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Fat Guy

The dumbing down of the Laguiole name

30 posts in this topic

Seems it used to be that the Laguiole name on a piece of cutlery meant something. What happened?


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Funny you should bring this up -- the local TJ Maxx's/HomeGoods stores have been FLOODED with Laguiole cutlery. It's made in France, but it looks like shite. Not the stuff I remember seeing long ago.

Didn't stop me from picking up a sweet little pocket knife for 5 bucks, though...


So we finish the eighteenth and he's gonna stiff me. And I say, "Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know." And he says, "Oh, uh, there won't be any money. But when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness."

So I got that goin' for me, which is nice.

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....  It's made in France, but it looks like shite....

Some of it is marked as made in France, and I concur completely with your assessment of the quality. :hmmm:

Much of the rubbish which flooded through our outlet stores just before the holiday was marked as Chinese made.

Perhaps this note on an Australian website is of relevance.

The blunt answer to Steven's question would seem to be that a name caught the public attention, again. "Gucci" or "Hermes", anyone? Worse yet, "Laguiole" and the Bee don't seem to be trademarks, and won't receive even that little protection.

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All similar to what has happened to Sabatier. Some of the stuff is produced with excellent quality control, but much is either made in China or cheaply made in France. A number of years back I picked up one of those inexpensive Laguiole pocket knives at T.J. Maxx that was labeled on the outside of the container as made in France, but came to find out later that the knife itself was not made in France (perhaps only the nice pine box was).

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It's really quite a shame. They were lovely well crafted knives. I've always wanted a set. Hopefully they'll reign it in, and bring back the brand. The ones with the bone handles, phew heaven...


does this come in pork?

My name's Emma Feigenbaum.

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Are there ways to identify the good stuff? I've seen the same crappy "steak knife" sets at discount stores and high-end kitchen retailers both -- for different prices, of course.


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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There are definitely ways to identify the good stuff, however someone with more specific knowledge will have to let us know the manufacturer names to look for.

It's like with Bordeaux, or the Sabatier example above. As I understand it, Laguiole is not a brand but, rather, a place. I'm guessing your knife or at least parts of it have to be made in Laguiole or some defined region around there (or assembled there -- I bet there's a detailed regulation). Maybe you have to be a member of some consortium. But then there are different manufacturers (e.g., Forge de Laguiole) and probably lines. In the case of Sabatier, you have to be made in or around Thiers I think.

So again, like Bordeaux: you have to be from there, you have to be made from certain grapes, but you don't have to be good.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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While lamenting the lack of quality in cutlery, I too confess to having picked up some attractive serving pieces at TJ's. I don't mind if the serving spoon can't keep an edge. :rolleyes:

Another example that the brand is out of control . . . I received a set of "Laguiole" carafes as a gift. I actually like them. They are graduated (1L, 1/2L, 1/4L), aesthetically pleasing and useful but I don't recall Laguiole being in the glassware business back in the day.


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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Making sure of the provenance of Sabatier and Laguiole products should help folks steer clear of the masses of junk out there. Most of the good stuff is made in either Thiers or Laguiole. Also, it is a good idea to ask questions about construction: method, steel used, design, etc. Accepting my example of obvious fraud above, a lot of the stuff actually made in France is of low quality. Sad to say that if you want the real thing you will most likely have to pay for it.

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Provenance is important--we have been happy with the Sabatier "au carbone" knives we've purchased from Professional Cutlery Direct in the past. They've since shifted focus from professional to "cooking enthusiast," as reflected in their catalogue name, but still carry the carbon knives.

Re. Thiers. My husband and I literally planned a driving trip through France around a visit to Thiers, in 2001, thinking we'd hit the mother lode of Sabatier knives. My husband was optimistic about finding knives that were specialized in their appeal and wouldn't have found their way into US catalogues. It was a mixed experience. On the one hand, we visited a charming town with an informative museum about knife manufacturing. On the other, the retail opportunities were limited to penknives and the like, not the high quality cooks' tools we'd found easily accessible at home.

We never did find the Sabatier factory in or around Thiers.


Margo Thompson

Allentown, PA

You're my little potato, you're my little potato,

You're my little potato, they dug you up!

You come from underground!

-Malcolm Dalglish

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there's a hardware catalogue, lee valley, that turned up a ton of vintage carbon steel sabatiers a few years ago. oh my. i picked up a good share of it and i don't think i paid more than $40 for anything (and that was for a hachette--like a cross between a chef's knife and a cleaver).

as for laguiole, a very considerate friend gave me a laguiole "g. david" carving set for christmas and it is amazing: beautiful and wicked sharp.

