Attention, amateur chefs: Chinese cleavers are heavy, razor-sharp and best left to the professionals. Professionals like Chen Zibao, whose deft knife skills have awed China in this viral video, in which wields the gigantic blade to slice raw pork into tender strips on the surface of a balloon — without making it pop.
Chen grew up in a village in Henan, a generally impoverished province in central China. To make a name for himself, he spent six years perfecting his stunts, which also include catching a flying cleaver and twirling it like a basketball between his legs.
In 2009, Chen even set a Guinness World Record for slicing a piece of raw pork into 16 identical strips — on his own leg — in 30 seconds, according to Yang Cheng Evening News, a Chinese-language news site.
He has appeared on Chinese TV shows to showcase another stunt: Cutting a slab of tofu on a woman’s face by holding a blade with his lips.
Inspired by Hong Kong actor Stephen Chow’s 1996 comedy God of Cookery, the 39-year-old said he decided to spend six years living like a hermit in a basement, honing his knife skills. It took him four hours of non-stop daily practice and countless cuts to perfect his stunts. During the early days of practice he constantly dropped his heavy iron cleaver, resulting in frequent complaints from the neighbors. For a while he had to move every month.
But all that work paid off: now, he’s known around the country as “The First Knife of Chinese Cuisine.”