A chef’s personal knife collection is like a woman’s closet or a skier’s quiver—every piece has a purpose.
“I think you want all your knives to be heavy and sturdy, with a knife handle that fits your hand,” says Kelly Liken. “It is a lot of personal preference—like trying on a pair of shoes. You just really want to see how a knife feels to you, rather than just buying in blindly.”
Private chef Jason Harrison of Red Maple Catering provided us access to his knife collection (pictured here). He said his favorite knives are those made by Bob Kramer, an acclaimed knifesmith in the United States. Take a look at the knives from left to right, and read more about them from some of the valley’s top chefs:
Cleaver knives are designed for chopping. If you’re having trouble getting through something with another style of knife, try this one.
“Just about every culture that uses knives has their own version of a cleaver,” shares Liken. “It’s really useful when you have to do the messy jobs, like breaking down a chicken and cutting through a bone.”
2 KRAMER BY SHUN SMALL PARING KNIFE
This small paring knife is designed for small delicate work. The size of the knife makes it easier to control, and the home cook might like to work with this because it’s not as intimidating as a large chef knife. You can use it without a cutting board (if you’re careful), like when peeling or cutting an apple you hold in your hand, for instance.
“This is great for more delicate handwork,” explains Riley Romanin, chef-owner of Hooked and Revolution in Beaver Creek. “It’s nice to use a smaller knife that you can control a little better.”
3 KRAMER BY HENKELS LONG PARING KNIFE
Use this knife for meat and fish work and for medium slicing jobs. This can be a useful all purpose utility knife in lieu of a paring knife, or for the home cook, could be used instead of a paring knife or chef knife.
“This knife is the step between a classic chef knife and a paring knife,” says David Gutowksi, executive chef of Grouse Mountain Grill in Beaver Creek. “We’ll use it for slicing stuff—like if you have a lamb loin or something like it that is not a huge chunk of meat but it’s a nice knife for slicing. Sometimes I hold stuff in my hand with it and sometimes I use a cutting board.”
4 MIYABI UTILITY KNIFE
As a small all-purpose knife, Harrison says, “this piece can really do it all. The fine tip makes it easier to work with small boned food items like chicken or duck.”
“It’s thin, and comes to a really small point,” Gutowksi says of the knife, “so you can get in there and move it around to get all the meat off.”
5 JAPANESE DEBA VEGETABLE KNIFE
This is your best friend for prepping veggies. The flat blade (versus curved) is not made to slice, but to rapidly chop, chop, chop. “This is your workhorse knife,” says Liken. “You can do lots of chopping and can really get some speed going with it.”
The single-sided blade on this knife creates fine cuts on vegetables, making it easy to slice straight lines.
6 11” KRAMER BY SHUN
This knife is made of super hard steel, so it keeps an edge well. It’s a classic chef knife, but compared to the similar chef knife to the right in the photo, this tool is a little heavier and ideal for chopping.
“We all carry one around and use it for everything,” Romanin shares. “It’s such a versatile tool and is great for doing every job in the kitchen.”
7 11” KRAMER BY HENKELS CHEF KNIFE
Think fine slicing with this version of a chef knife.
“This is one of my four Kramer knives,” Harrison shares. “They are heavy, but super thin blades, so they are good for heavier duty tasks that still need to be accurate—like slicing meats.”
8 12” MISONO HANDMADE CHEF KNIFE
Harrison received this knife as a birthday gift. He says it feels very light and nimble for its size, and that it’s his go-to for most day-to-day tasks. The round indents, known as scallops, on the side of the blade make fine slicing and dicing easier, especially with sticky food items like cheese, raw fish or chicken.
“It releases the protein,” says Romanin of the scalloped edge, “anything that would get stuck to the side. It really helps so you don’t get that airtight lock and what you’re cutting falls off the knife.”
9 MESSERMEISTER SINGLE-SIDED SUSHI KNIFE
If you’re looking for a tool that’s like a hot knife cutting through butter—this is it. It’s most often used for fish slicing, to cut sushi and sashimi. “It’s a really straight cut, so as you’re slicing fish it won’t ever veer from side to side—it’s really effective that way,” explains Romanin.
As Liken recommends, it’s wise to give every knife a try before adding it to your collection. There’s nothing wrong with purchasing a pre- arranged set of blades as a home cook, but as your culinary skills are sharpened, consider investing in knives that will really make the cut mag in the kitchen.