Three Questions for Knife Sharpener Linda Furiya | Food + Drink Features | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Three Questions for Knife Sharpener Linda Furiya

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Published November 1, 2022 at 3:52 p.m.
Updated November 2, 2022 at 10:16 a.m.


Linda Furiya with her knife-sharpening equipment - COURTESY OF IRENE KIM
  • Courtesy Of Irene Kim
  • Linda Furiya with her knife-sharpening equipment

Linda Furiya wants to help people who suffer from what she calls "dull-knife shaming." A guest offers to help with meal prep. You hand over a cutting board and a sharp knife. After a few minutes, the guest asks, "Um, do you have another knife?" By which they mean a knife that is actually sharp.

Enter Furiya's alter ego, Madam Cutler, the face of the knife-sharpening service the Shelburne resident launched in the summer. Since early September, she has been popping up every Saturday at Healthy Living Market & Café in South Burlington to sharpen customers' knives for $5 to $18, depending on size.

Madam Cutler & Co. is the latest of many food-related ventures for Furiya, 56. Highlights of her varied career include penning a column about Asian cuisine for the San Francisco Chronicle; authoring two recipe-laced memoirs, Bento Box in the Heartland: My Japanese Girlhood in Whitebread America and How to Cook a Dragon: Living, Loving, and Eating in China; teaching cooking classes; and running a frozen dumpling business.

If you have dull knives and oncoming hordes of holiday guests, Madam Cutler is ready to swoop in and save you from shame.

Linda Furiya with her knife-sharpening equipment - MELISSA PASANEN
  • Melissa Pasanen
  • Linda Furiya with her knife-sharpening equipment

SEVEN DAYS: What inspired you to start Madam Cutler & Co.?

LINDA FURIYA: I've always known it was important to have sharp knives. I learned to sharpen knives from my dad when I was young. He would sharpen my mom's knife, this one Japanese knife that no one else could touch or use or wash.

The knife-sharpening business came from the hobby of bladesmithing. I started doing that around 2018 when I took a course in Waterbury. A bladesmith actually forges steel, shapes it and grinds it into a knife. If you learn to make knives, you cannot help but know how to sharpen knife edges. Someone asked me if I sharpened knives because they knew I was a bladesmith.

Linda Furiya with her knife-sharpening equipment - MELISSA PASANEN
  • Melissa Pasanen
  • Linda Furiya with her knife-sharpening equipment

SD: Do you have a favorite knife?

LF: My first good knife was a Global Santoku knife. I still have it. It fits my hand really well. I got it because Anthony Bourdain loved Global knives. He was a hot ticket.

SD: How frequently should knives be professionally sharpened, and what can be done to keep knives in decent shape in between?

Linda Furiya with her knife-sharpening equipment - MELISSA PASANEN
  • Melissa Pasanen
  • Linda Furiya with her knife-sharpening equipment

LF: It's based on usage, but I would say twice a year. Ideally, once every quarter if you cook a lot. In between, you can use a honing rod — but you have to know how to use them. If you have a knife block, you probably have a honing rod that's never been taken out. The problem is, you've got to use it after every use, before you put [your knife] away. And it doesn't work if your knives are already dull.

The only way to keep your knives sharp is to not use them. Every time you use a knife, you're bearing down on the edge, and tiny microscopic burrs are splintering out. The honing rod basically scrapes away those little tiny pieces.

When you bring your knife to me, I create a brand-new edge by grinding away the steel. It's like getting your teeth cleaned at the dentist. Then, for a while, you floss and you brush really well. Basically, honing is like flossing. After a while, even if you keep flossing, you have to go back and get it done again.

This interview was edited and condensed for clarity and length.

Madam Cutler & Co. sharpens knives on a first-come-first-served basis every Saturday starting at noon at Healthy Living Market & Café in South Burlington. Learn more at madamcutlerandco.com.

The original print version of this article was headlined "Cutting Edge | Three questions for knife sharpener Linda Furiya"