Knife skills class
I have been upgrading my cookware, bakeware and utensils these past two years, and am happy with the choices and results, and now am looking at the knives that I have used these past 20 years and am wondering if I should continue with these, or add others. I have a good collection of Wusthof Trident and some Henckels Professional "S" knives and others. I learned my knife skills from my mom who did prep work for a local restaurant and was a fantastic cook. I can safely say I know basic knife skills. I learned sharpening from my dad, who did most of the knife sharpening, although, many a time, my mom would stop cooking and sharpened a knife before continuing.
If any of you have taken a knife skills class, what did you learn that you didn't know before? I am near the L'Acadamie de Cuisine in MD and they have classes for professional and recreational training. I have never used Japanese knives and do not know Japanese knife skills. I am a vegetarian, so boning and carving skills are not of interest to me. What does having really good, advanced knife skills mean and what are some examples of such skills?
I did a bunch of things when I started to become really interested in knives. I read the book "An Edge in the Kitchen" by Chad Ward and still refer to it:
I also took a knife skills class at a great culinary school in Manhattan. It was called the French Culinary Institute although I believe they have gone through a name change since that time. It was a weekend course not meant for professionals. The course was a bit different from the description online. It was much more of a beginner's cooking class than a specific knife class. I truly enjoyed the class and learned some things I never would have tried on my own (I had never filleted a fish prior to that class.) Unfortunately the class didn't focus on any sharpening skills. The focus was on cooking specific recipes that called for specific knife techniques, i.e. julienne, macedoine, batonnet, etc. Japanese knives weren't really discussed, although I think someone may have asked the Chef about them and he briefly went into them. What I learned MOST from the experience is that advanced knife skills is one thing if you're working in a professional kitchen and a whole other thing if you're a home cook. Honestly, as a home cook, I doubt I will ever discard a good third of a turnip or a beet just to be rid of all of the curved sides so that I will end up with perfectly symmetrical and identical cubes. And yes, in a professional kitchen, the size of the cube matters and there are different terms for each mm size.
The BEST thing I did was go to a knife store (a small store close to home that happened to sell lots of Japanese knives) and asked the owner if he would give me lessons. He did! I learned sharpening from him - a skill that I would have NEVER been able to learn from youtube alone. He also offered private cooking lessons as he had worked in many good restaurants. I didn't take any cooking lessons. I HIGHLY recommend taking private lessons if possible. This way, the lessons will be tailored to what your goals are versus a generic class curriculum. Good luck!
<I read the book "An Edge in the Kitchen" by Chad Ward and still refer to it>
An excellent and humorous book -- excellent recommendation. The book actually goes into knife sharpening and maintenance more than most kitchen knife books which is a good thing in my opinion.
<Honestly, as a home cook, I doubt I will ever discard a good third of a turnip or a beet just to be rid of all of the curved sides so that I will end up with perfectly symmetrical and identical cube>
An excellent point.
Hi. I’ve never taken a knife skills class. For the most part, I learned how use a knife by watching and mimicking the techniques of pro cooks with great knife skills.
<What does having really good, advanced knife skills mean and what are some examples of such skills?>
To me, advanced knife skills means being able to do a variety of different cutting strokes…safely, accurately and efficiently. Cooking shows that feature Jacques Pepin, Martin Yan, and Sara Moulton usually display great knife skills.
More so, those that are really great do so in a way that is graceful and effortless. This guy is insane…. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2YKRnv0aq-8
<I have never used Japanese knives and do not know Japanese knife skills.>
Expanding on what Chem said, Japanese knives fall into two styles; Western or Traditional. The Western ones have a double bevel edge and are patterned to match Western knife types (chef’s, slicer, etc.). The main difference being the blade steel on J-knives are much harder, thinner, etc. than typical European / German made knife. Plus their chefs’ knives or gyuto have a French (more narrow, mostly flat cutting edge) as opposed to a German (wider, curved cutting edge) of a Euro knife.
