the launch

Sam Mason on the Sexiness of Japanese Steel

Black leather jacket? Check? Cold stare? Yep. Big-ass knife? You got it.Photo: Melissa Hom

Welcome to the latest installment of the Launch, where Sam Mason, former pastry chef at wd-50, relates the ups and downs of preparing to open Tailor, the swanky restaurant and lounge coming together at 525 Broome Street.

“I was down at the space today. The electrician made sure that there were plenty of plugs in my kitchen. I can never have enough, especially with all the equipment I’m going to have in there. There is a small delay with the floors: Apparently you can’t just lay down the hardwood, because they’ll shrink or expand improperly depending on the humidity. You need to let them just sit in the venue for three days so they can acclimate to it. As for the kitchen floor, we’re still thinking about that. I’m not a huge fan of tiles separated by a grout line. That kind of bothers my back a little bit. I wanted a seamless floor, but it doesn’t look like I’m going to get that. It’s not the end of the world by any means. Whatever the floor is, it’s going to be immaculate — everything is going to be set on platforms, so that nothing can be hidden, and we can constantly be cleaning. Anyone who was in the kitchen at wd-50 will tell you that I keep a pristine kitchen.

Today was also knife shopping. I went to Kirin, a Japanese cutlery store that carries some of the city’s best knives. I’m getting them for everybody: a couple of nine-inch French knives and some small utility knives. I know they’re pricey, but I’m still surprised. They’re $220 a piece, some $350. But we swear by Japanese carbon steel. It’s a big difference in your day-to-day life. They’re easy to missharpen, but they hold a razor’s edge for a long time. You can sharpen those cheaper workhorse knives, but they don’t keep their edge. And there’s something real sexy about using a Japanese knife. It’s worth the money. We treat our knives like gold.”

[Grub Street asked Sam about the firing of Jordan Kahn, the avant-garde pastry chef at Varietal.]

“You can’t be ignorant of the fact that the transition from savory to dessert has to be seamless. The jarring difference between the entrées and his desserts set Jordan up for failure from jump street. I know that a couple of critics attacked him, but I don’t think the public disliked what he was doing. It’s really too bad, but he’ll recover.”

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