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New book: "An Edge in the Kitchen"


Chad
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Okay folks, the contracts have been signed and the checks have cleared -- I can now take a deep breath and crow a little bit. My book, "An Edge in the Kitchen" will be published by the William Morrow division of HarperCollins next fall -- 'bout Thanksgiving 2007.

This will be the ultimate guide (I hope) to kitchen knives -- how to choose them, how to use them like a pro (better than most pros, actually), how to maintain them and some insight into the history and anthropology of kitchen knives. In many ways this is all thanks to eGullet. My agent found me after reading the eGCI Knife Maintenance Tutorial.

I realize that I haven't been around much lately. I've been swamped working on the proposal, negotiations, etc. I do hope that some of y'all have benefited from the tutorial, though.

This should be a really cool book. I've already got commitments from some heavy duty chefs for insightful/funny/bizarre knife stories. I've got a sharpening and maintenance section (the techniques will come as no surprise to you if you've read the eGullet Knife Sharpening & Maintenance Tutorial) that will blow every other knife book out of the water, and knife skills sections that are shaping up to be a lot of fun. I don't have firm commitments yet, but I'm working on Masaharu Morimoto and Murray Carter for asian knives, Martin Yan on cleaver technique, Eric Ripert for fish and seafood techniques, Sara Moulton for Julia Child info and quick'n'easy shortcuts, Russ Parsons (LA Times) and Michael Ruhlman ("The Making of a Chef") for literary insight and my own local master meat cutter for a week in a high-end butcher shop breaking down sides & primals into home cuts. I'm also working on getting Marcus Samuelson, Daniel Boulud, Tony Bourdain and several others for additional quotes & stories.

I've lined up paleontologists, culinary anthropologists, metallurgists, physicists, chefs and bladesmiths who will help make sure I don't screw up too badly. All in all, this should be a hell of a book.

All I've got to do is write it. Keep your fingers crossed.

Anyway, I thought you guys would appreciate what I'm trying to do. Finally, the obsessive/compulsive knife nuts get a shot at the bigtime. Woohoo!

Wish me luck,

Chad

edit: sleep deprivation

Edited by Chad (log)

Chad Ward

An Edge in the Kitchen

William Morrow Cookbooks

www.chadwrites.com

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Congratulations, Chad. I look forward to its release.

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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Thanks for the congratulations and kind words. I really appreciate it. This is going to be a hell of a lot of fun. I was out hunting Chinese cleavers today. Three asian markets and four restaurant supply places later and I still don't have what I'm looking for -- the elusive ChanChiKee cleaver from Hong Kong. Knife nuts love them. They're cheap, ugly as hell and cut like crazy. For about $30 bucks (and if you don't mind crappy fit & finish) these things are some of the best kitchen knives around -- serious ass-kicking performance. Ah well, the search continues. I'm particularly interested in the ChanChiKee 1101 (No. 1 Kitchen Slicer) thin veggie cleaver if anybody's got one lying around.

That's kind of how things are going these days. I spend a lot of time on research, some time testing performance of various knives and basically trying to figure out how I feel about different knives and knife styles. I'm also lining up my interviews for the anecdotes/chef's quotes portions of the book, which is a lot of fun. The look on my wife's face was priceless yesterday when she handed me the phone and said, "Chef Morimoto's office wants to speak with you." I had trouble not giggling maniacally when I took the phone.

Things get really surreal when I talk to the marketing folks -- they're talking Discovery Channel/PBS mini-series on the history of culinary knives, marketing deals with knife makers and all sorts of stuff that's really fun to think about but so hard to even imagine that I don't even bother trying.

I did realize, however, that I'd need some sort of catch phrase. Emeril has "Bam!" Mine would probably be "Ow!" or "Medic!" Maybe I could get some sort of cooperative crossover going with the NexCare Sport Bandage folks. Those are my favorite bandaids. They're flexfoam and really bend with your fingers without working loose, stick well even when wet and are generally extremely comfortable.

Anyway, thanks again for the kind words. I really appreciate it. As the euphoria of getting the book deal fades into the abject terror of actually having to produce this monster, good thoughts from friends mean more than ever.

Take care,

Chad

Chad Ward

An Edge in the Kitchen

William Morrow Cookbooks

www.chadwrites.com

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Go with the euphoria, Chad -- most heartfelt congrats. This is a book that needed to be written and you're just the dude to do it. Be happy, jump up and down, and yell "Medic!"

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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Congratulations and best of luck!!! How fortunate to be recruited like that when you didn't even intend it. I'm sure writing it all seems daunting now, but knowing as much as you do I'm sure it'll all just flow once you actually get into it.

