Every item we feature is objectively selected by our editorial team. If you purchase an item through our links, we may earn commission. Departures and American Express do not provide, endorse, or guarantee any of the items, and the sale of such items is governed by the third-party seller’s policies, terms, and conditions.
Decor

Making the Cut

A knife expert’s tips on upping your game in the kitchen.

MOST READ CUISINE

Wine and Spirits

A Classic Martini

A drink from New York City’s Bemelmans Bar at the Carlyle Hotel

Wine and Spirits

How to Drink Grower Champagne

Legendary sommelier Aldo Sohm on rarer bubbles.

Design

The Write Stuff

A dip into the world of luxurious fountain pens.

FOR THOSE WHO cook every day, a good knife is essential, but the search for the right one can be overwhelming. I spent years using the same cheap butcher block I’ve had since college, full of lackluster steak knives that must be dragged through meat. When I finally decided I was ready to step up my game, I felt strangely intimidated. Is it because knives seem like a niche scene, the province of “real” chefs? Is it just because they’re sharp?

The point is, I didn’t know where to start. So I turned to Abe Shaw, all-around blade expert and founder of the online knife emporiums Eating Tools and Living Steel, for advice. Shaw has been a knife enthusiast since childhood. “My mother still has a box with the collection from my early days,” he says, when family members would bring him back knives from their travels. Starting in the late ’90s, he began going to the Blade Show in Atlanta, which he attended for almost 20 consecutive years, and he traveled, visiting the shops of bladesmiths, blacksmiths, and metalworkers as he got to know the craft.

MOST READ CUISINE

Food and Drink

The Perfect Cup

Terra Kaffe’s espresso machine elevates your morning ritual with the press of a...

Wine and Spirits

Major Snow

A drink from San Francisco’s Moongate Lounge.

Restaurants

Mosquito Supper Club

How one New Orleans restaurant uses food to tell the stories of people’s lives.

In 2012, Shaw launched Eating Tools, a labor of love, out of his small Brooklyn apartment. His plan was to curate a marketplace of wildly designed knives and other tools, like sporks and chopsticks. “I consider myself a gallerist,” he tells me. “I don’t intend to take credit. My goal is to showcase the work of these incredible artisans and to tell their stories.”

Seven years later, Shaw launched Living Steel, with the goal of offering a greater range of knives at more accessible price points, and collaborating with a few select custom makers to produce limited runs of high-quality knives. Though his shops are both online, he often meets with collectors in person to talk through the right knives for them.

When I ask what he would tell someone like me, a person who wants better knives but is intimidated by the options, Shaw immediately puts me at ease. “Don’t be intimidated,” he says gently. “These are the oldest tools known to man. They really are. We joke that the knife predates the fork by hundreds of thousands of years.” This makes me laugh. But there are hundreds of options. How do you choose? “At the end of the day, a knife is just a sharp piece of metal,” Shaw says. Of course there are cheap, inefficient knives (the ones I’m about to replace), but once you’re looking at quality knives, he says, “It’s just a sharp object that can separate one thing into two parts. So don’t overthink it.”

More Editors’ Picks for Your Kitchen


The most important thing, Shaw tells me, is finding a knife that’s right for you. That means taking into consideration your size, the size of your cooking space, what appeals to you aesthetically, how you like a knife to feel in your hand, and how you plan to use it. For many home cooks, “this is a tool we use every day,” says Shaw. “If you’re going to have one knife, make sure it’s one that you’re comfortable doing everything with. If you don’t have a lot of space in your kitchen, get a smaller knife. If you’re tall, maybe you need a bigger knife with a longer blade in order to be comfortable.”

Shaw talks me through the features of a sampling of gorgeous knives (listed below) and leaves me with one piece of advice: “Don’t skimp. Think of it as an investment,” like other objects in your home or your wardrobe that you want to be proud of and that you want to endure. “If you cook more than a couple times a month, you’ll get your money’s worth. You’re going to reap the benefits with a tool that performs well and inspires you to cook,” he says. You may even want to learn to sharpen it. Shaw’s passion is ignited anew as our talk turns to whetstones; I can tell that’s a whole other world. The takeaway is that once you settle on the perfect, quality chef’s knife for you, you’ll also be moved to care for it. You know what they say: happy knife, happy life.


Advertisement
Shop at Eating Tools

Blenheim Santoku 180mm

The king of versatility. This knife is hand forged from carbon san mai steel with folded iron cladding and a Japanese Blue Paper edge, with a beautiful walnut handle fitted with a solid copper ferrule. This could be your go-to knife for every task in the kitchen.

Shop at Living Steel

Classic Chef LS235

An especially beautiful take on the classic, full-size all-purpose chef’s knife. Made in collaboration with Andersson Copra, each knife is crafted by hand in Gothenburg, Sweden, from high-performance Swedish-made carbon. Shaw says, “If you have space in your kitchen for just one knife, this is it.”

Shop at Eating Tools

Binary Suns Redwood Chef 233mm

Feel like really treating yourself? This one-of-a-kind hand-forged knife, made by bladesmith Joshua Prince, is a work of art that’s also durable enough to be a chef’s everyday knife. The thin razor-sharp blade and integral bolster are formed from homemade carbon Damascus steel, and the handle is a unique piece of redwood. This knife comes in a saya made from beaver-tail leather crafted by Francesca Ritchie of Teton Leather Co.


AMERICAN EXPRESS® CARD MEMBER ACCESS

Shop Small®

When you Shop Small, you’re not just supporting neighborhood favorites — you’re investing in the community. Whether you’re a local or visiting, explore the Shop Small Map to find small businesses near you. Learn more here.

Explore More
Our Contributors

Nina Renata Aron Writer

Nina Renata Aron is a senior editor of Departures based in Oakland, California. She is the author of "Good Morning, Destroyer of Men's Souls." Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Guardian, the New Republic, Elle, Eater, and Jezebel.

Ahonen & Lamberg Illustrator

Ahonen & Lamberg is a multidisciplinary design studio based in Paris. Founded in 2006 by Finnish designers Anna Ahonen and Katariina Lamberg, the studio concentrates on art direction, creative consultancy, and graphic design.

Departures and American Express do not provide, endorse, or guarantee any of the items, and the sale of such items is governed by the third-party seller’s policies, terms, and conditions.
',
Newsletter

Let’s Keep in Touch

Subscribe to our newsletter

You’re no longer on our newsletter list, but you can resubscribe anytime.

Come On In

U.S. issued American Express Platinum Card® and Centurion® Members, enter the first six digits of your card number to access your complimentary subscription.

Learn about membership.