When I visited Ottawa in August of 2021 I was able to sit down with Chef Chris Commandant and talk all things knives! I loaned him my Bastogne Gyuto prototype to be put through its paces in both his kitchen at the National Arts Centre and in the classroom at Algonquin College in his role of Indigenous Pre-Apprenticeship Coordinator. Chris is on Instagram @Mohawk_Chef. Below is Chris' unedited feedback.
So the Bastogne prototype has taken everything I can throw at it and then some. Firstly the handle, and design. I really like the feel and control of the octagonal shaped handle. It has a good solid grip for myself, and feels good even when wet. By that I mean when I am handling ingredients, or processing large fish, it can become wet, and some knives and materials tend to be a bit slick, and slide in the hand, which can lead to mistakes in cutting, or even handling. This handle has the right texture, length and feel to keep the blade from slipping, and even in the slightest little slide, its quick to get it back to true again. The material is slick, and I like the appearance and feel. I am fearful based on my pinch grip and handling, a grooved or textured handle may not fit so well for me, unless I was to have it truly custom fitted to my hand. So this blade works well, and with its WA esque nature felt good in my hands, and my colleagues whom tested it also. Maintenance is easy for the handle, and was able to absorb bees wax board oil naturally for a refreshed look and finish as well. It truly received a lot of compliments.
Weight of the blade is exactly what I would expect when looking at it, and it is not heavy for a larger person such as myself. I also found it truly balanced with the weight and handle length, not feeling front or back heavy, and not taking up much room in my work, school, and general travel kit. The weight lends itself well to rooters and tuber when cutting, and also provided security when handling large halibut fish, to smaller fish. The weight helped with the follow through on a traditional slicing method, as well as a hammer cutting technique. It lends itself particularly well to traditional swift cutting motions I use, like drawing a circle with the heal while cutting through vegetables.
The blade is well crafted, thick on the spine and tapering down well. I like that I could use the tip for nimble jobs, and the full length of the blade for more robust work and chopping. The swooping grooves lend themselves to further steady the knife, and make it excellent for my pinch grip of the blade. The back coming down providing a finger notch is wonderful, but raised concern in discussions with my colleague as it is sharp, and at least two folks did get minor nicks from it. I would suggest keeping tip still, and maybe angling the slant a little less towards the user, and adjusting the angle, but not to a true 90 degrees, perhaps a 75 degree? Just something that we saw as potentially hurting the user when handling big jobs, to note the cuts occurred when the blade was deep in larger 50lb halibut loins, and had disappeared deep in the centre cut, as it snagged a bit, thick skin on that fish, and when it dislodged came up a bit. One user pointed out a slip could angle it back towards the users arms or wrist. It didn’t happen but perhaps something to consider. I like the look of the blade, feel, and drop point downwards, lending itself to the k tip look. That appearance, whether intentional or just by pure aesthetics is quite popular amongst chefs right now, and it did receive many compliments. My closest colleague and friend, worried about the blade as it is sharpened down eventually hitting the centre grooves and loosing function, perhaps a little less for a professional as to prolong the longevity? Personally I feel it could be hogged down to that groove and then thinned if need be to create a new edge.
The edge of the blade and grinds in my opinion are great, and serve well not just for looks but also for function. I did not encounter wedging, after a quick sharpening touch up, and was able to get the finest cuts I would with one of my laser edge knives. I also enjoyed the patina it picked up while using it, not being as reactive as some of the makers blades that I have used in the past. Some are just so high maintenance, this was not the case. The edge and blade can remain damp for up to 5 to 7 minutes before reaction occurs, allowing a user time to wipe it with a dry towel. I personally love the blade, and so did my fellow users, it served well, was tall enough, felt robust and hearty, and not as fragile as some of the blades we are working with right now in our knife kits.
For sharpening I have taken the blade to the following stones;
Shapton Glass 600 grit
Shapton Glass 1000 grit
Naniwa Chosera 600 grit
Naniwa Chosera 1000 grit
Seuhiro Pro 3000 grit
Imanishi 6000 grit
Naniwa Chosera 10,000 grit
The blade responded well to the Naniwa series of knives, and gave one very wicked edge indeed. Scary sharp. I used the Seuhiro and Imanishi to add a solid mirror polish to the edge and the blade. As well as the 10 000 grit Naniwa really added some serious edge and mirror, so well I could see my teeth in it. The blade handles well on higher end stones. We used a King stone 1000 grit, and the results were okay, and lasted 1 week, Naniwa has sharpened the edge and left it pure still after 3 weeks. Easy to sharpen, and the extra groove has allowed me to take my fingers up from the direct edge, like most of us do when sharpening, and rest them to apply pressure. I went and realigned the edge to a true 15 degrees on both side, to allow even cutting, and food release. It takes blade camelian oil well, and dries as fast as other blades, and looks refreshed when we do it. I also used a tsubeki rust eraser to remove patina just fine. The edge it gets can be scary sharp indeed. And that’s great for someone like myself whom does a lot of touch ups and adjustments to make the blade the way I want it to perform and feel.
I really enjoyed testing and trying this blade. It felt great, handles well, turned some serious heads, and had honest effort behind its design and inception. Many of my colleagues couldn’t believe it was produced in Canada, and have now considered supporting local.