Here’s two vids; the 1st shows the standard rock chopping (tip of the knife stays in contact with the cutting board) cutting technique normally associated with German shaped chefs’ knives. The other shows a variety of different cutting strokes associated with a gyuto or French shaped chefs’ knife. Take note on how the tip and entire blade is elevated and reposition for each stroke.
Switching from a rocking to push/ pull cutting stroke wasn’t a big deal for me, but its’ something you need to consider if you plan on switching from a German to French shaped knife.
As for the Traditional Japanese knifes (yanagiba, usuba, deba), they are single bevel knives, much more task and technique specific. My local sushi chef gave me a few lessons, it was very helpful to have someone with experience watch and correct my mistakes in person. Here’s some vids…
<Here’s two vids; the 1st shows the standard rock chopping (tip of the knife stays in contact with the cutting board) cutting technique normally associated with German shaped chefs’ knives...>
Nice. I know and have seen many Salty's video, but Hiro video is awesome. I haven't watched his.
Wow...thanks, JavaBean! Hiro Terada is indeed awesome! He is a Master of knife skills for sure. His precision and speed reveal the comfort level that years of experience have created. Those stokes require a sharpness in the knife that would probably require daily sharpening in a busy kitchen. I will watch his series and the others again, and see how far I can get with self-teaching, but will see what the school offers for in person training. Thanks for the really useful links!
Glad to help. BTW, Norman Weinstein (the guy in the second vid) has a book called Mastering knife skills that's pretty good. It includes a DVD so you can learn at your own pace and covers the std cutting strokes for various knifes at a basic to intermediate level. You could use it as a refresher to see where you may need help, before enrolling in class. Bear in mind, he's using a German chefs' knife and focuses on the rock-chopping cutting style.
Whereas Hiro is using an amp'd up push/pull cutting style. The mechanics are like this...http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=KA6Q84YNANc. Yeah, Hiro must be sharpening that knife daily or more. He's coming down pretty hard.
I took a knife class when I lived in Chicago at The Chopping Block. It was a very beginner class, and I'd guess unless the class you're interested is meant for culinary students or specifically says "advanced", it will only teach the basics.... ie how to cut carrots, dice an onion, safety techniques etc. We did not review anything beyond cutting vegetables, which disappointed me as I was hoping to get more in depth.
The biggest benefit I got from the class was getting to use about 10 different chef's knife models, and that's how I figured out that I liked Globals.
Oh I'm sure it was intentional, as they also offered the class 20% off knives after completing the class :) They also discussed how the different types of knives were constructed, and the differences between say, Japanese knives vs German ones. It worked, I bought my knife that day.
Yeah...I don't want a basics class, although it is always good to review basic principles. The Advanced classes require the basics as a prerequisite. I will contact the school and ask these questions of them. I do like the opportunity to try different knives in a non-retail setting.
<I have a good collection of Wusthof Trident and some Henckels Professional "S" knives and others.
Sound reasonably good knvies.
<I learned my knife skills from my mom who did prep work for a local restaurant and was a fantastic cook. I can safely say I know basic knife skills.>
<I have never used Japanese knives and do not know Japanese knife skills>
Well, your local knife class unlikely can teach your Japanese knife skill. One thing to be accurate here. There are traditional Japanese knives and Westernized Japanese knives. A traditional Japanese knife is like an usuba:
usually made with high end carbon steel, and chisel like edge (one side is almost flat). They do require different set of skills to use, to sharpen and to maintain.
Most of the so called Japanese knives you see in the stores are Westernized Japanese knives, such as Shun knives and Global knives. They do not require a huge change of behavior.
In my early twenties I worked for a year doing prep work in a steak house kitchen; learned basic knife skills there. We didn't cut the steaks...the broiler men (and yes, they were all men) did all the meat cutting...mostly veggies for salads, kebabs and dressings, IIRC.
Fast forward a couple of years to the very early 80s, and I discovered Jacques Pepin (or, as he is fondly referred to in our house, Jack Piepan) on public TV on Saturday mornings. TV can be very educational!