On a recent trip home to visit family, I found myself unceremoniously called into service in the kitchen, planning and executing a menu of sangria and small bites for 80 odd guests my parents had invited over for an afternoon. Luckily, there was less grumbling than you might think, as it is not often I have the opportunity to work in a well-equipped, spacious kitchen with views of the Tetons. One of the highlights of the day and a half I spent prepping for the party was discovering my mother had recently taken possession of a set of my grandfather's old knives, some of the largest, most unwieldy looking instruments I have seen in a kitchen.
See where the stars cook up their favorite dishes in Epicurious.com's Celebrity Kitchen Tours!
Oddly enough, something clicked the first time I sliced through a loin of pork using what must have been a 12" chef's knife, and, for the rest of my time out west, while in the kitchen, I rarely strayed from that knife. It might have been the sense of power it gave me, the leverage it provided. Maybe it just had a very sharp blade. Or perhaps, and this is more probable, I simply appreciated that feeling of being somehow closer to my grandfather, sharing this knife in common.
For a chef, a good knife is the most valuable of instruments. Like an artist's brush, a writer's pen, a soloist's piano. There are those that will help you accomplish the task at hand, and those that, with a little direction and some basic technique, will give you a greater sense of power, possibility, and precision while helping to elevate your craft to the next level. I have to admit, I am quite attached to the 8" Wusthof Chef's knife that got me through culinary school, but I am always on the lookout to add to my own personally curated collection.
Among the oldest companies in the world, German-base Zwilling J.A. Henckels has long had a reputation for quality when it comes to cutlery, but with the launch of the Twin 1731 Line, they have truly outdone themselves and created a set of knives extraordinary both in design and innovation. Available exclusively from Sur la Table, the super luxe, limited edition knives were designed in collaboration with Milan-based Matteo Thun, a designer, but first and foremost, an architect. Stylish and sleek, the knives feature blades forged from high-performance steel honed to a lasting razor-sharp edge. The same steel was pioneered for use in both aviation and space travel, and this is the first time it has been used in consumer cutlery.
Having had the opportunity to test one of the knives (thinly slicing two cucumbers, perfectly mincing one onion, and cubing a thickly skinned squash), I can say with assurance that they really do feel like an extension of the human hand, and that the form, while beautiful in its own right, is truly dictated by function. Smooth, oiled Makassar ebony handles, a sloped wedge shape, and a gleaming, perfectly balanced blade will no doubt look lovely displayed on many marble counter tops in "professional" showcase kitchens, but these carefully considered design elements also ensure that the knives fit comfortably in the hand and are capable of making easy and safe work of any task to which they are set.
As you can imagine, I was not allowed to pack up my grandfather's knives and bring them home to New York, but that only leaves more space (in my kitchen and my heart) for the Twin 1731 knives, available individually or as a set (from $300). Packaged in their own calfskin sheaths, the knives aren't cheap, but if cooking is your craft, they just might be the inspiration and means to your next culinary masterpiece. Consider them in the company of the Kolinsky sable brush, the Montblanc fountain pen, the Steinway & Sons Grand. And just think, if they last another 277 years, you might have the beginning of a culinary heirloom?
Heather Tyree joined Epicurious after attending the Institute of Culinary Education and working in the renowned kitchens of New York 's Daniel and Perry St. Born in New York , Tyree grew up mainly abroad, both in Europe and Asia , where she acquired not only a permanent sense of wanderlust but a great curiosity for and love of other cultures and cuisines. Before deciding to pursue her lifelong interest in all things food related, she studied History at Yale and survived a two-and-a-half-year stint in finance. In her free time she enjoys staying on top of the local New York restaurant scene, closing down bars with her open mike performances, and hosting ambitious dinner parties where everyone ends up in her minuscule Manhattan kitchen.
MORE FROM EPICURIOUS.COM:
Recipes & Menus
Epicurious.com's portfolio of dishes for all seasons, cuisines and occasions
The Epicurious Editors' Blog
Food News and Views From All Over
Delicious menu guides for the busy work week
Epicurious Technique Videos
See better approaches to preparing your meals
Assorted galleries featuring pictures and recipes from Epicurious.com