For a chef, knives are the tools of their craft. They allow the imagination to run wild in curating a dish and through mastering their skill they learn how to respect their produce. Keeping his questions sharp and on point, Chef Hylton chats to Bert, Knifemaster and Creator of TOG.
Have you always been interested in knives?
I would say it started in 1997 when I bought my first Japanese knife – a Global 14cm veg chopper. I loved preparing food with it so much I bought more knives. Then I got a whetstone and taught myself to sharpen knives which I found just as satisfying. Sometimes I wonder if starting TOG was really just an excuse to grow my personal knife collection to ridiculous proportions.
How did Tog come about?
My background is in product design. In 2004 got to travel to Japan to design products for small family-run manufacturers in Gifu prefecture. It blew my mind. One of these companies made the most incredible kitchen knives. Through researching their project I learned about how the knife making business in Seki grew out the declining Samurai sword industry. I visited a Samurai swordsmith. Not many people get to do that. Some of the techniques and processes in Seki knifemaking come directly from swordmaking and you can see the links. The Japanese have an unrivalled dedication to quality and I believe the best knives in the world are made in Seki. Years later, I was looking to take my own product to market. I thought of working with the craftsmen in Seki to bring amazing kitchen knives to the UK, Europe and beyond. I tried to design the best production kitchen knife in the world. TOG was born.
Creator of Tog Knives
What is your favourite thing about your knives?
That’s a tricky one. It would be easy to say “the copper layers in the blades” or “the laser etching on the handles” but I think the true answer is something different. The most satisfying thing about my knives is the response they get from our customers. It has exceeded my wildest dreams. It is the ultimate purpose of the business – to give others the same satisfaction that I get from using an amazing knife.
They are beautiful knives, there must have been a lot of thought into the aesthetics and performance of each blade?
Why, thank you! Indeed, there was. It took me two years of drawing and prototyping to get a design I was happy with. Most knives are either unchanged designs from decades ago, or a ‘designer’ has drawn something that looks innovative and stylish but doesn’t perform in a practical sense. My belief was that I could produce an innovative knife that was best in class in terms of performance AND aesthetics.
Which one in the Tog Collection is your favourite?
Another tricky question because I genuinely love them all. I would have said our Santoku because it’s our go-to knife at home and the first TOG knife I developed. It is the ultimate multipurpose knife and is the best first ‘decent knife’ purchase, especially for a home cook. More recently I’ve fallen in love with our Sujihiki because it’s just so much fun to use. Its length means it slices in one clean stroke and leaves an amazing surface on food. And it makes me feel a bit like a Samurai.
What is the best knife sharpening tip for a beginner?
“You can do it!” It takes a quite a bit of practice to get good at sharpening knives, but it’s worth persisting. If you master it, you can have all your knives screaming sharp all the time, for the rest of your life. Sign up to the TOG newsletter and download our PDF sharpening guide. That should help
Rod or Stone?
Rod AND stone! They perform different functions. A ceramic rod keeps a sharp knife sharp without removing too much steel from your blade. It also straightens the blade. Whetstones grind a new edge. Stones take a lot longer to use (and to learn to use), but they’re the best option for a chipped or blunt knife. The rod can’t do that. Look out for TOG whetstones coming soon….
Find out more about our friends at TOG