Josh Donald is co-owner of Bernal Cutlery, the only place in the Bay Area certified to sharpen knives for use in kosher kitchens.
Josh Donald is co-owner of Bernal Cutlery, the only place in the Bay Area certified to sharpen knives for use in kosher kitchens.

S.F. knife store whets kosher appetites with region’s first kosher knife sharpening service

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Bernal Cutlery is now certified kosher by Sunrise Kosher: the Vaad HaKashrus of Northern California. According to Rabbi Ben-Tzion Welton, head of the Vaad, it is the first knife store and sharpening service in the area to do so.

Owned by Jewish couple Josh Donald and Kelly Kozak, the store, on Valencia Street in San Francisco, has long been known in the Bay Area food scene as the go-to place for restaurant chefs to get their knives sharpened. Bernal Cutlery also sells very high-end knives, mostly from Japan.

But during Covid, “we’ve seen a huge rise in the number of non-chefs bringing us their knives to be sharpened that come from Bed, Bath & Beyond,” said Kozak. They also get a diverse population, including Muslims doing their own halal slaughter and Jews who sometimes do their own kosher slaughter.

As it turns out, it’s very simple to offer the service for kosher knives, as whetstone sharpening, which is the method the store uses, does not heat the knives to the point where the kosher knives could “absorb” the treyf status of nonkosher knives sharpened with the same stone.

Josh Donald and Kelly Kozol
Josh Donald and Kelly Kozak

“We had to verify that the heat was below 100 degrees Fahrenheit, which is not always the case with other sharpening systems,” Welton said.

While the rabbis are free to drop in any time as a condition of certification, Kozak and Donald just need to ensure they don’t mix the kosher knives with the knives of other customers, and that they keep the dairy with the dairy and the meat with the meat, just as in a kosher home. They use different colored tape to keep track.

They will set aside a particular hour as often as needed to sharpen whatever kosher knives come in.

“We’ve had enough folks ask over the years that it seemed like it shouldn’t even be a question,” Kozak said. “I’m glad we’ve made it official.”

Alix Wall
Alix Wall

Alix Wall is a contributing editor to J. She is also the founder of the Illuminoshi: The Not-So-Secret Society of Bay Area Jewish Food Professionals and is writer/producer of a documentary-in-progress called "The Lonely Child."