young chef in actionBuying a Christmas present for a pre-teen boy is not as straightforward as you might imagine. Of course there's the obvious stuff - the sports gear, the online gaming gift cards, X Box paraphenalia. Then there's the stuff you think they need but - to be honest - they're really not that keen on (eg any clothes at all chosen by a parent, or any adult in fact). 

Then there's the signature present.

Signature presents are designed to last longer than two weeks. They're meant to be something kept, used, cherished. Often they end up - through no fault of the giver, sitting unused somewhere, hidden away.

You can probably guess what my twelve year old son got for Christmas. That's right - an IO Shen knife. The Nakiri vegetable knife to be precise.

Before you jump to any conclusions, here a disclaimer - yes I do some work with the guys at Total Knife Care. Yes, I've extolled the virtues of these great knives, but - up until now - there has not been one in our household. And yes, I did pay for it! I suppose I sold myself in a way.

And I have to admit part of the fallback plan was that if the young lad (TYL) did not take to the culinary arts as enthusiastically as I'd hoped, it would still be there for me. And get used.

However, so far things are looking good (might be a bit early - it's still January). TYL took an extra curricular class in cooking at school and seemed to quite enjoy it, bringing home some of his own creations for us to try. And this prompted the thought of getting something cooking related to encourage the initial enthusiasm. Plus he seemed genuinely pleased with the knife when he opened it at Christmas, although that may possibly have had more to do with how sharp it was and maybe a combination of 'forbidden fruit' and 'man toy' (given that these knives are marked to be sold to over 18 only for the UK market).

Originally it was going to be the smaller chef's knife, but Scott at Total Knife Care recommended the vegetable knife as a first knife, since the larger blade makes chopping a little easier with less risk of getting the fingers at the same time. A good starter knife.

Of course before we let him loose we took him through all the safety rules (which you can find here) and all the knife care rules (which you can find here). The IO Shen has a special place in the draw, has its own blade protector and never goes anywhere near the dishwasher. TYL himself even cautions us on the cutting of citrus fruit and how the blade needs to be cleaned soon after.

And the hidden benefit? I'm sure you know already. Come dinner preparation time and I'm making a salad or preparing veggies. Out comes the IO Shen in front of TYL. “Can I cut the veggies Dad?” “Certainly son. Be my guest.”

We're not labouring under any misapprehensions - it's very unlikely TYL will make it on to Junior Masterchef. But at least he's on the way to knowing how to cook for himself. And he's learning how to look after his knives. Next year, maybe the Nirey sharpener. Not for the IO Shen of course (it should still be razor sharp then - for all the other knives).