I will admit up front that half the reason I wrote this column is because I consider my knife skills and knowledge to be somewhat lacking given what I do. That and I’ve walked by Budd Solaegui and his Perfect Edge mobile sharpening truck at the Leucadia Farmers Market for the past few years and there are always people there waiting to hand them over to an expert. It was time to tell Budd’s story and get his expert advice on this most essential part of the kitchen experience.
What is your background and what led you to this career?
My father owned a meat market and my brothers and I worked with him. Ten years ago my brother, the brain child of Perfect Edge Sharpening, invited me to view his company in San Francisco and I opened the doors to my mobile vehicle in the Central Valley and the Central Coast eventually bringing it to San Diego with my family. Farmers markets are my favorite opportunity to meet people, teach, get in touch with communities and build my business. They aren’t so much like work, I thoroughly enjoy them, and I’m looking forward to being a part of them for the rest of my life. I’m at the Leucadia Farmers Market on the first Sunday of the month and drop off service at the Ace Hardware in Encinitas on 101, the first Tuesday of each month.
Let’s “cut” to the chase here … pun intended. How important is it for the home cook to keep their knives sharp and in good condition?
Safety is the most important reason for sharp knives. A dull knife will slip off of something tough, an onion or bell pepper for example, and into the hand that’s holding it. A sharp knife can be controlled. A dull knife needs excessive force to cut, if there is a slip, again, loss of control coupled with inertia and serious injury can result.
On the flip side, a sharp knife is like a sports car — it’s powerful and fun to use.
As a practicality there is something called “bloom,” how long food can be stored without turning brown. Dull knives crush through vegetable cells, leaving a damaged surface, sharp knives do not, and hence vegetables last much longer in storage.
Your mobile sharpening truck is at the Leucadia Farmers Market on a regular basis. How often would you suggest folks bring their knives by for sharpening?
I have people that bring knives every six months to a year. The knives are usually sharper than they were before I sharpened them, but once people learn the joy of using a perfect edge it becomes a necessity.
What knives would you consider to be essential to any decent home cook’s collection?
I suggest that a home chef have two or three knives minimum. A chef’s knife or vegetable knife that they can chop and use for utility work. A paring knife for hand held work, peeling, detailing; and if they serve bread, an offset serrated knife. More than these, slicing knives for roast beef or turkey, boning knives and of course sashimi knives for thin cutting fish are all useful and fun to use.
Are there brands that you would consider to be great quality and somewhat affordable?
For me and a growing majority of my chefs, light, thin Japanese knives are the preference. The quality of the steel enables me to make them razor-like. Effortless, thin slicing, gratifying performance — some very beautiful. I carry an entry level 8-inch Japanese chef’s knife for $65 bucks, and beautiful Damascus blades can be had for about $110 to $130.
You have some of San Diego’s best restaurants as clients. What are some of your favorite kitchens to work with and are there chefs whose knife skills are particularly impressive?
I love seeing young chefs going on to success at popular restaurants after learning the secrets from great chefs like William Bradley, executive chef of the Addison at Grand Del Mar. Andrew Bachelier of Cucina Enoteca in Solana Beach is one such chef. Knife skills are an important part of what chefs learned to create, and their knives are as important to them as a fine brush is to a painter, or a guitar or violin to a musician.
I’ve always wanted to improve my knife skills. Is there a school or a class you would suggest to take my skills to the next level?
Skills can be learned by careful repetition, like anything else, if it looks easy, it probably took time to learn it. My favorite book on knife skills is the “Zwilling J.A. Henckels Complete Book of Knife Skills.” It’s about $30 bucks but it is 10 knife classes in one. My website has a two-minute video on the maintenance of a knife-edge.
For more information on Budd’s schedule and services, go to www.2sharpen.com.
Lick the Plate can now be heard on KPRi, 102.1 FM Monday – Friday during the 7pm hour. David Boylan is founder of Artichoke Creative and Artichoke Apparel, an Encinitas based marketing firm and clothing line. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (858) 395-6905.