Some chefs trace their cooking histories through restaurant reviews, passing food trends, or the chef bosses whose abuse they suffered over the years. Chef Ed Cotton of Sotto 13 in New York City sees his past in the knives he's kept over time. Here, he shares the five most special knives that remain with him still:
In 1997, I got my F. Dick boning knife in the original knife kit that was issued when I arrived at the Culinary Institute of America. I still remember the day when I picked up my new knife set; I thought I was in heaven. The handle is made out of hard plastic, and now the blade is thin and frail and tired looking, but it was once a thick, full size blade that I used in meat fabricating class to cut through sides of beef and to cube beef chuck for stews. It was never a very good knife, but when you're 18 years old and the CIA gives you something like this, you think it's the best. From $15; madcowcutlery.com.
I received my Forschner knife during my employment at the Bellagio Hotel in 1998, a special time in my career, cooking for celebrities and the “who’s who” in the entertainment world. I was young and starstruck, and it was my very first sous chef job, working for Todd English, right out of college. The knife has a large brown wooden handle, and it’s pretty clunky and long; it almost reminds me of a sword. When I got this knife it thought it was the best knife ever, and I used it for everything, including slicing through ribeyes and chickens for people like Siegfried & Roy and Tom Jones. From $20; swissknifeshop.com.
I got my Glestain slicer knife from a dear friend, Olivier Muller. He was heading to Japan and I gave him a few dollars and asked him to surprise me with a knife. This is what he brought back. I've been using it since 2003, and it’s still one of my go to knives. I was using this knife to slice lamb saddles for a big event with Daniel Boulud when Alain Ducasse came over to nibble on a piece of the scraps. Every time I use this knife, it reminds me of that day. From $132; knifemerchant.com.
I got my very first Nenox chef’s knife, which is about 12 inches long, when I was a sous chef for Daniel Boulud. It was always a good feeling, taking this knife out of my bag and then having Daniel come into the kitchen and grab it and use it. We once were told that a food critic from the New York Times was in the restaurant; Daniel came running into the kitchen and we stopped service to focus on that table. We sliced the meat for that table using this knife. From $688; korin.com.
My Misono knife is a fun little guy, about eight inches long, that I’ve overused and slightly abused for many, many years. Ages ago, I walked into Korin, my favorite knife shop, down in Tribeca, to drop off a few knives to be sharpened and somehow walked out with this new one. It’s got a short black handle, gold trim and a stainless steel blade. This knife has traveled with me all over the world: I brought it to Malaysia when I was traveling and writing recipes for the Malaysian Tourism Board. I made my very first beef rendang with it, slicing through fresh turmeric and galangal root dug right out of the ground in the middle of a spice forest. From $119; korin.com.