Cooking 101: Back to Basics – Knife Skills

Cambridge School of Culinary Arts
Cambridge School of Culinary Arts

This evening was the start of my in-class learning as outlined in my self-created course of study. I arrived early, eager to discover what exactly was on the agenda for my first lesson. I walked into what was a small classroom that flowed directly into a kitchen. Can it really be true that it has been 7 years since I sat in a classroom as a student? I signed in and found a seat as the class shuffled in.

The smell was unexpected, not pleasant, but not unpleasant either. It was the smell of “sterile”. This was not my mother’s kitchen, but an unemotional and unbiased place of learning that begins each day with a blank slate allowing its occupants to transform it as they see fit with their creations.

We began with the basic knives as the Chef instructor, a recent graduate, explained their names and use. She started with the Chef’s Knife, followed by the Bread Knife, the Boning Knife, the Filleting Knife and finally the Paring Knife. Before moving on to our stations we were shown a Japanese and regular mandolin and discussed the basics of sharpening and honing our knifes on a honing steel. The Chef’s Knife and the Paring Knife would be our instruments for this evening’s lessons.

We washed our hands and walked over to a station where we would find a plastic cutting board, knife, apron and towel. I peered around the room looking at my classmates, wondering what their backgrounds and reasons for joining this class were. The lesson began.

We started off with zucchini and a julianne cut, moving on to carrots and cube cuts, parsley, chives and mincing, onions, garlic and dicing and red peppers, mushrooms and slicing. We used the paring knife to slice wedges out of oranges and lemons. With each item we cut, our confidence grew and things became clearer. Each slice, dice and cut produced some of the building blocks for future meals as well as our knowledge.  Steadfast repetition surely will transform this conscious task into an unconscious relex.

The class was a great beginning and I look forward to next week where we explore the preparation and use of eggs, a key ingredient in cooking and a much enjoyed staple of my diet.

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