By Franz Scheurer
Traditionally the Germans and the Swiss own the professional chef’s knives market around the world. Names like Wüsthof Trident, Dick’s and Victorinox are synonym with quality and professionalism. Japanese knives, although very popular in Japan, are less often used world-wide as they are generally carbon steel and often produced with a single-sided edge.
The trouble with most knives, however, is that as they are manufactured with wood or plastic handles, they are rather unhygienic. Food particles easily are caught, handles split or melt with prolonged use and rivets come loose. Then there is the weight factor. Most professional knives are heavy, and if you look at the calloused hands of long time chefs, you realise that they are too heavy. Many an older chef stops using the larger knives, due to weight, even though they are better suited to the job at hand. Most modern knives are vanadium stainless steel, and although they do not stain easily, they also do not keep an edge very well.
Some nine years ago, a young Brisbane hobby cook and engineer noticed this and set out, single-handedly, to change the world of chef’s knives. He started out by watching chefs work, to observe the types of forces involved in the common cutting situations. It was obvious that the most important direction to avoid hand slip was toward the blade, (most heavy cuts were in a down and forward direction) so he started working on handle shapes that would resist this slip and fit the hand more naturally. Making the knife in one seamless piece seemed the logical way to fix the hygiene and durability problems, and understanding the metallurgical differences between the available knife materials led to his work with a different high carbon stainless steel alloy.
It took Mark Henry six long years to solve all the perceived problems and perfect his Füri knives. He created a totally new design and presented a fabulous tool to the world. Now all he had to do was market his innovation and convince the chefs around the world to try the product.
Nothing is harder to face for most of us than change. To convince someone of giving something a try, that is different, is not easy. We all feel at home with the tools we use most and, with the excuse of ‘we’re busy and have no time to experiment’ we keep soldiering on with the tools we know, instead of trying something new, full well realising that it might take a few days before we will notice the difference.
Thankfully for Mark, a few of Australia’s greatest chefs have such a thirst for knowledge and gadgets that it only took three more years for these knives to become as popular as they deserve. I first had the chance to use a Füri knife about 3 years ago and, being used to very heavy knives, didn’t like it at all. As most of us, I did not give it a chance. When I finally met Mark Henry I was taken by his enthusiasm, drive and total all-consuming passion and I followed his suggestion and tried his ‘East West’ knife. Using it a couple of times, it again, ended up in the back of the knife block. But… the shiny handle kept staring at me, every day. Another year later, I realise that I now automatically and mechanically take the one of the Füri knives (yes, the collection has grown) to do most jobs. They are light, extremely easy to handle, well balanced and hold their edge beautifully. Only my old, bicycle-handle adorned Chinese chopper holds an edge as well as the Füri knives, but I waste an awful amount of time keeping it clean.
Do yourself a favour and try a Füri knife. Not for a few hours, invest in one and keep using it until you are used to it, and it will feel like an extension of your hand… only sharper.