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Laguiole is a city in France. The "Laguiole knife" is a style of folding pocket knife that originated in that city. There is no single company of manufacture nor any legal definition of what constitutes a Laguiole knife. Therefore "Laguiole knife" has no more meaning than, say, "Bowie knife" -- which is to say that it is a rough designation of style and that anyone, anywhere can make a knife of any quality out of anything they want and call it a "Laguiole knife."

This is also true of non-folding ""Laguiole knives." Traditionally speaking, there is no such thing as a "Laguiole carving knife." That would be like saying you have a "folding Bowie knife."


Edited by slkinsey (log)

Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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Laguiole is a city in France.  The "Laguiole knife" is a style of folding pocket knife that originated in that city.  There is no single company of manufacture nor any legal definition of what constitutes a Laguiole knife.  Therefore "Laguiole knife" has no more meaning than, say, "Bowie knife" -- which is to say that it is a rough designation of style and that anyone, anywhere can make a knife of any quality out of anything they want and call it a "Laguiole knife."

This is also true of non-folding ""Laguiole knives."  Traditionally speaking, there is no such thing as a "Laguiole carving knife."  That would be like saying you have a "folding Bowie knife."

theoretically that may be true, but in practice, not so much. the knives made there are stamped with the name laguiole and--folding knife or not--they almost invariably carry the bee. when you buy them, they are usually sold as "laguiole" (sometimes with individual factories listed, sometimes not). this implies a family resemblance that does not carry through in quality. which was the point of the post.

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I bought a set of Laguiole steak knives from Forge de Laguiole, which is the company that got Philippe Starck on board and (if you believe their publicity) started the reniaissance of Laguiole knives. They are fixed knives (ie not a pocket knife) with horn handles and they are not only absolutely beautiful but also practical - they cut through steak like it was butter. I also bought a sommelier's knife, which is a thing of beauty - basically a waiter's friend in the Laguiole style.

Now for the unfortunate part - I bought them at the main Forge shop at Laguiole itself (NB, I wouldn't call it a city - more of a small town up in the Auvergne mountains). They also have a shop in Toulouse and a couple in Paris, but that's all as far as I know, and the stock at those shops are a bit limited. You may be able to buy through their website: http://www.forge-de-laguiole.com/

Your best bet is to go to Laguiole itself (not great for those of you in the US, but if you are holidaying/vacationing in that part of France it's worth a look - there are some great restaurants in the town) and the Forge de Laguiole shop is superb - a huge range of knife-related products, including a Laguiole carving knife (slkinsey take note!), which was basically a giant pocket knife. It looked great, but it certainly wasn't cheap.

That's the only brand of Laguiole knives I'm really familiar with - there may be other decent manufacturers, and no doubt some that offer much better value for money, but the FdL knives look and work great.


PS

Edinburgh

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We never did find the Sabatier factory in or around Thiers.

There were several factories using the water power of the falls at Thiers but most have closed; a lot of the old stock went to Lee Valley Tools, of Ottawa, and was sold off until 2003 in their stores or online. That was quite a sale; we were able to look at or purchase a huge variety of carbon steel knives dating back to 1920. There is still a small factory in Thiers making Sabatier SS knives, and apparently carbon steel as well.

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We never did find the Sabatier factory in or around Thiers.

There were several factories using the water power of the falls at Thiers but most have closed; a lot of the old stock went to Lee Valley Tools, of Ottawa, and was sold off until 2003 in their stores or online. That was quite a sale; we were able to look at or purchase a huge variety of carbon steel knives dating back to 1920. There is still a small factory in Thiers making Sabatier SS knives, and apparently carbon steel as well.

To the best of my knowledge there are at least three Sabatier-identified cutlery operations in and around Thiers: Thiers-Issard, L'econome, Sabatier Diamant, and Sabatier-K.

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I'd guess l'econome is the cheaper, stamped production.

During the sale, Lee Valley published an astonishing photo taken inside a Thiers factory, in the 1920's. The knife grinders worked in an unheated building with only window lighting and large grindstones turned by water power, lying on their bellies with blankets. One of them had a pet Beagle resting on his legs for added warmth.

Apparently the injury and mortality rate was high, as grindstones would sometimes break open.

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It's all relative - their high end corkscrews are still excellent. They're no different than the Henckel's, Calphalon, Beringer, Ralph Lauren's, etc of today.

