Protooling – the Sydney knife store where top chefs go to geek out – has relocated, bringing its world-class collection of artisan Japanese knives to a store double the size of its predecessor.
Owner Paul Tayar has moved his shop from its tiny original digs on Camperdown’s Mallett Street to a space just around the corner on Parramatta Road. The nondescript locked door – customers must ring the bell to enter – conceals a treasure trove of products catering to both the average home cook and to chefs at restaurants such as Cho Cho San, Poly, Restaurant Hubert, Woodcut, Firedoor, Saint Peter, Ester, Sokyo and Nobu.
Tayar, who previously had a career in design and woodworking, spent most of Sydney’s recent lockdown transforming the shop himself.
“It always felt like a hidden Japanese whisky bar,” Tayar says of the original shop. “But the four-square-metre rule meant we had to line people up outside. It was a bit of a struggle. We’ve tried to channel the soul of the old shop into the new space.”
But the main reason for the move was to expand the Protooling range. “I’m a little bit addicted to them,” Tayar says, gesturing towards the knife wall, which he built from scratch, and which runs the length of the shop. He currently stocks more than 4000 handmade Japanese knives, making it one of the largest imported collections of its kind in the world. Tayar also built the knife-sharpening station, where Hiroko Kelly, one of the world’s only female Japanese-knife sharpeners, sharpens by hand on whetstones.
But it’s not just about the knives. Protooling has partnered with Japanese business Komon to import ceramics made by artisans from tiny Japanese towns, chopsticks made from the bamboo roofs of 100-year-old Japanese huts, and cast-iron teapots. There are knife rolls and ceramics by Tokyo-based fashion label Hi-Condition, and a range of konro grills (like a hibachi grill) made from anthracite blocks that have been mined from the earth and hand-carved. Tayar has also expanded into food items – high-end soy sauces and chilli powders – and books, with a focus on Japanese joinery, knives and food.
Tayar mentions one well-known Sydney chef who likes to come in on his day off “just to hang out”. But he stresses his knives are not just for professionals. “It’s only about 20 to 30 per cent chefs who come in, the rest is the general public.”
And while some pieces take years to make, and cost up in the thousands, the range is extensive, with knives starting at $80.