I'm particularly impressed with this, seeing as how I've been watching him for probably 20 years and still can't pulverize garlic with one flick of the clever.... :smile:

Martin Yan on cleaver technique
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Congratulations, Chad. It sounds like your sense of humour will be a definite bonus to the book. A topic, I might add, that really needs to be covered and covered well, imho. Look forward to the final product.

Barbara Laidlaw aka "Jake"

Good friends help you move, real friends help you move bodies.

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Congrats,

For the video version I would highly reccomend incorporating the piece of "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" where the Black Knight is denuded of all of his limbs. This is just the kind of thing that can happen in the kitchen when things go badly with the cutlery.

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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Great news indeed, Chad!

I can't help but emphasize that Chad's agent found him through his eGullet Culinary Institute Knife Maintenance and Sharpening Course. If you haven't visited the topic, please do so with all haste!

There's a great Q&A topic that goes with the course. Let's make Chad work for his good fortune! I'm sure he'll be glad to answer any new questions that crop up.

Marsha Lynch aka "zilla369"

Has anyone ever actually seen a bandit making out?

Uh-huh: just as I thought. Stereotyping.

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This is very, very exciting!

Do you know of a good place in Wichita to get knives sharpened?

Yup, my house :raz:. I haven't found anybody in town I'd trust with my knives, but I also haven't looked very hard. Finding someone to sharpen your knives is like finding the right person to cut your hair. You can go through several expensive mistakes before finding the right person.

On a related note -- if you (this applies to anyone, really) are looking for a good sharpener, ask your hair stylist. Shears are even fussier than kitchen knives. Good ones run in the $800-$1000 range. A high end salon will have somebody who comes in to do their shears and you can be reasonably sure that person is an expert sharpener. Stylists make their living with their shears, and they will NOT put up with sloppy sharpening. If that person also does kitchen knives, you may have just found your new sharpener.

I have a couple of folks that I recommend if you're willing to send your knives out. Bob Kramer at Bladesmiths Inc. is nearly a legend. People wait for years for one of his kitchen knives. Why he still does sharpening is an absolute mystery to me, but he does. And he's inexpensive, too. I don't get it, but I'd trust my knives to him without reservation.

My real go-to guy is an eGullet member. Dave Martell at D&R Sharpening Solutions in Philadelphia is a true master of the craft. In fact, he has one of my problem children at the moment, an expensive usuba that develops a pernicious wire edge that crumbles when it hits the cutting board. Very frustrating. I've completely reworked the edge twice now without solving the problem. I sent it to Dave to diagnose what's going on.

Take care,

Chad

Edited by Chad (log)

Chad Ward

An Edge in the Kitchen

William Morrow Cookbooks

www.chadwrites.com

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Great news indeed, Chad!

I can't help but emphasize that Chad's agent found him through his eGullet Culinary Institute Knife Maintenance and Sharpening Course.  If you haven't visited the topic, please do so with all haste!

There's a great Q&A topic that goes with the course.  Let's make Chad work for his good fortune!  I'm sure he'll be glad to answer any new questions that crop up.

I'm thrilled to be able to answer questions on the Q&A. Ask away.

As for my agent finding me on eGullet -- I can't believe more agents haven't been combing the eGCI for talent to develop. It is a veritable goldmine. I'm very fortunate to have been able to connect with someone who enjoyed and understood what I was going for and helped guide me in creating a proposal that major publishers were interested in. But the truth of the matter is that there is a wealth of talent here at eGullet.

I have a knife skills section in the book, however I'm going to have to work damn hard to come close to Marsha's Basic Knife Skills class. If you haven't read it, you should. She's a pro. This is not some eGCI instructor love-in. I've invested a lot of time and effort in developing my knife skills. I've seen just about every book, VHS, DVD and website out there -- and paid good money for a variety of mediocre knife skills classes. Skip 'em. Go straight to hers (and then practice what you learn) and you'll be a lot better off.

Take care,

Chad

Edited by Chad (log)

Chad Ward

An Edge in the Kitchen

William Morrow Cookbooks

www.chadwrites.com

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Thanks for the good thoughts and wishes. I really appreciate it.

Another fun knife day. I recieved a package from JapaneseChefsKnife.com. I placed my order on Friday 3/31 and my knives were delivered Tuesday 4/4 -- from Japan. For $7.00. That's freaking amazing.

I'm gathering knives to test drive for the book. In with today's shipment was a 210mm Tojiro DP series gyuto. What a jewel! The Tojiros are often described as "entry level" western style Japanese knives, but this thing is great. The fit and finish are excellent, the edge is screaming sharp out of the box and it's got really nice grind lines. Pricetag? $49.50. Granted, it's warikomi construction with a high carbon Swedish mystery steel core clad with softer stainless steel rather than being a solid carbon or stainless blade, but so what?

