The Anti-Gift Guide: Tips for What Not to Buy The Aspiring Chef

Damndest thing: Google "Ginsu Knives" and this picture comes up. How odd.
Damndest thing: Google "Ginsu Knives" and this picture comes up. How odd.

It should be easy to shop for food lovers, since their hobby's been so relentlessly commodified. Any self-respecting big-box store stocks cooking utensils, cooking gizmos, cooking show DVDs, cookbooks and cooking magazines.

But which of those items are really worth buying? We asked a few local chefs which attractive culinary gift they'd advise well-meaning holiday shoppers to leave on the shelf. Of course, you're free to ignore their suggestions -- just don't forget to include a gift receipt.

The first caffeinated television commercials for Ginsu knives, an Ohio brand that wasn't selling until a pair of ad men suggested the Japanese-sounding name, promoted the blades as perfect for produce.

"In Japan, the hand can be used like a knife," a voice-over intoned. "But this method doesn't work with a tomato."

The infomercial urged viewers to stop attacking tomatoes with their bare fists, and instead use Ginsu knives to "cut a tomato paper thin."

Bad idea, says Kent Rathbun, the James Beard award-nominated chef and restaurateur behind Abacus, Jasper's and Rathbun's Blue Plate Kitchen.

While chefs typically advise home cooks to keep their knives sharp, Rathbun's persuaded nobody needs to slice and dice with cutlery that's strong enough to take down a tin can.

"Skip the Ginsu Knives unless you plan on cutting up some bricks!" he e-mails.


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