Chefs-n-Knives – Callan Austin – Dusk Restaurant

Chefs-n-Knives – Callan Austin – Dusk Restaurant

Welcome, dear reader, and welcome to Chef Callan Austin! Callan’s experiences have allowed him to work in many different environments, ultimately leading him to become Head Chef and co-owner at Dusk Restaurant.

Callan has a great love and knowledge of Japanese kitchen knives, making him the perfect partner for the next instalment on Chefs-n-Knives. Enjoy!


More about Callan’s Chef Experience and Journey

Callan moved from Jeffrey’s Bay in the Eastern Cape to study at the Institute of Culinary Arts in Stellenbosch in 2015. During his studies, he was fortunate enough to work in some great establishments such as Rust en Vrede and Grande Provence which taught him the hard graft of a line cook!

After culinary school, he enrolled at Stellenbosch University to study Chemical Engineering. “Clearly, that did not work out”, quips Callan. “So I applied for a Chef de Partie position at Le coin Francais in Franschhoek and ended up working my way up the ladder over the next three years.” After that, he made his way to Cape Town and took a Junior Sous Chef position at the Chefs Warehouse at Tintswalo Atlantic.

“I was there for just over a year and then decided to leave the restaurant industry for a bit and started a private chef and pop-up restaurant business with two partners”, he explains. “We did some really cool events, including exclusive dinners in the Two Oceans Aquarium and some crazy private events at some of the Cape’s most luxurious venues.”

Shortly after his private chef gig, he was approached by Darren Badenhorst to open Dusk in Stellenbosch. “We opened the restaurant with the intent to become one of the hottest spots in the country, and we really hit the ground running. Within just three months of trade, we were named the Eat Out Best New Restaurant for 2022!”

Callan continues, “with a list of goals for the year longer than Kitchen Samurai’s 300mm Hatsukokoro Shirasagi Blue2 Kurouchi Kiritsuke Yanagiba, we have not even started to hit our stride!”


Dusk Restaurant

Revolutionary. Immersive. Captivating. Unique. The vision of Dusk Restaurant is to create a space where the boundaries of the fine dining industry are challenged and ultimately pushed aside by having a unique food and beverage offering that not only entices the palate but also conveys a story with emotion behind each dish. The chefs will also be experimenting with various in-house preparation methods, such as fermentation and “whole process” cooking, which will be used to drive a zero-waste policy. Diners can expect in-house ingredients such as miso’s, garum’s, Shoyu’s, Lacto-ferments, cured meats, cheeses, and even wine and alcohol production.

Dusk is also diving deeper into restaurant psychology and mental health, focusing on constructing a positive work culture and environment for staff and everyone connected to the industry, raising the bar for what the restaurant industry currently has to offer employees. One of the first steps in their plan to improve mental health in the industry is the employment of an in-house councillor and practising forest therapy.

Visit Dusk Restaurant HERE or check out their WEBSITE.

*Descriptions reworked as seen on Dusk Restaurant’s website.


Right, let’s get down to business. So, with no further adieu, Chef Callan, over to you.

Kitchen Samurai: We all know a sharp kitchen knife is the most crucial tool in any kitchen. Do you prefer a specific knife shape and have a favourite knife maker or brand?

Callan Austin: With precision being arguably the biggest priority in all fine dining kitchens, a sharp knife is at the top of the list for any chef. Personally, I prefer thinner bladesthath generally hail from experienced knife makers whose families have been in the trade for generations. I believe that every job requires a specific blade that favours shape, weight, thickness and length. For instance, I use my Yanagiba for my sashimi and portioning because the long, thin blade allows for even strokes that produce perfect cuts. Another knife that I gravitate towards is my petit, as it’s just so versatile when working with any ingredient. I find that with smaller knives, there’s much more control and less room for error.


Kitchen Samurai: Steel is always important when selecting a workhorse. Which steels do you currently work with in the kitchen? Do you like harder steels for sharper edges, or do you put your knives to work?

Callan Austin: Over the years, I have collected a range of knives made from different steel composites, with each of them contributing to my career. I prefer knives made from carbon steel as they generally have sharper edges, resulting in a more refined cut. There’s something aesthetic about carbon steel that makes a knife sexy too!


Kitchen Samurai: Knife maintenance is key to prolonging the longevity of knives. When your blades get dull or damaged, do you sharpen them yourself or send them for sharpening?

Callan Austin: For the most part, I do sharpenings myself. I treat it as a sort of weekly meditation. There’s something incredibly calming about caring for one’s tools, and it brings me a lot of satisfaction to see the end result. If there are any chips or major work that needs to be done I’ll send my knives to the professionals, such as the gents at Kitchen Samurai, to tend to. It also gives me an excuse to visit the store and inevitably add another knife t my collection!


Kitchen Samurai: What is your favourite produce to break down, and which knife works the best for that purpose?

Callan Austin: I love working with fish, and oddly enough, the only Western knife I ever use is a Wustoff deboning knife which is strictly for breaking down fish. I think it’s just the shape and hardiness of the knife that makes it the perfect tool for the job. Another task I enjoy is fine knife work. My Sakai Takayuki petty is the ultimate knife for refined cuts, and it’s probably the knife I use the most daily.


Kitchen Samurai: We refer to our higher-end, hand-forged knives as show ponies. Do you have a dream knife or show pony you would like to own one day?

Callan Austin: There are many so-called ‘show ponies’ plastered across the Kitchen Samurai walls, which I would LOVE to own. I, in fact, have a show pony knife that I bought in Toledo, Spain, an area famous for sword-making since the Roman period. It’s a VG 10 67-layer hard carbon Damascus steel BEAST.

The thing about show pony knives is that in a commercial kitchen, they don’t have a place. They’re often too expensive and fragile to use daily, so they sit in their boxes relatively untouched for the remainder of their lives. If I were to purchase a no-budget knife from Kitchen Samurai, it would have to be their Nigira Silver 3 Damascus Sakimaru Yanagiba, as I have been in the market for a new Yanagiba for a while now… Did someone say Dusk sponsorship? Cough cough*


This or that?

  1. Santoku or Gyuto (Chefs Knife) – Gyuto – more versatile
  2. Carbon or Stainless – Carbon
  3. Japanese vs Western – Japanese blade with Western handle – I find that wooden handles can get a bit grimy after some time
  4. Self-Sharpening vs Send for Sharpening – Both, depending on the job at hand 
  5. Wood Cutting Board or Rubber Compound – Wooden for home, rubber compound for work

Thank you for taking the time to engage with us, Callan. We wish you well in all your future endeavours and hope to see you many more times at Kitchen Samurai.


Stay sharp,

Kitchen Samurai

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