Step Inside is a series of short films and interviews that tell the story of some of our talented members at Pop Brixton. Behind the food stalls and bars, there’s a thriving community of start-ups and independent businesses. ‘Step Inside’ is an exclusive peek behind the scenes to meet the people that make Pop Brixton and to take a look inside their units.
Yokichi has been running the Kataba Japanese Knife Shop in Pop Brixton for over two years. They provide cooking/kitchen knives as well as sharpening and repairs for esteemed chefs from all over London.
Were you working with knives before you opened this shop?
Yokichi: We started selling knives online six years ago. At the same time, I was working as a chef, cooking Japanese sushi and sashimi. Sashimi involves lots of cutting so I found the maintenance of my knives was just as important as the cooking. It was very difficult to find a good knife in London.
Do you enjoy working at the Knife Shop more than cooking?
Yokichi: Yeah, for me there's not a big difference. It's quite the same feeling. We meet lots of chefs coming here, we talk about knives and what they're doing, where they're working, so we're still in the same industry. I enjoy supporting other chefs to maintain their knives because I know how hard it is if you're working in a busy kitchen. They need a sharp knife to do good work.
What do enjoy most about it?
Yokichi: Me and Josh, we really enjoy the sharpening, it's hard work and we always try to include good service so it's kind of never ending. It's really deep, every day we're discovering something, each knife is different and the materials are different.
Why did you choose to be here in Pop Brixton?
Yokichi: I was looking everywhere in London but to be honest this was my first shop. Financially you know, this wasn't easy. It's quite difficult if you are starting a business. Maybe the landlords didn't accept knife selling without any experience of business. Here in Pop, we help each other out. We look after their knives and they look after us with food!
Do you have any interesting facts about how your knives are made?
Josh: Most of the knives that we sell are made by small workshops or specialist craftsmen in different regions of Japan. In some areas of Japan the knife making is regional and they have their own approach, this makes their knives unique. Most of the family businesses have been going on for generations but lot of them are closing down because there's no one left to take it up. But there’s a few craftsmen that are still making world class tools, really special tools.
What are your plans for the future?
Josh: We're very lucky because we have some of the best chefs in England coming into the store. People are going out of their way to come to Brixton for us. It makes us proud to support these guys because they work extremely hard. We’re trying to support the gastronomy and catering in London. Hopefully one day we'd like to offer the best knife sharpening service in Europe. That’s the dream, do something really special. The cutting skill is different in Japan so we've had to adapt but we’re keeping it honest. We want to provide tools that transform professional and home cooking. It’s not the same as a Western knife, the shape of the knife is different, the geometry is different, even the steel is different.
Yokichi: We want to improve and give the best service we can, but we probably won’t develop into a chain. We'll keep it small and personal like a Japanese knife maker does.