Cutting edge


These imported Japanese knives live up to the hype.

Mac the Knife: These imported Japanese knives live up to the hype.

I’m a sucker for a good a good sales pitch. As a kid, I loved listening to the pitchmen at the annual San Diego County Fair hawk their wares…juicers, blenders, Ginsu knives–you name it, they sold it. TV shopping channels and informercials have much the same appeal (I was seriously tempted by a cheap plastic caulking tool on TV last night), and the words “but wait, there’s more” are oddly hypnotic. Of course, I want more. It takes some willpower to ignore that siren song.

But was a carnival-like pitch at a trade show that led me to my favorite knife. As I trolled expo aisles chockablock with gourmet chocolate, fancy cookware, and food commodities marketers promoting the culinary virtues of kiwifruit and hazelnuts, I noticed a crowd gathered around a table, where a salesman enthusiastically extolled the virtues of the Mac knife. It’s imported from Japan, which produces some of the world’s best cutlery, and is the new favorite knife of such gastronomic heavy hitters as Thomas Keller and Eric Ripert.  

“Here, give it a try,” the salesman said, when I worked my way up to the table. He handed me a santoku knife, a tomato, and a potato.

It was lovely to hold, light and well balanced. It fit perfectly in the palm of my hand. It sliced through the tender tomato without mangling the fruit. It made short work of the denser spud, too.

“That’s nice,” I said, handing it back. “But how does it hold its edge? My Wustof doesn’t hold its edge at all.”

“You won’t have that problem with these knives,” he promised, unsurprisingly. He pointed out the knife’s thin blade and slender spine, noting that it helped the knife hold its edge.

I was hooked, and a small trade show discount sealed the deal. I ordered a 6 1/2-inch Mac Mighty santoku knife. It retails for about $110, comparable to other high-quality knives, but you could certainly pay a lot more; a similar-size Shun Ken Onion, for example, is almost twice as expensive.

Two weeks later, my little cutter arrived, and I’ve loved it ever since. It stays sharp, as promised, and its agile quality serves me well. Recently, I decided it needed a friend, so I picked up a 10-inch dimpled Mac chef’s knife, which, thanks to its light heft and perfect balance, is easy for me to wield. It cost about $100. Needless to say, the Wustofs are gone.

I’ve rarely seen Mac knives in retail stores (except for the gift shop at the Culinary Institute of America/Greystone), but you can find them easily online. I promise.