By Jeevin Johal
VANCOUVER – A samurai without his sword is no different from a chef without his knife. The relationship forged between steel and the one who wields it is a natural romance, and although both individuals are intelligent and adaptable in the face of adversity, an extreme vulnerability exists without the possession of a sharp blade.
Kevin Kent, owner and president of Vancouver’s Japanese knife shop Knifewear, knows this well and has devoted his life to showing both chefs and home cooks alike what power lies in a handmade Japanese knife, despite initially being a skeptic himself.
“In 1999, I was working in London, England and I found a booth with this guy selling a bunch of Japanese knives, and I said to the man with confidence: ‘Look, I’m a chef. I keep my knives razor sharp,’” explains a slightly embarrassed Kent. “I grabbed his knife and gave it a big windup to slice through a tomato and it blazed through and stuck in the cutting board! I fell in love.”
Kent quickly developed an insatiable lust for all things metallic, collecting knives and selling them to friends when he returned back to Canada.
“I used to be like that weed dealer in college who sold weed to [smoke it],” admits Kent. “My idea was to sell a few knives to buy more so I could open a restaurant and it got out of control.”
The restaurant idea was quickly abandoned once Kent saw how lucrative his business model was becoming, and now with four stores across Canada, Kent has decided to chronicle the teachings bestowed upon him through his frequent journeys to Japan in an aptly titled new book, The Knifenerd Guide to Japanese Knives.
“Other books focus either on how to sharpen knives or the real nuts and bolts of how to use a knife,” says Kent. “Cool, but we wanted to focus on the blacksmiths and the craftsmen who make them.”
It takes much time, strength, and discipline to become a samurai or a chef, and as comfortable as Kent is with a knife in his hands, he openly admits he’s only just begun his training in the ways of the almighty pen.
“I’m a burnt-out chef. I don’t fancy myself a writer, and I wasn’t optimistic or particularly confident when I started,” he confesses. “But I think what we’ve turned out is a book I really love.”
The book launch for A Knifenerd Guide to Japanese Knives takes place at Knifewear (Main St. location) on November 7.