A friend of PRK, Jack Cheng, a writer and teacher who lives in Newton, just took a course on knives and had this to share. He says he only uses four knives in his kitchen; the rest are just for show…
One of the biggest differences between home cooks and professionals is in the sharpness of their knives. For over 200 years, Boston area cooks — including Julia Child and Ming Tsai — have brought their knives to Stoddard’s for sharpening.
But there’s no secret to knife sharpening, or at least none that David Marks is keeping. The third generation owner of Stoddard’s is offering evening classes on knife sharpening. I went to the first class.
David began with a brief history of Stoddard’s (they have the fifth US Federal Tax ID ever issued) and an informative discussion on knives and how to maintain them. Then we had some hands-on trials with our own knives, using sharpening steels and whetstones. All the while David, business partner Jeff and assistant Anthony gave advice, offered demonstrations and answered many, many questions.
Some of the questions they answered:
What are the four knives you need in your kitchen?
How often do you need to sharpen your knives?
Should you buy the Ultimate Edge sharpening steel with microcrytalline bonded diamonds?
What are the dimples on knives for?
The answers to the latter two questions give a sense of the class and Stoddard’s, in general.
After David explained that the Ultimate Edge steels were better than older models, he urged us not to buy them. “If you were starting over from scratch, I’d advise you to buy the Ultimate Edge,” he told us. But there’s no reason to get rid of a perfectly fine steel that you already have. As Anthony explained to me, Stoddard’s is not about selling planned obsolescence – they sell products of quality and value.
As for those dimples? Those are “Granton dimples,” named after the British knife maker that patented those shallow concavities. The patent has since run out and those dimples appear on all sorts of knives, but not always on the cutting edge where they make the blade sharper without weakening the structure of the entire knife. David and Jeff told us about watching a worker at the Granton plant applying each of the dimples by hand; this is why they are not completely regular on Granton knives. And, by the way, Julia Child declared the Granton carving knife her absolute favorite. Ask a question about dimples at Stoddards and you get stories informed by their long relationship with their suppliers and customers.
I’d recommend the class to anyone interested in cooking, although I will tell you a secret about Stoddard’s: if you don’t take the class, but just stop by and spend 30 minutes with David or Jeff, you’ll get an education.
Stoddard’s 360 Watertown Street, Newton, MA 02458 617-244-4187