Learn how to use a kitchen knife like a chef. (Life List #42)
I like to think I’m a decent cook. At least when I don’t burn all my food. Or my hand. I sauté, stir fry, and steam. I bake fish, stew soup, assemble enchiladas. I make an authentic Tortilla de Patatas. I roast an amazing chicken that will some day make someone fall in love with me. I know it. I’ll make it for you some day if you ask nicely.
What I am trying to say here is that I can cook.
But, if I am to confess here, my kitchen knife skills needed some work. This is partially because I just own a cheap knife set that I got from Target twelve years ago (and it wasn’t until I wrote that sentence that I realized I’ve had those knives that long, I got them my third year of college). But, really, it’s mostly because I had no idea how to use a kitchen knife like a chef. Or even like an amateur.
I didn’t know how to how to hold a knife for chopping. I didn’t know the types of kitchen knives and which knife held which purpose. I didn’t know the types of cuts, the difference between julienning and dicing. When cooking, I always managed to get the job done but I knew there had to be some vegetable cutting techniques I didn’t know to make them look prettier than whatever I was able to produce.
I just had no cooking knife skills. And no idea what I was doing.
And so, some time ago, I added “learn how to use a kitchen knife like a chef” to my life list. Because knowing how to cut properly seemed like one of those important life skills everyone should have.
Last year I visited The Chopping Block — a gourmet cooking store in Chicago that offers cooking demonstrations and group cooking classes in Chicago — when I wanted to learn to make gnocchi. I liked the way the class was run: a small size, everyone standing around the kitchen, completely hands on, with a knowledgeable instructor who could answer any questions we had.
So, when I returned to Chicago for two weeks between travels, I decided to the Chopping Block again and take their most popular class: knife skills.
Described as “a hands-on chopping session that’ll have you mincing, slicing, and dicing vegetables and herbs like a pro,” the class seemed like the perfect opportunity to (ahem) sharpen my knife skills.
Over the course of two and a half hours one Tuesday night at the Chopping Block Lincoln Square I learned chef knife skills and cutting techniques from our fantastic instructor, Quincy.
He explained to the class the different types of kitchen knives, the different knife brands (did you know that there are knives designed by the same people behind Porsche? Because there totally are.), how to sharpen and take care of knives, knife safety (don’t try to catch a knife if it falls, never approach anyone in a threatening manner), and a variety of other topics. And then we pushed back our chairs, grabbed a chef’s knife, and started cutting.
After learning the proper way to hold a chef knife, we made matchsticks from some cucumbers, diced up a pepper, and made a glorious garlic schmear.
Sure, I still had some mishaps: after the onion I was in tears (my onion chopping skills can still use work) and I may have accidentally cut my carrots into full moons instead of half moons. But, in the end, I had some beautiful, mostly uniform, chopped veggies, and new knife techniques that may make you fall in love with my chicken, and me, even more.
Photos from the Chopping Block Knife Skills Class where I learned how to use a kitchen knife like a chef:
“Learn how to use a kitchen knife like a chef” was number 42 on my life list.
The Chopping Block Lincoln Square (4747 N Lincoln, Chicago, IL 60625) and Merchandise Mart (222 W Merchandise Mart Plaza, Suite 107, Chicago IL. 60654) locations offer hands-on cooking classes in Chicago. In addition to their knife skills cooking class, they offer a variety of one-night cooking courses, culinary bootcamps, private events and more. Learn more and view their calendar of at their website.
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