There’s a thrill in buying a gorgeous new knife, or upgrading to a more powerful blender, but over the past 10 years I’ve never, ever felt the need to toss out my mandoline—the sharp, guillotine-like contraption used to slice things quickly and evenly (and dangerously!) by sliding food along an angled blade.
Complicated mandolines, especially the bigger metal bastards with legs, tend to be a pain—never as sturdy as they promise. So I’ve become pretty devoted to my Japanese-made Benriner, a lean plastic frame with a diagonally set blade that I picked up for $30. It’s a bit dinky, but it always gets the job done, takes up very little space, and is easy to use and keep clean. I wouldn’t dream of replacing it.
But the second I heard that French chef Michel Bras had designed a mandoline with Japanese studio Igarashi, I knew my Benriner might be in trouble. Bras is revered among chefs—the restaurant he and his son Sébastien run in Laguiole, France, has maintained three Michelin stars for the last 16 years—and he’s known for putting his name on serious, beautiful products (like these Japanese knives, a little more than $3,000 for a set of 10).
The new Michel Bras mandoline is a heavy steel frame with a rubberized kickstand and solid blades by the Japanese brand Kai, and it’s very, very good-looking; earlier this year it won a German Design Award. The only problem is the thing goes for $300—that’s 10 times as much as my trusty standby.
So I borrowed one for a few days, popping the blades out of the sleek, branded box and locking them into place on the industrial body (mind your fingers, as always, but there’s nothing to it). Within a minute or two, I was slicing and julienning left and right, whirring through my bag of potatoes and onions.
The thing you’ll notice right away: It’s held in place with rubber at the base, so it doesn’t budge. And the blade lies perfectly flat on the machine, even with pressure, making even slices across the width. I suspect it could center the bubble on a level. My Benriner, on the other hand, always curves inward as I use it, altering the thickness of the slices.
The gripper, or caddy, can be used when you’re running out of vegetable and you don’t want your hand getting too close to the blade. This one’s been sensibly designed so it can hold longer-shaped vegetables like carrots flat against the blade, and give you a few extra vertical slices, all the way down to the end.
In short, it was a total pleasure to use. So much so that when I ran out of things to slice, I rummaged through my fridge and pulled out half a head of red cabbage, just to feel the satisfying, juicy crunch of the blade one more time. When it came time to pack up the slicer and return it, I was miserable.
So do you need it? If you’re not in the business of slicing, gaufrette-ing, and julienning things on the regular, then let’s be honest: Maybe not. I admittedly don’t need it. But do I want it? Unfortunately for my little Benriner, yes, I do.