When he saw the scene in 2004, the Parisian star chef, Yves Charles, could not believe it: His guests were having visible difficulty cutting their duck breast. Yet although the knives at his restaurant, “Maison Courtine”, were exceptionally high-quality and appealing to the eye, they were obviously unsuitable for their actual purpose. An absurd situation. A knife which fails to cut is a tool which fails to fulfill its purpose. A refined meal in a luxurious atmosphere becomes a strenuous effort and destroys the entire experience. Because a meal must also be a feast for the eyes. An intolerable situation for Yves Charles, a passionate perfectionist.
Eric Perceval is sitting at another table. His knife effortlessly slices the tender meat. He simply enjoys is meal. Charles observes him and discovers his unique blade. Monsieur Perceval has brought his own knife. A hand-made, French folding knife with a blade made of the finest steel and an elegant handle. What may seem strange at first actually has a long tradition in France. As far back as the Middle Ages, bearing one’s own cutlery was regarded a status symbol among the nobility. The nobles strove to outdo each other with their finely crafted and ornamented blades. Industrialization gave rise to mass production and hand-crafted products fell by the wayside in the 19th century. Yet the smithing arts did not die out entirely. While sharing a bottle of red wine, Yves Charles discovers that Eric Perceval’s knife originates from his own manufactory in the small town of Thiers to the west of Lyon. The town has been a true Mecca for handcrafted knives for roughly 500 years. People say that the best blades in the country come from here. A revelation for Yves Charles. The wine flows and a shared idea is born: The production of an exclusive, unique model from the Perceval manufactory for the “Maison Courtine”. The knife’s name, 9.47, stands for the alcohol content of the wine which the two entrepreneurs share on this evening.
A short time later, Charles’ guests are incredibly impressed by the knives from the tables. The bold idea gains momentum. However, in 2008 Eric Perceval is facing bankruptcy. His talent lies in forging blades and not in business. Yves Charles also faces a life-changing choice. On the spur of the moment, he leaves behind 10 years of top-class gastronomy and takes over the manufactory.
Today, Charles has 18 employees including 10 knife smiths. They manufacture their knives using traditional techniques combined with modern methods. However “no machine can replace a grinder’s experience”, says Charles. Because no two blades are the same. These blades are manufactured using high-quality Damascene steel and some are decorated with intricate engravings. The handles are made of exquisite and refined materials including meteorite iron, precious stone and mammoth tusk. Every single knife is unique. Enthusiasts pay up to 20,000 euros for the “Le Grand” with its handle made of tortoiseshell. Yet Yves Charles feels that the symbolic value is far more important. With his collection he combines two worlds: The traditional and the modern, reliability and aesthetics.