Tools of the Trade

Jiro Gave His Apprentice a Knife Sharp Enough to Shave a Baby’s Face

April 5, 2017 Home : Eats By Photo by Daniel Krieger
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Daisuke Nakazawa, former apprentice to Jiro Ono (yes, Jiro Dreams of Sushi Jiro), is one of New York’s preeminent sushi chefs. His namesake restaurant, Sushi Nakazawa, serves omakase in the Edomae style, sourcing fish from local waters to ensure unmatched freshness, and incorporating the very same tamagoyaki (egg custard) that sparked tears upon receipt of Jiro’s approval into each meal.

Nakazawa’s work is grounded in a reverence for his ingredients — fine-tuned slicing techniques. As such, highly specialized tools that facilitate precise cuts are of utmost importance. In Nakazawa’s case, his knives track the progression of his career — one celebrating the start of his apprenticeship nearly two decade ago, the other a gift from the master sushi chef who helped him to get to where he is now.

Aritsugu Yanagi

“A yanagi is the type of knife used for cutting sashimi and sushi. [Kyoto-based knife maker Aritsugu] is renowned for making many different styles of knives. I received this knife at the age of twenty to celebrate my first apprenticeship. I used it for sashimi and sushi for nineteen years, but now I mainly use it for fish prep — filleting, removing bloodlines and bones.”

Ubukeya Yanagi

“Another slicer for sashimi and sushi. Ubukeya is a company out of a Tokyo that specializes in hand-crafted knives. Every knife they make is made by hand — no stamping steel templates. Ubukeya translates to ‘baby hair’ because the knives are so sharp you could shave a baby’s face [with them]. This was given to me by Jiro five years ago, when I left for Seattle. It’s my mainstay when taking care of the sushi bar.”

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Steel hardness impacts how well a blade can hold an edge. But the more durable option isn’t necessarily the better one. Read the Story

Emily Singer

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