Walk into the kitchen of any leading chef in town—heck, the Northeast—and you’re likely to find at least one knife made by Adam Simha. I asked the knife maker about his design process and his previous work, including a stint making ice cream.
You’ve made knives for so many great chefs. What’s the process for making a custom knife? Take me through the steps.
First thing, if possible, is for me to watch someone work in their native environment. That gives me a sense of their body mechanics and where their technique is rooted, for example East versus West. Next, I’ll show them a number of patterns of the type of knife they’re interested in, and we’ll talk about blade materials vis a vis expectations and performance, like high impact versus gentle slicing, handle materials and style.
Once we’ve got all that sorted out, I’ll cut and drill a steel blank and send it out for heat treating. Once it’s back, I’ll either grind, polish, edge and handle-finish the knife all the way to done, or grind it to a point where it’s functional and mock up a handle. I’ll let the chef try it out for a bit, then come back to me with comments before taking it all the way.
Before knives you worked in restaurants and did some baking. Is there a connection between the two different crafts?
Yes, in the sense that you’re creating very particular finished objects from very basic ingredients. Also, there’s an immense feeling of satisfaction in bringing something to be that will enrich someone else’s life, whether it be a perfect dinner roll gone in three ecstatic bites, or a knife they’ll have for years.
You also design furniture. Would you say there’s a common philosophy to your design work, or is it more about responding to what the client wants?
I have tried to create things that are authentic and welcoming—in that they are genuine and both novel and familiar; they raise the bar on function and beauty but also seem as if they’ve always been.
After having worked at Toscanini’s Ice Cream and even designing their furniture, I’ve got to ask: What’s your favorite ice cream flavor?
I’d have to say the most burnt version of burnt caramel, with lemon-espresso and chocolate bourbon tied for second place.
*Photo by Faith Ninivaggi
Four Questions is a weekly interview column featuring interesting people connected with the Greater Boston Jewish community. Find past columns here. Have an idea of someone we should interview? Email Molly!
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