A professional knife sharpener is a beautifully atavistic profession, not unlike being a cobbler or a Shaker chairmaker. Gary Silverstein, who has operated his knife sharpening business for the last 6 years, came late to his calling, switching careers after he realized that he enjoyed sharpening his wife's catering knives rather more than he enjoyed being a medical biller.
Silverstein says he owes his current profession not only to his wife, but to an epiphany: he was daydreaming about playing stickball as a child in his native New York City. "I recognized the streets--we had a lot of street vendors in the Bronx -- and we had to stop playing because the knife sharpener parked where we were playing."
Silverstein took this as a sign, promptly taught himself the profession, and now sets up his stall in seven area farmers markets and, once a week, in the parking lot beside the oldest fabric store in the city. Dull knives bother him. Ginzu knives bother him. But not only does Silverstein sharpen the chefs knives of dozens of restaurants and the scissors of many of this town's fashion designers, but he will also hone the long-unused contents of an elderly woman's knife drawer, and quietly give her a discount without commenting about either. It helps that he doesn't have much competition. It helps that, as he said recently, above the loud whirring of his Japanese-made carborundum green sharpening stones, it keeps him out of the pool hall.
Gary's Knife Sharpening Service: At various farmers markets. (310) 560-3258.
Look for more "Best of L.A." pieces in our annual Best of L.A. issue, coming Oct. 7th.