Thieves steal custom knives from amputee chef

Thieves steal custom knives from amputee chef
SEATTLE -- Jamison Ausburn lives on a quiet corner near a Greenwood roundabout, but he feels most at home inside a large brick building in South Lake Union.

"It's a lot like a surgery room," Ausburn said. "It's high-stress, a lot of activity, real busy. Every day you're making a new piece with new materials. You have to employ those creative elements constantly."

Ausburn, a lead line cook for a café at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, describes himself as part artist and part surgeon, working with the elements around him to create a finished product.

He relies heavily on two custom knives made years ago to craft his dishes - knives he named after his grandparents, Stan and Marge, who helped him get to culinary school.

The knives - worth thousands of dollars - were among the items in his car when it was stolen from outside his home in the 700 block of north 95th Street sometime late Sunday or early Monday, according to a Seattle police report.

On a purely sentimental level, the knives are one-of-a-kind; on a technical level, Ausburn say they are irreplaceable - especially, he says, because the knives fit his prosthetic hand.

"That's a hard story. That's the worst day of my life right there," he said, referring to the accident in 1997 that took his right hand. "It's a real tough story."

While Ausburn won't go into detail about what happened, he will talk about how he overcame the challenges associated with it.

"I think there's only one or two other chefs in the US that have one," he said.

Ausburn did his best working this week without the knives while his car was still missing, but it wasn't the same.

"I'm out of my element. I'm used to being able to jump right in and throw down on a pile of vegetables, some pounds of any meat - you name it," he said. "It's taken a little bit of opportunity away. I can still contribute, but it's not the same."

On Thursday, Ausburn got the call he'd been waiting for all week: His maroon Toyota Camry had been found on North 45th Street and towed to an impound lot in SoDo.

"I kind of came down here with the expectation that the car would be totaled, it'd be out of gas and everything would be missing, so that way I wouldn't be too disappointed," he said, as he signed a towing bill for $339.45. "Whatever condition the things are, it'll be okay. It'll work out."

Ausburn walked briskly to his car, key clasped tightly in the steel-clad pieces of his prosthesis. He looked in the windows, rifled through the trunk, and realized his prosthetically-adapted knives were gone.

"Man, it's hard to not feel violated," he said, as he picked through fast food wrappers, cigarette butts, and the trash the thief left behind. "I mean, this obviously isn't the first challenge I've ever faced."

After a quick survey of the missing items, Ausburn drove off, and said he would continue searching pawn shops throughout the city for his belongings.

He also said - as a deeply religious man - that he prayed the thief would find his way to a better life.

"I've got a criminal past myself. I've moved on from it, by the grace of God," Ausburn said. "Maybe he'll stop before it catches up with him."