Mar 8

For years my knife skills have been a point of insecurity.  If you watch enough cooking shows, you too may share my issue.  I have bought DVDs, books and eagerly gone to demonstrations.  I had a friend who is a CIA graduate spend some time with me trying to show me how to use my knife properly so that I can gain speed and consistency without losing a damn finger.  My husband has treated me to several wonderful knifes that I love.  Knifes so sharp that I think if you mess around you could take your hand off at the wrist; forget about shortening a finger tip.

As I’m writing about knife skills you may be wondering why I have a photo of a De Buyer Mandoline at the lead of my post. Please be patient with me.  I’ll get there.

Finally, I found the Rolling Pin, a place in my area that teaches cooking classes and more importantly teaches KNIFE SKILLS 1 and KNIFE Skills 2.  Reading the description I really was not sure if I was going to learn much.

Choosing the correct knife for the job and knowing how to properly use it is the secret to fast, easy cooking.
Learn the basics of knife construction, how to choose the correct knife, safety, sharpening, and proper storage of knives.

You will practice proper techniques for chopping, mincing, slicing and julienne.

We will use our skills to make Homemade Winter Vegetable Soup and Designer Grill Cheese.

I felt pretty confident on all of these topics, however, KNIFE SKILLS 1 is a prerequisite to KNIFE SKILLS 2; and there was lunch, wine and an afternoon away from the house all for $35 so I went for it.  My $35 was VERY well spent.  I know about knife construction, I’ve educated myself on cutting boards and proper sharpening; and I know the mechanics of a dice, julienne, mince etc.  But I couldn’t seem to move the food and knife across the board in a harmonious manner — I looked something like a caveman trying to pull a square wheel.  It wasn’t pretty.

In 2 minutes Chef Dave (an owner at the Rolling Pin which also offers demonstration classes and stocks an amazing array of kitchen implements) had me cutting faster and more consistently than I’d been able to do on my own in a year of practicing.  I had been trying to circumvent nature and cut in a right angle where my left hand fed the food to my right (knife) hand at a 90 degree angle.  I was always fighting with getting the food to move, cutting felt clumsy, and I thought I was never going to get it right.  I began to feel that knife skills were like basketall and I would never have the coordination to do it right.  Nope, I just needed the right coach.  Chef Dave taught me about my cutting triangle and I’m extremely grateful for that lesson.

I liked class one so much that I instantly signed up for class 2 which took place this past Saturday.  In retrospect I wish I had let a few weeks pass rather than jump on my enthusiasm train.  This way I could have practiced more and came with more questions.  In Knife skills 2 we did cover how to sharpen and care for your knifes a little more and I think the information was presented really well, especially for people who want to cook more but aren’t cook book, cooking magazine, cooking blog, cooking TV junkies like myself.  Not many people read Larousse Gastronomique or McGee like a novel – I’m that dork who does.

In KNIFE SKILLS 2 We diced, we julienned, we peeled onions and then — we broke out the mandoline.

I have a few silly fears; such as  I’ll run right off a cliff to escape a honey bee (true).  I watch too much “Criminal Minds” which leads to all kinds of irrational fears.  I am also afraid of cutting my damn fingers off.  I don’t think this is totally irrational, as  it’s a common injury.  What is irrational is the certitude with which I believe(d) my mandoline was going to cut my damn fingers off (When I’m talking about the loss of them, they are indeed my “damn fingers”  as in “Honey can you hurry home, I cut my danm finger off trying to make french fries with the mandoline, I think I need to go to the hospital.”)

Each of our  stations had a mandoline to practice with.  We were cutting long strips of eggplant and zucchini to grill and making apple matchsticks for a salad. Not wanting to be a complete sissy or get caught hiding in the bathroom, I used the mandoline (without a finger guard as I was instructed because the core acts as a natural guard) to julienne apples into matchsticks.  At first I struggled;  I couldn’t get the apple to go through the mandoline because I was hesitating.  Then I did what Chef Dave told me to do and focused on the bottom of the mandoline vs the blade.  Voi La! I made that mandoline sing.

I had a very dusty De Buyer mandoline at home.  Yesterday I busted it out.  I made ratatouille (Julia Childs Recipe) and a roasted duck (also Julia).  I went through several potatoes (tonight is steak with frites)  and made fries.  I used the finger guard, but I made friends with the mandoline.  And for that I thank Chef Dave.

April 6 I’ll be starting the Cooking 101 class — join me!

If you are in the Tampa Area:

The Rolling Pin
2080 Badland Drive
Brandon FL 33511

4 Responses to “I Still have all My Fingers – Knife Skills Classes”

  1. Dawn, thanks for all the positive comments. I always have fun working with foodies.

    Thanks for the plug on your blog. what a great site and wonderful writing. Congrats.

    Our website is your link has an extra “the” in it.

    See you in the kitchen. Chef Dave

  2. I took the Knife Skills 1 & 2 at Rolling Pin last summer. I, just like you have irrational fears of chopping my finger off. I agree that the class taught me a lot and I feel more confident cutting and mincing. I also took the class because I was in the looking to replace my knife set. From what I have learned in Knife Skills 1, I was able to find the perfect knife for me and said NO to buying a block set.

  3. That’s a very good point — knife sets almost always have one or two knifes you don’t use, making them MORE expensive than buying the knifes you’ll actually use. Most good kitchenware stores (like the Rolling Pin or Williams Sonoma or Sur La Table will let you try knifes to determine what fits your style. Another thing that was great about this class is that we got to use several different knifes to get a feel for what size and shape works for us.

  4. I bought Neil knife skills classes for his birthday a couple of years ago along with a VERY expensive set of knives that we cannot believe we lived so long without… It’s been the best present I bought him in a long while! So valuable – knowing how to cut properly and helps you be more efficient in the kitchen.

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