers at the factory do a perfect job of sharpening it and the first few times you use it it's like 'Oh my God.' Everything is perfect."
"This was a present. I like big knives and this is an 11-inch knife. When I first started off I only used German knives—Japanese knives were unknown to me, they were too scary."
"How much have I ever paid for a knife? Honestly nothing. They've all been given to me. And you know this thing about Italians: If someone gives you a knife, you have to give them money, otherwise it's bad luck."
Three best tips for caring for beautiful, high-quality knives:
1. Buy the most expensive knife you can. They are always better. And go to a proper knife store like Korin and buy the tools to take care of it—like my leather bag. Leather won't dull your knives. Wood is better than plastic but leather is best.
2. Protect the tips. My wife uses my knives all the time and I come home and they have nicks and divots in them and I ask what happened?! Japanese knives are brittle so don't sharpen them often.
3. Learn how to sharpen on a cheap knife. Then do it right on an expensive one. All my guys grind their knives on stones all day long and that's just bad for the knife.