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Knife Skills

By Jacy Wojcik in Food on Feb 27, 2009 9:20PM


After multiple close calls of chopping off our fingers while cooking, we decided it was time to sign up for a knife skills class. A friend recommended The Chopping Block, one of the most popular cooking schools in Chicago so for $40 we signed up for a two and a half hour class, not really knowing what to expect.

Review in in three words: Totally worth it. When we arrived we were shown to our classroom and immediately offered a drink. To our surprise, glasses and bottles of wine or beer are available to purchase and, bonus, very reasonably priced. A small snack of curried chicken salad with bread was also served. The first part was more of a classroom setting, we sat and listened to Jon-Antony Sinclair, the charismatic instructor discuss the construction of knives (forged vs. stamped, stainless steel vs. carbon steel vs. modern metals), the different brands of knifes and the different shapes of knives. We went around the room and shared what knives we had at home- which ranged from Shun to Ikea. Mr. Sinclair taught us that when buying a knife you should not look at the design first, but instead how it feels when you hold it, as it should be an extension of your hand. We also learned about knife safety, knife care, appropriate cutting boards, and the importance and safety of having a sharp knife. Whew.

And then the moment everyone was waiting for: the hands-on chopping of produce! With each vegetable, Mr. Sinclair demonstrated the proper way to hold the knife and execute the cut, how to hold the vegetables properly with your other hand to both guide the knife and not chop off your fingers. We liked that the class was small, about 15 students that night, so both the instructor and his assistant were there to watch your technique and assist you when you needed it. For the last hour or so, the class diced a zucchini, green pepper and onion, julienned a carrot, cut celery for stir-fry, and minced a jalepeno. There were several "ohhhhhh, that's how you should cut an onion" and "I can't believe I never thought of that way to cut a pepper..." heard throughout the evening. No fingers were chopped off, even by the people that ordered and drank a bottle of wine (cough, cough). We left more confident in our knife skills and holding a bag of our own chopped vegetables to make an omelette the next morning. We highly recommend this class, even for the more experienced home chefs.