Last winter, I made a skeptical comment about the above knife over to Chow. A few months later I got an email from the knifemaker:
Hi, just came across your post on Chow.com from 4.24. I'd very much
like to show you these knives in person and address some of your
assumptions. They are by no means for everyone,
but they are coming from a place of experience in food and design.
Anytime after this next Monday. Just give a shout.
This is, make no mistake, a big knife. It weighs more than twice as much as the 8" Wusthoff which is my regular utility knife. A side-by-side comparison also shows that the configuration of the MKS is different. My concern about the bike grip handle, which is what spurred the initial comment, turned out to be unfounded. One could, if one chose, hold the knife by the handle as if it were attached to the handlebar of an Schwinn, but you'd have no more control than if you grabbed any knife thus. But a standard chef's grip is comfortable -- the bike grip looks cool, and does the job as well as a more conventional grip.
These knives certainly look cool, but for the hefty price tags, they
had better be more than flair for the on-beyond-Design-Within-Reach
set, and they are. If you imagine a continuum that begins with the
crappy Ginsu style stamped and microserrated knife you had in college, and continues to the Henkels/Wusthofs/Globals you get for being a monogamous heterosexual,
the MKS is the next stage. This has its upside and its downside. The
Ginsu requires no maintenance, in fact cannot be sharpened, and
delivers a consistently mediocre cut. The Crate and Barrel stratum of
knives cut better, but require steeling and occasional sharpening. The
MKS blade is actually softer than a Wusthoff, which means it gets
duller faster than the Wusthof or whatever.
The good news is that it also gets sharper faster. Big Red Chef came
in a roll with a diamond steel and a strop, and the difference these
make between sharpenings is dramatic. The steel works like any steel,
but the MKS responds to it more quickly than a harder knife would. The
strop, which I had not used before, looks just like the strop a barber
uses, and has a similar function. After steeling, you can see the tiny
wire bead created by steeling come off on the leather. The MKS
outperforms Wusthoffs, et al, but requires more TLC.
The minimal TLC of steeling and stropping is worth the effort. The
size of the knife made me think initially I'd save the Big Red Chef for
when I needed to lop a bar of iron in half to impress some Saracens,
Richard the Lionhearted steez, but I've found the knife such a
consistent pleasure to use that I find myself using it even for things
like peeling a head's worth of garlic cloves. The length and the
balance of the knife makes it like having two knives in your hand at
once -- closer to the handle, the depth of the blade gives you the
power to dismantle a whole pig, while closer to the tip, you have the
finesse to bisect a bunch of cherry tomatoes for a salad.
As Simha confided to me off the bat, these are not for everyone.
However, if David Kamp is to be believed, there are many such cooks, and I imagine they would cherish this knife.