Next in line with celebrity-branded culinary tools is Chef Emeril Lagasse's new cutlery line for Wüsthof. I had a chance to give these knives a turn. Set to dislike them for their celebrity-backing (I'm partial to no-name restaurant-supply knives) and their odd, faux-wood handles, I ended up impressed with their design and functionality.
Allow me to get the handle design issue out of the way: they are made from mahogany Micarta, a rather strange-looking but durable material that combines resin and strands of fabric to make something that looks a bit like wood. A bit like wood. I'm not sure why you'd want a knife with a handle that looks a bit like wood, but Emeril thought you might. Maybe you do.
The blades, however, are fantastic. Made from high-carbon steel, they are based on Wüsthof's Classic collection, but with sharper blades thanks to extra grinding and polishing. I won't lie - I snipped a layer off my left index finger the first time I worked the 10-inch "super-slicer," a great hollow-edge multi-purpose knife I'd never used before and that would make a great "just one good knife" purchase. These blades are sharp and light so they move quickly. Can your fingers keep up?
I've heard cries for a light yet sharp knife, and this is the answer to those cries. The knives are well-balanced without being heavy. While some cooks like a weighty knife, some would rather not be burdened with weight but it is difficult to find a light knife with a high-quality blade. Here it is.
I wouldn't expect any less from Wüsthof, but it's worth pointing out that these knives have a full tang with blades and handles attached seamlessly. These are knives for life.
The prices aren't exactly on the budget lines, but they are a pretty good deal for good knives. They range from $49.95 for a 3 1/2-inch paring knife to $139.95 for the 8-inch chef's knife.
I suspect the funky handle design was necessary to set these knives apart from other high-quality knives (if nothing else, we as a culinary culture are rich in choice for high-end knives). I wish the designers had gone with something other than faux-wood as a signature design choice, but at least the knives work well. And how.
• Check out the full Emeril Pro line at Sur La Table (free shipping)