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I bought a set of Laguiole steak knives from Forge de Laguiole, which is the company that got Philippe Starck on board and (if you believe their publicity) started the reniaissance of Laguiole knives. They are fixed knives (ie not a pocket knife) with horn handles and they are not only absolutely beautiful but also practical - they cut through steak like it was butter. I also bought a sommelier's knife, which is a thing of beauty - basically a waiter's friend in the Laguiole style.

Now for the unfortunate part - I bought them at the main Forge shop at Laguiole itself (NB, I wouldn't call it a city - more of a small town up in the Auvergne mountains). They also have a shop in Toulouse and a couple in Paris, but that's all as far as I know, and the stock at those shops are a bit limited. You may be able to buy through their website: http://www.forge-de-laguiole.com/

Your best bet is to go to Laguiole itself (not great for those of you in the US, but if you are holidaying/vacationing in that part of France it's worth a look - there are some great restaurants in the town) and the Forge de Laguiole shop is superb - a huge range of knife-related products, including a Laguiole carving knife (slkinsey take note!), which was basically a giant pocket knife. It looked great, but it certainly wasn't cheap.

That's the only brand of Laguiole knives I'm really familiar with - there may be other decent manufacturers, and no doubt some that offer much better value for money, but the FdL knives look and work great.

Forge de Laguiole brand knives are distributed in the united states, so no need to go to France for them, though I'm sure they're cheaper there. I know there are a lot of poor quality knives using the Laguiole name, but FdL is very good. As for determining whether it's a fake FdL, I'm not really sure how you would do that other than taking certificates of authenticity at face value. I bought a tiny pocket knife from an on-line knife store (though I can't remember which store now) for my husband last christmas. Shortly after that we were at the NY gift fair and we happened by the FdL booth. They verified that the knife I bought was one of theirs, but I don't know what they were looking for.

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It's all relative - their high end corkscrews are still excellent. They're no different than the Henckel's, Calphalon, Beringer,  Ralph Lauren's, etc of today.

i guess the point is that there is no "they," though there certainly appears to be. you have to pay attention to the "secondary brand", rather than just shopping for laguiole.

jayt90--i'm glad to hear someone else got in on the lee valley deal. i was beginning to think it was so perfect i must have dreamed it. the one time in my life i was in the right place at the right time.

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[jayt90--i'm glad to hear someone else got in on the lee valley deal. i was beginning to think it was so perfect i must have dreamed it. the one time in my life i was in the right place at the right time.

I got in on the Lee Valley deal too, so you were not dreaming. It really was an extraordinary opportunity, I only wish I had bought more.


Cheers,

Anne

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me too--i went back about a year later with the bright idea that some of those old French housewive's knives would make great steak knives. but they were all gone.

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... old French housewive's knives would make great steak knives....

Count me as another one who wishes he'd spent more lavishly when those knives were available from Lee Valley. Ah, the wisdom of hindsight :rolleyes:

Anyway, Dehillerin carry a range of simple wooden handled 'peasant' knives, which might suit as a steak knife. The handles are a great fit in my hand. The blades are stainless rather than carbon, which seems to make sense for table cutlery.

You probably already know that LV sell a re-make of the 'peasant Chef's knife' with a good carbon blade and a resin-impregnated wood handle. Not a steak knife, unless you're frighteningly big...

Rambling back towards topic, I note that the 'Laguiole' name was made a subject of legal protection by a French company in the mid 90's for everything except knives. Am I the only one who finds this bizarre? To seek to protect a name whose international currency is tied to knives, and which has been debased by poor quality, then to try to build a trade empire around that selling all manner of other things?

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I'd guess l'econome is the cheaper, stamped production.

During the sale, Lee Valley published an astonishing photo taken inside a Thiers factory, in the 1920's.  The knife grinders worked in an unheated building with only window lighting and large grindstones turned by water power, lying on their bellies with blankets.  One of them had a pet Beagle resting on his legs for added warmth.

Apparently the injury and mortality rate was high, as grindstones would sometimes break open.

Actually, some of the Therias Et L’Econome knives look quite nice: http://www.therias.com/bandeau_new/anglais.html.

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... old French housewive's knives would make great steak knives....

You probably already know that LV sell a re-make of the 'peasant Chef's knife' with a good carbon blade and a resin-impregnated wood handle. Not a steak knife, unless you're frighteningly big...

I have been using the Lee Valley re-make for the past two months, and it is an exceptional $20. carbon steel knife. It is a credit to the integrity of LV that they are able to make it available. The blade, especially the spine, is thicker than the Sabatier equivalent of 70 years ago, because good steel is much less expensive now. I'll probably get several of them to give to students or beginning cooks, but it's a fine tool for any of us.

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