Knife Skills Illustrated

Sometimes when I pick up my chef’s knife I get a sort of stage fright. Everything will be going along just fine with my dicing of an onion and then all of a sudden it happens. I try to focus on the vegetable or the fruit I need to cut, and suddenly my attempts to clear my mind of judgement fails and I have to stop. I can’t cut a thing. Even though there’s no one in my kitchen checking my knife sills, I can feel the presence of a great chef judging me.

I think it was last year when my knife skills problem started.

It all began when I saw this one episode of THE NEXT FOOD NETWORK STAR. It was the show when Iron Chef Morimoto tests the hopeful TV chefs with a quick challenge. He hands the contestants a chef’s knife and a fish and tells them to filet the thing.

It was horrifying what happened next. In this pool of talented food professionals, most of the contestants couldn’t filet the fish. One or two skilled people were able to de-bone the fish in just a few minutes, but all the other kitchen jocks just destroyed the fish. It was embarrassing. One woman did such a bad job Morimoto couldn’t even look at her.

He just stared at the messy pile of wasted fish and frowned. “Uh, basically,” he said, “you have no knife skills.”

And that, as they say, was that.

Now every time I step up to my chopping board, I hear Morimoto saying the very same thing to me.

Over and over again.

“Uh, basically, you have no knife skills.”

No matter how swift (“Uh, basically, you have no knife skills”) or how uniformed my technique (“Uh, basically, you have no knife skills”), I feel Morimoto’s critical gaze checking my work. Sometimes, even my husband says the dreaded phrase (“Uh, basically, you have no knife skills”)—just to mess with me.

But all of that is over now.

Thanks to the Cooks Library and swell guy named Peter Hertzmann and his book Knife Skills Illustrated, I’ll be slicing my onions like a master.

This book is my new bible. Whenever I’m ready to slice and dice, I pick up my Knife Skills book and get reading. The pages are full of great illustrations that make learning knife skills from a book absolutely possible.


Like this illustration, for example. Basically, I had no idea I was holding the knife wrong. According to Hertzman, if you want to have great knife skills, it’s all about the pinch grip.

I’m so down with the pinch grip.


This is not the pinch grip.


This, my friends, is me doing the pinch grip.

I have to agree with my new friend Peter, the pinch grip gives me way more control over the knife. Holding the knife like this hurts a little at first (tender hands of a novice), but very soon I’ll get a knife-skills-blister just like the pros! I’m so excited!

I’m so excited, I even took pictures of myself cutting brussels sprouts. Because I’m a big fat food blogging nerd.

I’m beside myself happy. There are just so many vegetables to be sliced. Multitudes of onions to practice on. I can’t wait to perfect the art of deboning a chicken! Just you wait Morimoto. I’ll have knife skills yet!

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Brooke Burton nominated for best food writing

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Food Woolf Written by:

Brooke Burton is an Los Angeles-based restaurant professional and hospitality expert. She is a freelance food writer, speaker, and co-author of The Food Blog Code of Ethics.

One Comment

  1. Anonymous
    January 1
    Reply

    Have you seen Chad Ward’s “An Edge in the Kitchen”. It sounds like you might enjoy that book as well.

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