Jacqueline Blanchard, chef and owner of Coutelier NOLA, believes serious cooks need serious tools. The coutelier (French for cutler) specializes in hand-forged Japanese cutlery and locally sourced kitchen, bar and pantry goods. Their small but focused inventory is worthy of the three-Michelin Star kitchen Blanchard helped manage in San Francisco.
"We are still plugged in to the cooking industry," she says. "That perspective is very important — everything has been tested and proven. We don't have a lot of options because we promote what everyone on that professional level uses."
The staff at Coutelier NOLA believes in due diligence — they've traveled everywhere from Cellar Salt Co. in Lafayette to remote prefectures in Japan to find top-notch products. Coutelier NOLA's knives are individually tempered and molded rather than mass-produced.
Knives are sharpened using Japanese wet stones and finished on leather thongs for a mirror-like shine. The store offers knife sharpening classes and services plenty of Western-style blades.
"We fix mass-produced knives all the time," Blanchard says. "Knicked or broken blades, rust removal ... we do it all. It's like a spa day for your knives."
Japanese cutlery evolved from the samurai tradition, which taught that a blade was an extension of one's hand and soul. While some people can't fathom spending $200 on a single knife, Blanchard says a quality piece of cutlery that takes the work out of slicing and mincing is worth it.
"Some people spend thou-sands of dollars on golf clubs that they only use once a year," she says. "If you cook every day, having one or two knives that never fail is essential. And by supporting the ironsmiths who forge these knives, we're also fostering the continuation of Japanese tradition and the preservation of these skills. As Southerners, we know the importance of keeping [traditions] alive." — KATHERINE M. JOHNSON