Sunday, November 23, 2008

culinary pleasure: professional knife sharpening

"Get a knife that's balanced and weighted for you. There's no reason you shouldn't get fitted for a knife the way you get fitted for . . . a dress, a suit, or a pair of skis."
~ Tom Douglas, Seattle chef and restaurateur.

Nestled beneath the elevated train Green Line on Halsted and Lake Streets sits Northwestern Cutlery.
It has been rightly called "The Candy Store For Cooks".

This gem of a store is in a part of Chicago where restaurateurs used to do all their shopping for meat, fish and produce. Although it has an out-of-the-way location, it is easy to reach by the elevated train from most anywhere in the city and if you drive there, it has a super-convenient parking lot right next door.

I cannot think of a better recommendation for this store than that all of the restaurants, chefs, culinary students and meat markets in the surrounding west loop area come to Northwestern Cutlery for knife sharpening. Their prices are a bargain as they charge $3.50 for each knife.

I come here a few times a year to get my Le Cordon Bleu Wüsthof knifes expertly sharpened ”while I wait”. But for me, a consummate lover of all things related to food, I also come here to drool over and purchase a few of the very reasonably priced cookware, knives, kitchen gadgets and culinary supplies as often as my budget allows.

The carry a mind-blowing selection of the finest cutlery, at prices better than I have seen surfing the net for bargains.
The wide variety of knives includes Global, Henckels, Wüsthof, Mac, Shun, Masahiro, Kershaw Wasabi, and Messermeister. They also have a wall that is chock-full of colorful Victorinox Swiss Army knives.

They have the best prices on a great selection if cooks tools and other unique and often hard-to-find kitchen items (like fish spatulas and real crepe pans.)

I also found the best prices on my favorite, Le Creuset. I love the colorful enameled cast-iron cookware that comes from the foundry in Fresnoy-Le-Grand, France, since 1925.
This cookware has a worldwide reputation for its cooking excellence and the pieces are made to last a lifetime. They are safe for use in refrigerators and with all heat sources; gas, electric solid or radiant plates, vitroceramic glass, induction, and ranges fired by gas, oil, coal or wood.
I know where I am going to spend my “money from Santa” this year…

Northwestern Cutlery also supplies the culinary students at nearby Kendall College with their gear. They have a separate room for Chef Wear: chef jackets, shoes, pants, aprons, toques and hats.

When I arrived to have my Wüsthof knife-set sharpened there were several chefs and culinary students in line ahead of me. However, for a kitchen tool aficionado like me, there was so much to see so the 20-minute wait flew by in what seemed like seconds.
After my knives had their beauty treatment, I spent a great deal of time asking questions and talking to the very personable and very knowledgeable staff.

Eddie packing up my "babies" in their knive case after their beauty treatment and ready for Holiday slicing and dicing...

In particular, a man named Eddie, was more than helpful and very patient answering my questions on knife maintenance and care. He has worked at Northwestern for many years, assisting and educating customer and skillfully sharpening knifes for customers form celebrity chefs to humble home cooks like me.

He was also so kind to take out some of the most expensive knives in the store for me to photograph. Eddie gave me a bit of history about how and where each knife was forged and manufactured. These knives were gorgeous works of art, hand-crafted artifacts form another era but yet right here in front of me.

This kind of customer service and attention is rare today and was very welcoming and welcomed. I know from past experience and from local chefs that this is the norm at Northwestern Cutlery.

If you think Williams Sonoma or Sur La Table is a cook's mecca, here is a place where you can shop along side people who cook for a living and know where to find value and quality.

If you live in the Chicagoland area or planning a trip here soon and are crazy about food and kitchen tools, Northwestern Cutlery is well worth a visit. It is a great place to find a gift or a stocking-stuffer for the foodies on your Holiday gift list.
For those of you that live elsewhere in the foodie universe, they also have a marvelous website so you can visit from the comfort of your home.

Northwestern Cutlery
810 W Lake Street
Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 421-3666

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