Your home. Original artwork. Canadian Prime dry-aged steak. These are all “investments,” wherein the satisfaction and value you derive over time make the initial costs worthwhile.
As a practical person, I would add to this list: handmade Japanese knives. I’m not kidding.
If you cook, you probably cut, peel, slice, chop, mince, dice on a regular basis. If you appreciate beauty, these unique Japanese hand-forged knives are works of art. Mine changed my life (while turning me into a massive knife snob).
Recently, I attended Knifewear‘s Cut Like a Chef class. For $60, this 2 to 2.5 hour class teaches participants how to wield a knife confidently, along with providing hands-on practice cutting produce like potatoes, carrots, peppers and oranges.
These are the areas covered:
- parts of a knife
- knife basics
- how to hone a knife
- how to hold a knife
- knife motion
- types of cuts (baton/dice, julienne/brunoise), paysanne, oblique, tourne
- choosing a knife
The class is taught by Knifewear owner Kevin Kent and Rob Stillborn. Both are chefs with extensive kitchen experience who have had to find shortcuts (ed note: bad pun but it stays) in their techniques. They’re quite entertaining and accessible as well. These are people you want to learn from.
For me, the highlights of the class included:
- learning to cut a green pepper and dice an onion the fast and “right” way
- interesting banter about all things cooking-related (like Kent’s method for making fries and roast beef)
- test “driving” gorgeous knives that I can’t afford to buy (yet)
- hearing julienne cuts described as “flaccid”
My classmates and I walked away knowing how to impress our friends by fluting a mushroom, making orange supremes and peeling pineapples the proper way. It kills me how many people do the pineapple incorrectly. So much pineapple wastage!
If you walk into this store, you’ll covet these high performance knives. Luckily, if you need to sharpen your kitchen knives, Knifewear is donating 50% of proceeds from knife sharpening to Red Cross’ Japan Relief Fund for the rest of 2011. To date, Knifewear has donated $8,500 to the disaster and hopes to raise $20,000. As a result of this initiative, Knifewear will continue to donate 50% of all sharpening to a different charity each year.
Knifewear is the only shop in Canada to sell these exclusive Japanese knives. You’ll also find accoutrements like cutting boards, sharpening tools, honing rods and selected food-related literature like David Chang’s Lucky Peach and local author/illustrator Pierre Lamielle’s Kitchen Scraps, among others.
I highly recommend taking this class if you’re looking to improve your kitchen prep skills and speed.
Buying a knife at Knifewear in Inglewood is probably similar to Harry Potter’s wand-procurement process where it’s the wand that chooses its owner. As the only shop in Canada that specializes in Japanese kitchen knives, the concept is as cool, and dare I say magical even, as the hand-forged knives within.
Owner Kevin Kent is a Tom Waits fanatic and self-described “knife nerd”. Kent was a chef for 20 years, including at the original nose-to-tail St. John restaurant in London, England. When he moved back to Calgary, he continued as a chef and sold Japanese knives out of his backpack to fellow chefs, which eventually morphed into the current store along 9th Avenue. Read More
There comes a point where if you like to eat, you gotta learn how to cook. Though I am by no means a pro, I’m constantly trying to improve my technique when it comes to kitchen prep–the area where I most need to increase speed.
Before you start cutting, your mind must be sharp but so must your tools.
I am super-glued to my 10-inch Henckels chefs’ knife which I bought at the SAIT Polytechnic bookstore. The steel is hard enough to hold an edge but soft enough to be sharpened at home. Culinary schools have a good selection of chef tools at student prices. Don’t worry, I’m working on getting a hand-forged Masakage Japanese knife from Knifewear in Inglewood. But that dream is for another post.
Back to the importance of a sharp knife. Knives are safer when they are sharp because they prevent your fingers from slipping and thus from injury. This first step is critical to get you on your way to cutting like a pro.
Personally, I like the technique in the Howdini video below featuring Marc Bauer of the French Culinary Institute. It’s short, concise and you can’t beat a French accent for culinary credibility. Read More