The Tojiro actually looks and feels better than the nearly $200 Misono UX-10 I picked up a couple of days ago. The balance is a little off for me, with the balance point being right at the bolster rather than at the heel where I pinch grip, but I also prefer blade-heavy 270mm and 300mm knives anyway. Other than that, I may have a new winner in the "bang for the buck" category.

Sorry, got carried away. There's your knife tip o' the day.

Take care,

Chad

Chad Ward

An Edge in the Kitchen

William Morrow Cookbooks

www.chadwrites.com

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Emeril has "Bam!" Mine would probably be "Ow!" or "Medic!" Maybe I could get some sort of cooperative crossover going with the NexCare Sport Bandage folks.

:laugh::laugh:

Congratulations, Chad! I already know how many copies I want to buy. I guess I'll have to start a 2007 Christmas list soon. :unsure:

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Mary Baker

Solid Communications

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Thanks, Brooks!

Now to rehearse: 'Tis but a scratch. I've had worse.  :raz:

Chad

Chiming in with kudos and a couple of comments. "It's just a flesh wound!" "I'm not dead yet!"

And I really think you should go with these bandages instead, if you don't mind my saying so.

Thanks for making The Heartland and the hometown look good.

Judy Jones aka "moosnsqrl"

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.

M.F.K. Fisher

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Definitely a cut above.

The Philip Mahl Community teaching kitchen is now open. Check it out. "Philip Mahl Memorial Kitchen" on Facebook. Website coming soon.

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Chad, I wonder if you could go into some more detail about your strategy for writing this book. I'll leave that as an open-ended question for any kind of reply you'd like to give us, but what I'm thinking about, for example, is how are you thinking in terms of overall structure and how are you going about writing each chapter?

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Congrats, Chad! With all the material and contributors and stuff you're planning on including in this book, it sounds like it will be one kickass tome!

Heh. And if you're also including a compendium of knife-oriented humor, you know you also gotta reference the classic Saturday Night Live Julia Child skit.

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Chad, I wonder if you could go into some more detail about your strategy for writing this book. I'll leave that as an open-ended question for any kind of reply you'd like to give us, but what I'm thinking about, for example, is how are you thinking in terms of overall structure and how are you going about writing each chapter?

Nonfiction is very different from fiction. Nonfiction sells on a proposal, which in my case was a detailed, chapter by chapter breakdown of what I was going to write about and who was going to buy it. So, I had a structure -- until the proposal sold :raz:. After that, my editor said, "We like this part, that part has got to go and this other thing should be a sidebar rather than a whole chapter," etc. :shock:.

The real truth of the matter is that my editor is Harriet Bell, publisher of the Morrow division of HarperCollins. She is at the top of her game and has more Beard nominations than I've had hot meals. I absolutely trust her instincts. She has a vision for a tighter, more focused book that I just can't argue with because it makes so much sense. What we're putting together will be a category killer. If we do this right, every other knife book that comes after can only say, "Yeah, me too" because there will be very little new to add to the argument. That's the idea, anyway. Whether I can pull it off is another story. Keep your fingers crossed.

So, how the book breaks down now is very different from the way it broke down when I wrote the proposal. And it will probably change again. I'm now mentally dividing the book into three sections -- choosing knives, using knives, and maintaining knives. That sounds simplistic, and, in fact, is simplistic, but it gives me a way to break huge amounts of information in to useable chunks. The history, anthropology, cool chef anecdotes, et al, have now become sidebars and pull-quotes.

I'll add more detail as we go along. But that's the basic structure at the moment. As for writing strategy, I'm approaching this like the project manager of a huge construction project. I've got a mental Gantt chart that will make it to paper shortly with all my sections and tasks broken down into sub-tasks (and sub-sub-tasks) and merged into a timeline that should keep me on track. That way, if I'm stalled on one part I can jump to something else equally time-critical and keep things moving. I'm rarely this organized, but my completed manuscript (with all photography and illustrations) is due by February. I'm going to try to beat that by a month to allow some wiggle room for corrections, rewrites, extra interviews, etc., while keeping to the production schedule.

Take care,

Chad

edit: hubris

Edited by Chad (log)

Chad Ward

An Edge in the Kitchen

William Morrow Cookbooks

www.chadwrites.com

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Today's moment of knife weirdness -- I'm trying to acquire a goniometer (yeah, tell me that doesn't sound like it involves a rubber glove and some lubricant). A goniometer is used for measuring edge angles. The Cutlery and Allied Trades Research Association (CATRA) has several models. The smallest (and cheapest) one is marketed toward one-man knife shops, knife manufacturing executives and serious hobbyists. Their brilliant marketing ploy? Call it the HobbiGoni.

Oy.

Chad

Edited by Chad (log)

Chad Ward

An Edge in the Kitchen

William Morrow Cookbooks

www.chadwrites.com

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