how five professional chefs chose theirs, from a humble Chinese cleaver to the Ferrari of sushi knives



a close up of a person with a knife: Chef Vicky Lau, of the one-Michelin-star Tate Dining Room, with her Sasuke knife. Photo: SCMP / Antony Dickson


© SCMP
Chef Vicky Lau, of the one-Michelin-star Tate Dining Room, with her Sasuke knife. Photo: SCMP / Antony Dickson

Since the Covid-19 pandemic blew into Hong Kong in late January, restaurants in this foodie capital have been fighting for their lives. Now with the third wave, hopefully, under control, eateries are finally being allowed four to a table and opening hours approaching some semblance of normality – and profitability.

As they prepare to get back to work, chefs across Hong Kong are sharpening their knives. These tools come in many shapes, sizes, and prices, from the inexpensive chopper used by Cheng Kam-fu at the Michelin-starred restaurant Celebrity Cuisine to Mitsuhiro Araki’s katana-like sashimi knife, which is of such high quality that it could be in a museum.

Knives are more than every-day kitchen equipment. Many of the city’s chefs have an intimate relationship with their favourite blade, recalling exactly when and where they bought it, and how it became an extension of their body.

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a woman holding a phone: Chef Vicky Lau, of the one-Michelin-star Tate Dining Room, with her Sasuke knife. Photo: Antony Dickson


© Provided by South China Morning Post
Chef Vicky Lau, of the one-Michelin-star Tate Dining Room, with her Sasuke knife. Photo: Antony Dickson

Vicky Lau

The owner of the one-Michelin-star Tate Dining Room, in Sheung Wan, has about 20 knives, but her favourite is the one she bought last year in Japan.

“I went on a tour of Osaka with Relais & ChAteaux (an international association of independent hotels and restaurants, of which Tate is the only Hong Kong member), and one of the places on the itinerary was a knife shop and everyone was eager to go,” Vicky Lau recalls. “Most of the knife makers used to make samurai swords.”

Sasuke is a fifth-generation workshop that makes knives by hand, and customers usually wait three months for their purchase. Luckily for Lau, as the shop tour was arranged in advance, she was able to take one home on the spot.

“I tested it and it is light, well balanced and perfect for everyday use, even fish or meat,” says Lau, having gained a chef’s sixth sense for knives now that she is into her late 30s. “As a woman, this knife is not too heavy, some handles can be too big for me to grip. This one fits nicely.”

She finds the knife easy to rock forwards and backwards when chopping, requiring little energy. However, she must sharpen the knife every day with two Japanese water stones. “I have to polish it otherwise it will rust,” she says.



a man wearing glasses and smiling at the camera: Chef Cheng Kam-fu buys his general purpose cleaver from Chan Chi Kee, on Shanghai Street. Photo: SCMP / Antony Dickson


© Provided by South China Morning Post
Chef Cheng Kam-fu buys his general purpose cleaver from Chan Chi Kee, on Shanghai Street. Photo: SCMP / Antony Dickson

Cheng Kam-fu

Cheng Kam-fu, executive chef of the one-Michelin-star Cantonese restaurant Celebrity Cuisine, in Central, tends to use one chopper to prepare all his dishes. Despite its size, the cleaver is quite light, with a very sharp blade.

He is not

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The humble garden could be under threat

Mariusz Maj, horticulturalist at Manulife for 25 years, uses an electric lawn mower in order to trim down a section of grass of the Manulife building in Toronto, on Monday, August 26, 2019.

Christopher Katsarov/The Globe and Mail

When most people think of lawns they picture carefree kids playing in backyards, picnics in well-kept parks – perhaps they even feel a sense of pride at how green and immaculate their own swath is.

But the traditional lawn – manicured, verdant, under control – now finds itself at the confluence of two hot-button issues: climate change and Indigenous rights. Some environmentalists, First Nations leaders and even hobby gardeners are calling for a different approach to how we view and treat the ubiquitous urban green space. It is, they argue, a lasting symbol of how settlers appropriated Indigenous land and culture. And the rigid Western ideal we have imposed continues to hurt the planet and, in turn, all of us. The lawn, some go as far to say, needs to be decolonized.

“What is a lawn but a statement of control over nature?” asks John Douglas Belshaw, a Canadian history professor at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, B.C.

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“That’s a huge part of settler culture. You see that river there? We can dam that. We can organize that water, we can make that water work for us. It’s essentially the same mindset. I can reorganize this landscape, flatten it, plant lawn, find a non-indigenous species of plant, of grass, and completely extract anything that’s not homogenous, that doesn’t fit with this green pattern and control it … A backyard with a big lawn is like a classroom for colonialism and environmental hostility.”

Changing a landscape to make it suitable for a different incoming culture is a key part of colonization, he says, and that is exactly how lawns in Canada and the United States came to be.

“Lawns were not a popular thing in North America until the late 19th century and they’d become popular in part because immigrants were bringing European traditions of some manicured lawn,” he explains. “Manicured lawns were very much associated with wealth.”

The 1830s saw the first patent for a mechanical lawn mower, in England; by the 1860s lawn games such a croquet were becoming increasingly popular. In the 1920s, gas-powered mowers became available, and after the Second World War a boom in suburbia and chemical fertilizers created a North American culture of responsibility around keeping a clean yard for your neighbourhood. In the 1960s, the introduction of the electric mower helped ingrain expectations.

Every backyard essentially became a private park – and a mark of respectability.

The Veterans’ Land Administration helped returned [World War II] servicemen to settle on the land. Former RCCS Corporal H. R. Shaver had son Brian are seen smartening up the front lawn of their new property, September 1949.

Gilbert Milne/Handout

“Where the lawns come from is from the property ownership mentality, that we can own property,” says

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