Delicately drawing a freshly sharpened knife across his thumbnail to test for imperfections, it’s clear Takeshi Kojima values the importance of a sharp blade.
Born in Chotto, Japan, the softly spoken Takeshi began his chef training at the age of 18. Five years later he moved to Australia, becoming a fully qualified sashimi chef before going on to own Japanese restaurant Hibari, a South Yarra favourite, for 18 years.
Takeshi has brought his years of experience as a sashimi chef to his new role at Tanto, the high-end speciality knife shop at the base of QT Melbourne. Tanto sells meticulously crafted knives from Japan, specifically those made by 10th generation swordmakers Suisin, with a range forged in Sakai, the heartland of Japanese knife production.
Tanto also offers a sharpening service if you have any knives at home that are failing to pass the tomato-slicing test.
It can seem daunting picking out your first knife but Takeshi is on hand to guide you.
“For a beginner the best place to start is a western-style knife,” says Takeshi.
Also known as the gyuto, this knife is a good all rounder, its double-bevelled blade allows for even cuts capable of handling a wide range of ingredients.
As your knife skills improve you can move onto specialised, single-bevelled blades like the deba, capable of slicing thick bone, or the yanagiba for delicate slices of sashimi. With practice, single-bevelled blades are capable of finer more precise slices than their double-sided counterparts.
If all this knife jargon sounds intimidating Takeshi has handmade an oversized polystyrene prop to help him clearly explain the construction and components that make up a quality knife from the point to the pommel.
The range of knives on offer at Tanto are constructed from high-quality stainless, white and blue steel ranging from $65 to upwards of $1000. Being susceptible to rust, the non-stainless options require more care but are worth the extra investment. The added hardness of the metals allows for a significantly sharper blade and develops a beautiful patina over time.
Justifying the price tag on some of these beauties may seem difficult but heed the advice of Takeshi: “It is very important to have good knives when preparing sashimi. Your skill can only take you so far without the proper tools.”
Although happy to give up the gruelling hours of a chef Takeshi admits, “sometimes I do miss making sashimi.”
A true master never forgets his craft.
Mon to Sat 10am–6pm