Everyday Cooking

The Essential Knives I Learned About From ‘Kitchen Confidential’

This Japanese brand is light, sharp, and loved by professionals and home cooks alike.

February 14, 2020
Photo by Rocky Luten

The late, great Anthony Bourdain became a household name at the turn of the millenium thanks to his memoir, Kitchen Confidential, which was published in 2000, and has been in print ever since. The collection of essays is famous for its strong opinions about everything from garlic (“Too lazy to peel fresh? You don't deserve to eat garlic.”) to vegetarians (“Vegetarians are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit.”). And, of course, knives.

Like many culinary authorities, Bourdain believed you don’t need a lot of knives to do a lot of cooking. His bare essentials included a chef’s knife, paring knife, offset serrated knife, and flexible boning knife. (And unless you’re breaking down animal parts on a regular basis, you can skip that last one and manage just fine.)

When it comes to brand, Bourdain had advice about that, too. In Kitchen Confidential, he wrote:

Most of the professionals I know have for years been retiring their Wusthofs and replacing them with lightweight, easy-to-sharpen and relatively inexpensive vanadium steel Global knives, a very good Japanese product that has—in addition to its many other fine qualities—the added attraction of looking really cool.

At the time, Global was relatively young. It came on the scene in 1985—or, 171 years after Wusthof. Mino Tsuchida founded the Master Cutlery Corporation and hired Komin Yamada to design the first Global products with samurai swords in mind. While Western-style knives are sharpened with a beveled edge, Global knives take a straighter, pontier approach, which, as Smitten Kitchen blogger Deb Perelman explained it to NY Mag, “holds a sharp edge very well.”

Our senior editor Eric Kim, who was gifted a Global chef’s knife for his birthday years ago, says it’s one of his favorite kitchen tools for that very reason. “It’s so much lighter and sharper than anything I’ve ever owned,” he told me. “And it’s still my go-to knife today, even though I have never, ever sharpened it. Not just because I’m lazy, but because it’s still that sharp.”

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Emma was the food editor at Food52. She created the award-winning column, Big Little Recipes, and turned it into a cookbook in 2021. These days, she's a senior editor at Bon Appétit, leading digital cooking coverage. Say hello on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.


gracemiller November 12, 2022
Like many culinary authorities, Bourdain believed you don’t need a lot of knives to do a lot of cooking. His bare essentials included a chef’s knife, paring knife, offset serrated knife, and flexible boning knife. Almazan Knives and was very glad to work with it and satisfied with my purchase from Almazan Knives.https://bit.ly/3VKHtc4
Ladyjo February 17, 2020
I love my Global knives and have a number of other Henckels and Wusthofs which I don't even reach for any longer. When I was in the Langouille store in Paris, the staffer agreed that Global is indeed his brand of choice over the competitors. However, my Globals definitely benefit from sharpening. I got a sharpener meant for them with ceramic wheels. Fill the small container and set on the sharpener base. Draw the blade through the ceramic wheels for 10-12 passes on each of 2 settings and you're done. I do this about once a month and they're like brand new. I have never needed to have them professionally sharpened in 15+ years.
SandraH February 17, 2020
I love my Global knives too. The first two I bought a few years ago do need sharpening now but they (two sizes of chef’s knives) are the ones I reach for all the time. I liked my Wusthofs very much, bought those fifteen years ago and still use several (bread knife, tomato knife, a paring knife), but a few years ago, I tried a Japanese steel blade, fell in love with Global and how they felt in my hand. Ended up buying more Global knives almost a year ago during an amazing sale and their sharpness, form and ease of use make me giddy!
Masa February 16, 2020
I don't know what your editor is doing, but mine *have* needed sharpening over the years. But, I would still buy them over again (and, I actually have, since one actually broke).