From DevOps Dictionary

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knife is the primary command-line interface tool used to interact with the Chef Server, as well as perform a number of implementation and administrative tasks in a Chef installation. Knife is included in the chef installation package.

Knife Functions

Some of the tasks that Knife can be used for include:

  • Creating a cookbook from a template (though Chef DK is replacing this functionality)
  • Managing chef server authentication tokens (called chef clients)
  • Managing the list of machines chef nodes that the chef server is responsible for configuring, including installation of the chef agent (bootstrapping).
  • Managing the repository of configuration behaviors (the cookbook store)
  • Querying the chef server's search index, to search for nodes by properties

Additionally, knife is extensible via a plugin system; a large number of plugins are available.