A rant in the form of observations and questions.
When I was apprenticed to a chef some three and a half decades ago, I remember being particularly impressed by his rigorous maintenance and sharpening of his knives. I do not recall that he ever mentioned brand names of his knives; only that he constantly emphasized the importance of sharpening and maintenance of a cook's most-used tool.
When I moved on to other jobs at other restaurants, every kitchen was equipped with a Norton tri-stone that every cook was taught to use, and which every cook used with some regularity.
But more and more I've noticed over the past few years that kitchen workers (be they recent culinary school grads or chefs with 10+ years experience) are more concerned with the brand stamped on the blade than the state of the edge on the blade. I can no longer count the number of times a new-hire (anyone from prep cook to new sous chef) will walk into the kitchen, unpack his knife kit, proudly proclaim that he only uses 4-Stars (or Grand Prix or whatever) because they are the best knives on the planet, and then proceed to use his knives to smash a tomato, get stuck half-way through a potato, or slip off the outside of an onion. And I've been in kitchens that either had no sharpening apparatus whatsoever, or it was stuck under other unused equipment in a corner somewhere.
So, what's happened? Do culinary schools no longer teach sharpening as part of their knife skills classes? Do they even have knife skills classes? Is this obsession with brand name and neglect of sharpening and maintenance the result of advertising, coupled with laziness? Is the Food Network to blame?(You'll never see Mario Batali or Bobby Flay sharpen <u>their</u> knives!) Has the culture become so "disposal-oriented" that there is no longer any concern with maintenance and up-keep of anything?
I can understand Suzie Homemaker not knowing or caring about keeping her kitchen cutlery in tip-top working order, and for her there are micro-serrated, never-sharpen, dump-in-the-dishwasher lines of knives. All well and good. But I'm talking about men and women who make their living using knives as their primary tool 4, 6, 8+ hours a day who work with knives that are not nearly as sharp as the plastic knives we send out with to-go orders!
Anybody with any theories, observations, or comments?